Two students, Oldcastle honored for supporting those with disabilities

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BENNINGTON — The Vermont Center for Independent Living presented several awards in Bennington on Thursday, two to students who are helping to make a difference on their college campus, and one to a community organization for its efforts to improve access to its facilities.

Two students from Southern Vermont College's College Steps program were honored at the Bennington center's annual holiday open house with Deborah Lisi-Baker Youth Leader Awards for their work advocating and helping people with disabilities. Amber Archer, who was not able to attend the ceremony, was nominated for giving aid to members of the deaf community, and making sure that they are able to be an equal part of the school and larger community. Alyvia Metcalfe was chosen for her her advocacy for increased educational and employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

"Both young advocates are skilled at bringing people together," said VCIL in a release. The two students made up two of the three youth leaders that VCIL chose from around the state.

The Youth Leader Award is named after VCIL's long-time director, who was present on Thursday to present the awards. "(Lisi-Baker) has such a vision as to how we continue the movement," said Sarah Launderville, current executive director of VCIL, "which is through young people."

Oldcastle Theatre Company was also honored with the Ally of Accessibility Award by Launderville. It was nominated by Bennington resident Charlie Murphy, a Peer Advocate Counselor for VCIL, who praised the theater for installing a lift that allows more people to experience plays at the venue."

"We are honored to receive this award," Eric Peterson, producing artistic director at the Oldcastle Theatre Company. "It was important as we were renovating our building and making it into an intimate theater that it be accessible. Rarely do we have a performance here when the lift is not used. It has allowed many to attend plays and other events here who, without the lift, would not have been able and it also allows us to have actors, musicians and other performers work here who have mobility issues... Your organization does important, necessary work and we are delighted to be recognized by such a group."

"This means a lot to us, thank you," said Peterson when accepting the award.

"(VCIL) is a nonprofit organization directed and staffed by individuals with disabilities, works to promote the dignity, independence and civil rights of Vermonters with disabilities," reads the organization's website. "Like other independent living centers across the country, VCIL is committed to cross-disability services, the promotion of active citizenship and working with others to create services that support self-determination and full participation in community life. Founded in 1979, VCIL is the only center for independent living in Vermont and was the first organization in the state with a majority of board and staff with disabilities. At the close of 2003, all members of the board and 95 percent of VCIL staff were individuals having personal experience with disabilities."

To learn more about VCIL, please visit www.vcil.org. If you would like to nominate a person for next year's Deborah Lisi-Baker Youth Leader Award (someone 22 years old or younger), please contact Stefanie Monte at smonte@vcil.org or 802-224-1820. If you would like to nominate a business or organization for a future Ally of Accessibility Award, contact Linda Meleady at lindam@vcil.org or 802-224-1819.

Derek Carson can be reached at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.

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