2019 VOTA Award Winners

VOTA OT WINNER 

KAYLA SWRINGEN 
(VCU)

I will always attribute my path to Occupational Therapy to my mother, whose selfless, determined and completely triumphant attitude has been the greatest example of how I want to achieve my goals. She is not an Occupational Therapist, nor is she a college graduate. I want to ignite that eagerness to learn in others, I also have a strong ability to empathize. In working with an individual who may not always be able to communicate their wants and needs directly, or even at all, requires connecting to that person in a way that lets them know they are heard. I worked with an older adult that has Multiple Sclerosis. This person was actually an OT for a long time, so getting to hear about her life experiences and witness firsthand her resiliency is truly inspirational for an aspiring OT.

VOTA CENTENNIAL WINNER

KATIE PENN
(VCU)


I am proud to be pursuing my degree in OT because it supports health in a way that can be overlooked; it focuses on engaging the mind, body, and spirit of an individual to enhance participation in meaningful occupations. Through a multitude of health care and community-based experiences, I decided to pursue OT because my compassion for others matches my dedication to promoting the fullness of life for all. I collaborate with health programs at VCU to provide public health education and services to those in the Richmond community. This organization has become integral to my involvement in community service projects. I have always been interested in public and global health and how to become a more globally connected citizen. I have been selected to attend a medical relief trip to Zana, Peru in June. I look forward to advocating for the profession's unique value while providing culturally competent interventions to the residents of Zana.

BARBARA HOWARD WINNER

Blair Jones
(Radford)

I learned to choose Occupational Therapy from my uncle and grandfather who struggled with Parkinson's Disease. I have also had invaluable experiences in the inpatient setting, working as a rehabilitation tech at Sheltering Arms. I also have experience in care giving and coaching with Special Olympics. On one of my teams I saw one of my athletes sobbing in tears. I immediately rushed over to her and asked if she was alright, yet due to her being nonverbal, she could only stutter sounds. Suddenly, her mother appeared and said to me, "Don't worry, she's perfect. When life is just too awesome, she cries>" In that moment I know I was making a difference and an impact on her life though taking time to volunteer with this incredible organization. I strive to be the best that I can be in every situation that arises. I am eager to continue being a leader, expand my knowledge and touch as many people’s lives as I can while I am engrossed in this program and the communities within.

VOTA OTA WINNER

Kelli King
(TCC)


Kelli graduated in 2007 from James Madison University with a BS in K-12 Art Education. She was offered a job teaching K-2 students with Autism and pursued an Exceptional Education Certificate at Virginia Commonwealth University while teaching. After three years teaching in a self-contained Autism room, she transitioned to working in the K-5 collaborative setting at the elementary level in Henrico County Public Schools with students with Autism. She worked closely with OTs, PTs, SLPs, other exceptional education teachers, and general classroom teachers during this time. Suddenly, in 2015, She was diagnosed with stage II Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Her oncologist decided that she was unable to work with students with a weakened immune system, but after completing six rounds of chemotherapy, she was declared in remission. She discovered that OT would be an amazing fit. She could utilize her prior experience in leading groups, running IEP meetings, planning lessons, problem solving, collecting data, collaborating with team members, and working with clients holistically to help them achieve their goals. These qualities paired with the in-depth knowledge she is gaining during the OTA program will propel her to success in the field of OT.

AWARD OF MERIT EDUCATOR

Albert Copolillo
(VCU)


Al has been practicing for 37 years, 22 at VCU and department chair since 2009. He received the AOTA Roster of Fellows in 2011 and was recipient of the AOTA's Cordielia Myers Writer's Award. Students describe his teaching as "vital to their understanding of Occupational Therapy and they consistently reference his kind, compassionate nature. Al is methodical, quiet, humble leader who often surprises the faculty with insight and wit. He has consistently shared his knowledge with others and has served as a model and mentor promoting lifelong learning.

AWARD OF MERIT CLINICIAN

Lauren Carter Smith
(Bon Secours Mercy Health Richmond and Brain Injury Association of Virginia)


Enough cannot be said about what Lauren does for the OT community! She inspires all around her to do me, be more and be the best OT's. She has and leads the AOTA clinical instructor certification course in Virginia. She is a long-term supporter of VOTA, through membership, districts and recruitment for vacant spots. She has been a lecturer and lab instructor at VCU, as well as presenting at VOTA conferences. She manages all students, consistently mentors and embodies hoe a clinical instructor should guide students, especially those struggling in fieldwork. She has been a brain injury camp developer and leader. She daily mentors other with her knowledge, while demonstrating daily her best in her practice.

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