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STEP, Inc. Announces the 2015 Wayne Parker Advocate of the Year Recipient

Photo:  Craig P. Barnes accepts the 2015 Wayne Parker Advocate of the Year from Karen Harrison, Executive Director

STEP, Inc. (Support and Training for Exceptional Parents) is pleased to announce Craig P. Barnes as the 2015 Wayne Parker Advocate of the Year Recipient.  He was presented the award during the recent Tennessee Disability Mega Conference in Nashville.

Mr. Barnes received his undergraduate degree from Duke University in 1996, and he received his J.D. from Saint Louis University School of Law in 2000. He began his career with a small firm in Seattle, WA representing indigent prisoners in cases involving prison conditions, sentencing structure and federal civil rights violations. In 2005, Mr. Barnes moved with his family to Memphis, where he joined Memphis Area Legal Services, Inc. (MALS) as the NCLC Brooks Consumer Law Fellow.

Mr. Barnes is currently a Staff Attorney with the Consumer Unit of MALS. He handles a wide variety of cases in state and federal court, and represents children with disabilities and their parents in matters in and related to Special Education. Mr. Barnes was the recipient of the Tennessee Bar Association’s Access to Justice Awards “special recognition” for extraordinary pro bono service in the wake of Gulf Coast Hurricane, Katrina, and was given the TALS New Advocate of the Year Award in 2009. He recently won an unprecedented case in the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He currently serves on the board of Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) and resides in Memphis, Tennessee.

His award was engraved with the following caption:  For his efforts to ensure “a brighter future for children with disabilities”.  A champion for children and youth!  Extended with sincere appreciation for your tireless work and collaborative efforts to bring equality, inclusion, and justice to families of children with disabilities in your community.

STEP’s Wayne Parker Advocate of the Year Award is presented each year to a person who has exemplified using information to assist a child or youth with a disability to receive a free appropriate public education. STEP also seeks recipients who demonstrate teamwork and collaboration and the zeal to share the information they have learned with others.  Nominees may be a parent of a child with a disability, an advocate that works with families, a teacher who has been exemplary in the life of a student with a disability, or a service provider who has bridged the gap for a student or their family to assist in receiving a free appropriate public education.

The award is in memory of Wayne Parker, a former STEP team member, who was a zealous advocate for the rights of children and families. He worked tirelessly to ensure that families had the information they needed to speak up and advocate for the needs of their children with disabilities. Wayne was also a strong advocate for encouraging young people with disabilities to advocate for the life they wanted. Wayne was well respected by parents and professionals. Wayne was always quick to praise members of school teams when they went above and beyond in their advocacy efforts for students.

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