He was honored as a great example of Native people doing incredible work to serve their communities and strengthen tribal identities during ANCOR’s annual conference in New Orleans.
Leroy Bryant (Honágháahnii clan) accepting his award from outgoing ANCOR Board President Angela King.
As a Direct Support Professional Bryant supports four Native Americans with intellectual and developmental disabilities, one Zuni and three Navajo, as part of an eight-person team providing around-the-clock care. He has driven two hours round-trip from his home on the Navajo Reservation in Naschitti, New Mexico to those of the individuals he supports at the Dangarvin home in Gallup, New Mexico for the past 17 years.
Bryant, 46, was selected from a nomination pool of more than 300 Direct Support Professionals. The person who nominated him (and the award committee) noted his kind and generous spirit.
“He’s very humble and does not like to talk about himself. You can really see how much he cares about the individuals and to him they are just like his family. It does not matter to him that they have disabilities. His focus is making their lives richer and fuller. He’s happy and upbeat and that works well in the home,” his Nominator wrote according ANCOR's "Recognizing Excellence" magazine. “He puts his heart and soul into his work every single day. When he walks in the door he’s focused on the individuals. He is a genuine and caring person and he’s a prize to us here at Dungarvin. We’re trying to mirror what he does and how he does it in all of our homes.”
Leroy Bryant’s insistence that the disabled Native Americans he supports rebuild and maintain strong connections to their tribal communities -- connections that were lost when they were institutionalized before eventually being reintegrated into their communities -- has been very impressive to all who have come to know him.
“I wanted to work in the human services field helping people,” he told ICT via email. “I grew up poor and had seen how the Human service workers treated my parents... they weren't nice. I decided I would work in the field and be the person who understood where they came from the struggles.”
Bryant started out training in a care home and was encouraged in his work by his colleagues and team leader. He landed his current role after responding to an advertisement. He enjoyed working with disabled Natives so much that he carried on and now works eight-hours days five days a week, sometimes six. He sees his colleagues and those he supports as family and his role has expanded to helping train new DSPs who come into the agency.
“He is a role model that our staff looks up to and he’s so easy to talk with. When someone on the staff has concerns about something – anything actually – they go to Leroy with their concerns and issues and he always points them in the right direction,” a colleague told ANCOR. “He is a great communicator too. He goes out of his way to make sure that everyone is on the same page. He stays above things, issues. His approach is that we’re all here to do a job and that’s all. He works well with the staff, helping everyone see the big picture and not concentrating on themselves. He is always up to date in their healthcare plans and makes sure everyone on the team stays updated as well.”
The guardians of Bryant’s clients are also filled with praises. “They can’t say enough good things about him and they all talk about how they trust him and how loving he is,” his supervisor told ANCOR.
Bryant and his colleagues help the people they support with cultural immersion by taking them to Native events around their area. Activities include everything from attending Native-speaking churches to going to dances and performances. They regularly visit Pueblos including the Zuni, Laguna and Acoma and other tribal communities including the Hopi and Apache.
“I am not disabled, but assisting these individuals has made me more confident in who I am, Bryant told ICT. “It took me out of my comfort zone/box by helping them to achieve their goals going out into the community.”
The American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) is a national nonprofit trade association representing more than 1,400 private community providers of services to disabled people. They collectively support support over one million disabled people and work to shape policy, share solutions, and strengthen community.
ANCOR has honored exceptional Direct Support Professionals with the Direct Support Professional Recognition Award for exemplary work in furthering community inclusion and full participation for disabled Americans (most notably those who are intellectually and developmentally disabled) since 2007.