On Saturday, April 8, 2017 22 individuals from across New Hampshire graduated from the 2016-2017 New Hampshire Leadership Series (NH Leadership).

Saturday’s graduation was the end of a busy week which included the Annual Reunion Gala and Fundraiser on Wednesday, April 5, 2017. The most successful event thus far, more than 125 alumni, families, and supporters joined the 2016-17 class to celebrate the program, catch up with classmates, and together raised more than $13,000 to support future years of NH Leadership.

During the Gala, Freda Smith received the Brianna Dillon Leadership Award, for her decades of work as a champion for education, social justice, and civil rights for individuals with disabilities and their families. This award is presented annually at the NH Leadership Reunion to an individual who has shown creative leadership in, and commitment to, the full participation of all people in the political and cultural life of New Hampshire. Freda Smith’s work ensured that children who had disabilities and family members would be supported in their family home, in their own homes, in neighborhood schools, and when working, playing, and making a difference in their communities. She is a respected speaker and yearly visitor at the NH Leadership Series, the NH LEND program and at various agencies in NH.

“It was the tireless determination of Freda and others who brought the pressures to bear that eventually closed the Laconia State School and Training Center,” shares Ann Dillon, NH Leadership Series Coordinator. “Little did she know that she was changing the lives of not only her daughter and others with disabilities at Laconia, but future generations as well. Our daughter would not have had such a full life in the community had Freda not started the process of lasting change.

The gala is supported by many individuals and organizations across the state. Sponsors of this year’s event include Community Crossroads, the Bertrand Family, Gateways Community Services, Healthy Families NH, Lakes Region Community Services, Living Innovations, the Murphy Family, and Wellsense. Thank you to the many people who donated gifts to make our silent auction possible.

NH Leadership is an intensive, eight-month program that provides leadership and advocacy training for individuals with disabilities and their family members. Since 1988, the program has been a pivotal change experience for family members and adults with disabilities by providing state-of-the-art information and strategies to effect change on disability-related issues locally and across the state. As a result of the work of its hundreds of alumni, NH has achieved national recognition for its innovative approaches to supporting people with disabilities and their families in their communities. Alumni of the program have passed state legislation, founded advocacy organizations, and serve at all levels of New Hampshire local and state government. For more information visit www.nhleadership.org.