2018 Gordon Richins Award for Leadership and Advocacy

Deborah Unruh

November 23, 2018

The Council on Leadership and Advocacy presents the Gordon Richins Award for Leadership and Advocacy in recognition of exemplary leadership and advocacy practices of including people with disabilities and family members in projects and initiatives within a Center and the AUCD network as a whole. This award was renamed in 2018 after the passing of Gordon Richins, a long-time leader, mentor and friend in the AUCD network and beyond.

Deborah Unruh

North Dakota Center for Persons with Disabilities Minot State University Minot, ND

“As a leader, Deborah is skilled in encouraging others to share their thoughts and ideas and providing opportunities for others to step into leadership roles. In addition to Deborah's involvement on COLA and her CAC, she is currently a Transition Coordinator at the high school in her city in North Dakota. She works diligently to help students with disabilities set and achieve goals related to independent living, postsecondary education, careers, and more. She partners with many community agencies to teach collaborative lessons to students in areas such as advocacy and self-determination, money management, finding and maintaining meaningful employment, leadership, personal safety, and other topics. She strongly feels that students should have interactions with community agencies such as Vocational Rehabilitation, Independent Living Centers, and others, before they transition out of high school. She wrote a grant proposal to fund a summer program in her city to support students with disabilities in gaining, and maintaining, meaningful employment. The program she developed also teaches vital skills to students - skills such as interviewing, writing a master application, soft skills, budgeting, goal setting, and more. Not only is Deborah working with students who have disabilities during the summer employment program, she has also reached out to parents. She feels that parent support and involvement are important to student success, and that sometimes parents want support and education on certain topics, as well. This involvement has provided opportunities for both parents and students to learn about, and become involved with, leadership and advocacy in their community and beyond.”