September 27, 2005

Contact: Bridgid Isworth (505) 925-4071; (505) 463-6044 Cell

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Southwest Conference on Disability periodically recognizes individuals or organizations that have made outstanding contributions to aspects of disability and this year, two Farmington residents have been awarded for their efforts.

Sierra Rasmussen, a student at San Juan Community College is the winner of the2005 Outstanding Student with a Disability Award. The award recognizes New Mexican undergraduates or graduate students with a disability who are enrolled in an institution of higher learning or seniors in high school preparing to attend college.

Rasmussen has maintained a 4.0 grade point average, and because she did so well in her freshman comp class, her instructor now uses her as a model for other students. Several of her essays have been published in the newsletter of the Arc Thriftown and she believes that "being in a wheelchair just gives you four wheels instead of two feet."

Those who nominated her stated that she had offered hope, understanding and inspiration to her families and self advocates in her community. Rasmussen received a $500 dollar prize and full scholarship to attend the conference in Albuquerque , Sep 28-29.

Martha Mason, also a Farmington resident, is the honorable winner of the2005 Community Involvement Award. The award is given to a business, organization, or government agency that has made a positive difference in the quality of life of people with disabilities through innovative programs, services, or advocacy in the areas of employment, training, access or community involvement.

As the Executive Director of the Arc Thriftown, Mason is the driving force in theCommunity Means All Peopleproject, which has been very successful in Farmington . She was also instrumental in establishing an independent Human Rights Committee that has served as a vehicle to address the area of human rights of people served by provider agencies.

According to many of Mason's supporters, Mason practices what she preaches: "She provided an opportunity for a person with a disability to do his social work practicum with her when other organizations had turned him down because of his disability."

The 2005 Southwest Conference on Disability is an annual event hosted by the University of New Mexico School of Medicine's Center for Development and Disability (UNM CDD), the New Mexico Governor's Commission on Disability and the New Mexico Department of Health. National Conference partners include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Christopher Reeve Foundation and the American Association on Health and Disability.