2020 STEP Advocate of the Year Awards Announced

STEP is thrilled to honor our 2020 STEP Advocates of the Year.

Wayne Parker Advocate of the Year – Garfield Adams

The Wayne Parker STEP Advocate of the Year Award is presented each year to a person who has exemplified seeking and using the information to ensure a brighter future for children or youth with disabilities. The award is in memory of Wayne Parker, a former STEP team member, who was a zealous advocate for the rights of children and families. He worked tirelessly to ensure that families had the information they needed to speak up and advocate for the needs of their children with disabilities. In the true “Wayne” style, the recipient must also demonstrate teamwork and collaboration and the zeal to share the information they have learned with others.

This year’s STEP Advocate of the Year Award is presented to Garfield Adams.

In January 2018, Garfield Adams was hired as Special Education Director for Hamilton County Schools. He began by visiting every principal in the county and talking with parents. Based on what learned, Garfield worked with LifeLine and Chattanooga Inclusive Ed to build a three-year plan to reduce the segregation of special education students, eliminate cluster sites where students were segregated, and provide professional development to staff on disability-related topics and co-teaching. He has advocated for additional positions and succeeded in adding 10 more special education teachers and 30 additional paraprofessionals.

According to Award nominees Lisa Mattheiss and Trish Cox, Garfield has “created a trust with Hamilton County families and service organizations…He has invited ideas and collaboration and advocated internally and externally for the access of students with disabilities and the involvement of their families in the process.”

Garfield Adams

Wesley Rice Youth Advocate of the Year – Drake Box

The STEP Wesley Rice Youth Advocate of the Year Award is designed to honor a young person who has embodied the positive character traits of being a strong self-advocate by demonstrating leadership and accepting responsibility in speaking up for themselves and others.

This year’s STEP Wesley Rice Youth Advocate of the Year Award recipient is Drake Box.

Drake Box is 19 and lives in Dyersburg, Tennessee. He was as a two-year-old from Ukraine by Gary and Laurie Box. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Drake has been through multiple surgeries at the Shriner’s Hospital in St. Louis. “He has a positive attitude and an extraordinary work ethic,” said Marsh Naidoo, who nominated Drake for this award. “He is a full-time student at Dyersburg Community College and a part-time employee at Kroger.”

Drake has excelled in his life through determination.

Despite his physical limitations, Drake has relished playing baseball and other sports. His goal is to become a physical therapy assistant degree, in the hopes of working at Shriner’s Hospital someday. He wants to motivate other children with cerebral palsy to live their best lives and serves as a mentor to Marsh’s seven-year-old son, Kellan who has spastic diplegia.

Drake Box
Drake Box, mentor to seven-year-old Kellan