Torrington, Wyo. (Story by Denise Heilbrun-Ellis) September 30, 2020 — Working with mentally disabled individuals is not only a job, but a meaningful relationship.
Torrington resident Zach Prado has earned the recognition as being one of those employees who his job means more to him than just going to work each day and bringing home a paycheck.
Last Tuesday, Prado earned the Diversified Services Inc (DSI) Wyoming Direct Support Professional (DSP) of the Year 2020 during a ceremony.
To earn this honor, he had to be nominated first by his manager, Melanie Pyle, then he was chosen out of three other nominees from each department by DSI CEO Julene Cook and Jennifer Peterson for the honor.
“He is an indispensable employee of our organization and important part of our DSI family,” said Julene Cook, DSI CEO. “We have watched Zach over the years, and he has grown and matured tremendously in supporting our participants.”
“Every provider put in a nomination to WCSP,” she added. “Lee Grossman with the Wyoming Department of Health then choses the recipient of the award, $500 cash.”
Prado has worked with DSI about five years ago. He started in the DSI Car Wash, then moved to maintenance, worked on job crews in Community Employment Services, moved to transportation, helped out for a while in intensive Adult Day Services, then found his niche’ in Adult Day Services. He now is Director of Special Olympics. He coaches, basketball, bowling and tennis and bocce, with possibly in the future baseball (after covid). The Special Olympics team from Torrington did participate in the state tournament in 2019.
“He is a natural DSP and we are so grateful for him ensuring the participants have a successful Special Olympics program, added Cook. “He cares deeply for the people we serve, and he is here working at DSI for the right reasons – the participants! And another plus, is the guardians of these people really feel good about the care he gives them.”
Prado grew up in Torrington and graduated from Torrington High School in 2001.
“I loved all the sports throughout my life, and I’m privileged to pass on my knowledge to each participant,” he said. “I’ve tried many different jobs in my life, but none that gave me the satisfaction that DSI gives me.
“I feel proud each time I see the participants in a sport,” Prado said. “To see them smile and throw their arms in the air with triumph is the greatest feeling in the world. We make so many different friends from all over the state. I’m truly blessed being a part of this much need program.
“He is not only involved with sports with Special Olympics, he also helps set up 3-on-3 tournaments around the panhandle,” Cook said. “I just commend him on the way he has stepped up and done what needs to be done.”
Chairman of the board for DSI, Sue Van Newkirk said, “Because of people like Zach we can provide service like we couldn’t before. They give the clients the reason to want to achieve and do things differently – they just don’t sit around. Zach has changed attitudes and ideals in his participants and we just can’t wait to see what is next. We are so proud of the achievements this group of employees has accomplished. Outstanding!”
“DSI has made great strides in the last year and a half,” Van Newkirk said. “Julene is a hard worker also and continues to make sure things are getting done. We told her we want you get involved and she has done exactly that. She has been to CARF (an independent, nonprofit accreditor of health and human services. CARF accreditation focuses on quality, results) conventions and learned so much. She can tell you what needs to be done and what is done and where to look.”
The biggest struggle will be state funding, as it said to be cut and getting the money is going to be a big goal that is before DSI.
“Knowing Julene, Zach and the crew, I know they will keep things improving. They take challenges head on,” Van Newkirk said.