Click here for a SiteMap Commentary

Official City Website for Chandler, Arizona    |    Text Size  Increase font size Decrease font size    
March 10, 2017
Meet the 2017 Disability Awareness Awards Winners

By Councilmember Nora Ellen

Every year, the Chandler Mayor and Council honors recipients of the Disability Awareness Awards during a City Council ceremony. It always gives me great pleasure to meet the award winners face to face and hear their inspiring stories.

Members of the Mayor’s Committee for People with Disabilities coordinate the recognition awards and I join the commission in extending my congratulations to this year’s winners. I am so proud of their accomplishments and of all the people who support them and help them be the best they can be.

This year, the “Student of the Year” award was granted to David Solano from Perry High School. David is known to be a very engaged and hard-working student who does not allow any limitation to negatively affect his life.  David has transitioned from a fully self-contained Autism Disorder, Programming, Training and Support (ADPTS) classroom to a full resource and inclusion class in less than four years. David also participates in many sports and has become a role model to his peers. 

The Chandler Mayor’s Committee for People with Disabilities has chosen Alex Smith as “Volunteer of the Year.” Alex has been a volunteer with the Camp Challenge summer program as well as an assistant coach with the Special Olympics football team. He is known for his proactive and positive attitude and for his ability to connect with participants and athletes. His nomination write-up describes him as having “natural empathy” and as being mature, friendly and responsible. I hope that many other young people will follow in Alex’s footsteps to enrich the lives of people with disabilities.

The “Employee of the Year” award was granted to Lynn Wasley. Lynn and her sister moved out and became independent after graduating from high school. Lynn has worked hard and gained employment at the Village Day Care, where she has been employed for more than eighteen months. She is a faithful, dedicated employee who doesn’t mind having to walk three miles to get to work. Lynn is known to be an exemplary employee and I congratulate her for being such a productive member of our community.  

Two winners were chosen this year by the Committee as “Educators of the Year.”  Emily Birecki is a 7th and 8th grade teacher at Willis Jr. High School and is known for being an incredible asset to her students as a teacher, coach and advocate. She is the sponsor of Best Buddies International at her school. This program provides students with disabilities the opportunity to build and maintain friendships with students who do not have disabilities. Emily has promoted social events, field trips and sporting competition to create an environment in which her students are challenged to excel.

The second award was given to Amy Stahl who has taught at Santan Junior High School. Amy is also a strong advocate and well-regarded teacher who builds students’ confidence and autonomy.  In just a few years, she has implemented the Stormin’ Buddies program. This program is incredibly popular and successful. It offers students with autism the opportunity to develop friendships with other junior high peers. Amy also teaches for the City’s Therapeutic Recreation program and inspires children to reach their highest potential. I extend my congratulations to both educators for their ongoing efforts and passion.

Finally, FedEx Ground received the “Employer of the Year” award for accommodating a young man with autism and a learning disability.  His mother nominated FedEx Ground for giving him a chance to be successful in life. We greatly appreciate FedEx Ground and all the businesses in Chandler that offer people with disabilities the chance for meaningful employment. 

We are fortunate to have a caring and understanding community that offers people with disabilities diverse opportunities to succeed. All the award recipients can take great pride in what they have achieved. We are inspired and moved by their examples. 

To nominate next year’s award recipients and learn about scholarships and other programs, visit or call Collette Prather at 480-782-2709.