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Fund for Excellence Projects Awarded

The University of Kentucky Human Development Institute Fund for Excellence was created to support the development of innovative programs, services, or products to address the needs of individuals with disabilities and their families, for which funding is not currently available. Below is a list of the most recent awards.

Expanding the Social Networks of Adults with Autism

Project Lead: Patti Logsdon

This project supports autistic adults in expanding their friendships, social networks, and community participation in valued community roles and activities. This will be achieved through a blended approach that builds upon person-centered planning, circle of friends/support, peer networks and valued social roles. This project will support HDI’s mission of building inclusive communities by developing social networks.

Mind in the Making: Seven Essential Executive Skills for Families

Project Leads: Dr. Joanne Rojas and Sally Dannenberg 

Mind in the Making (MITM) is a research framework that summarizes decades of developmental research into the seven essential life skills. The MITM training consists of eight modules geared to early childhood professionals and family educators to engage them in an experiential and reflective process of self-discovery of their own competence in these life skills, connect their experience to the research, and learn to promote these capacities in themselves as well as in the children in their care. The goal of this project is to provide this training to communities throughout the state that serve families that are at risk because of a variety of circumstances. This project supports HDI’s mission of addressing the inequity of access to resources and support networks. 

Working Alternatives to Guardianship (WAG)

Project Lead: Laura Butler 

The goal of this project is to form a workgroup of stakeholders that will work together to inform workable decisional support options for people who have not traditionally had viable options beyond legal guardianship. The initial objective of the group will be to create a Continuing Legal Education course that will focus on providing people with legal documents that will be accepted by a wide variety of other professionals. This project will further HDI’s mission of building inclusive communities by helping identify ways for more people to experience full personal and civil rights. 

Staff Photo of Sally Dannenburg, UK HDI Logo top left

Quilting a Life of Learning. A staff spotlight on Sally Dannenberg

Sally Dannenberg loves to learn and watch people learn. Maybe that has something to do with why she enjoys working with children so much – after all, for them, every day is an opportunity for new lessons and new adventures.

“I’ve always been interested in working with children,” she said. “I enjoy all the things that they’re learning every day all the time, and every day is kind of like a challenge for them. It’s something new. They see things a lot differently than we do.”

Dannenberg, a research and development associate with HDI’s Child Care Aware program, has been involved in childcare across multiple states for about 15 years. She started as a pediatric nurse before getting involved with childcare, including the Child Care Aware program in Minnesota. It’s part of what brought her to HDI – she saw a lot of the good work that the program did there, and saw a chance to continue the good work she’d already been doing.

“My original position was with Race to the Top, which was a grant to improve child care in Kentucky,” she said, adding that there were a number of equivalent grants across the US. “I was interested in that because I’d seen some of the changes they’d made in Minnesota through this grant.”

By now, she’s been with HDI for nine years. She’s been involved in a number of childcare-related projects within HDI, including courses for childcare providers – something she says she’s really proud of. Part of what’s kept her here is that she has the chance to constantly learn and grow as she works.

“There’s always something new to learn,” she said. “I learn constantly from all the other projects at HDI.”

The other part? She says it’s the people.

“They all have the same focus,” she said. “We care about people from birth to death…Childcare Aware is trying to help people get that best start that we can.”

While Dannenberg gets plenty of chances to learn on the job, she also loves to learn at home. She has a list of skills she wants to learn. One she’s best known for is quilting and sewing, to the point where she created a quilt that was raffled off as part of HDI’s 50th anniversary. If you ask her about it, though, she’ll tell you she’s not talented, she’s persistent. She’s stayed persistent since junior high.

She has a list of skills that she wants to learn beyond that. And through her persistence, she has learned a few – caning chairs, upholstering furniture – including a chair that was falling apart. Currently, she’s working on learning stained glass.

“It’s just kind of like a bucket list,” she said. “Usually, it’s something I want around my house that I couldn’t go out and buy. I want to say ‘I did that.’”

She also mentions that her family is the most important thing to her – and with them, she can put all that childcare experience to use to make sure they get the chance to grow up right.

“Even though my grandkids live far away, I still make the time to drive or fly to see them,” she said. “Just letting them know about how I grew up and teaching them things they can use the rest of their life too.”

Quilt with blue and white UK branding
Quilt by Sally Dannenberg