Leroy Bryant – Direct Support Professional of the Year (2018)

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Feb 01
Tony Baisley, Communications Manager
Dungarvin National Central Office

Soft spoken and unassuming, Leroy Bryant believes the world would be a better place if people did the right thing. Leroy, 53, has spent his entire life as part of the Gallup community in New Mexico. He grew up as a proud member of the Navajo Nation, and still resides there. “I love it here!” In 2018, Leroy was named the Direct Support Professional (DSP)of the Year by ANCOR, an advocacy organization working to strengthen the ability of community-based providers to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. As the group gets set to announce it’s 2024 DSP of the Year winner in April, we reached out to Leroy to revisit his memories of that special night and to see what he has been up to since then.

“I remember going down to Louisiana (New Orleans) and finding out I had to make a speech. I wasn’t prepared for that!” recalls Leroy. Although he remembers other award winners announced, the whole memory is a big happy blur. Individuals are nominated by someone in their organization. Bernadine Leekeela, now a Dungarvin Director in New Mexico, nominated Leroy for multiple reasons, including his advocacy for individuals supported; relationship building (including some individuals he has supported for close to 20 years!); leadership and teamwork; as well as specific examples of innovation. For his part, Leroy still says he was surprised. “It’s our job; it’s what we do every day. I didn’t think I’d ever be recognized for it.”

Leroy has worked at Dungarvin since 2015, but has been a direct support professional much longer, working for Disability Services, Inc. since the early 2000s. When asked if his recognition changed anything significantly in his life, Leroy is characteristically modest. “Nothing has really changed; it’s pretty much the same. But I did get a lot of positive comments from the community, both at work and at home.”

What keeps him inspired and motivated after all these years? Leroy had a clear answer. “The people we work with and the staff, too. I like my job and I like supporting the individuals with whom I work. We work really well together – all of us in the house, as well as everyone at Dungarvin. Everyone is upbeat. I’m lucky to have a very positive working environment.”

As far as the favorite part of his job – that’s an easy one as well. “Trying to understand and communicate with the individuals we support,” he said. “When you begin to understand them, it feels great, like an important achievement for us both. Creating an open communication channel builds trust.”

Leroy did have some advice for the next generation of direct support professionals looking to grow in the field. “Try to understand the individuals you support; to advocate for them, and help them integrate with the community, and find a connection with others. Give it a chance. If you care about the people you support, you will find a way to make your mark!”

Leroy Bryant works at the Cliff House in Gallup, New Mexico, where he supports four individuals. Dungarvin is proud to honor Leroy’s accomplishment as well as those of other past winners of this prestigious recognition.

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