Mont Vernon mother honored with parent involvement award

CONCORD – On Oct. 1, the New Hampshire De­partment of Education and Parent Information Center co-sponsored the sixth an­nual Parent Involvement in Education Awards.

This event celebrates the efforts of educators, parents and family-school partnership teams from around the state that dis­play creativity, innovation and/or commitment at the community, school, dis­trict and state level in one or more of the New Hamp­shire Family-School- Community Partnership Standards.

"Parents are a child’s first and most influential teachers," Gov. Maggie Hassan said in a statement at the awards ceremony as she proclaimed October as Parent Involvement in Education Month.

Among the recipients in this year’s ceremony was Jennifer Bertrand, of Mont Vernon. A parent of four children, one who has autism, Bertrand has em­powered other families to be advocates for their kids. Her passion has become a driving force for children with special needs in New Hampshire and through­out the country.

"You’ve got to surround yourself with like-minded people that are invested in the same issues," Ber­trand said at the event. "And while it’s scary put­ting yourself out there and to have people start counting on you, this work is just too important to as­sume someone else will do it. It’s too important to just sit on the sidelines."

Bertrand has provided testimony at numerous New Hampshire legisla­tive hearings to support policies that ensure stu­dents and adults with dis­abilities the right to dig­nity, equal opportunities and full inclusion in all aspects of life. Bertrand advocated in primary roles at the state and fed­eral level on important topics such as restraint and seclusion in schools, the prohibition of pay­ment of subminimum wages for people with dis­abilities, and Commercial Medicaid Managed Care.

In addition, Bertrand has served as a volun­teer member on the New Hampshire Council on Developmental Disabili­ties as the policy chair­woman, engaging other parents and stakeholders to promote public policies that improve the lives of people with developmen­tal disabilities.

A graduate of the New Hampshire Parent Infor­mation Center Volunteer Advocate training series, the UNH Institute on Dis­ability Leadership Se­ries and a former UNH Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Dis­abilities Fellow, Bertrand has used her knowledge, connections and training to help support other par­ents, especially in the spe­cial education arena. She also founded the south­ern chapter of Advocates Building Lasting Equality, a grassroots organization that takes on human and civil rights issues that af­fect people who experi­ence disability.

For more information on the Parent Information Center of New Hampshire, visit picnh.org. For more information on ABLE NH, visit ablenh.org.