Park City resident Anna Lillquist has been named 2013 "Self Advocate of the Year" by the Utah Developmental Disabilities Council. She will be honored, along with other prominent Utah citizens, at a luncheon and awards ceremony Sept. 10 at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City. The Council cited Lillquist's outstanding service as past president and board member of the Park City chapter of "People First" and her "accomplishments on behalf of the greater disability community" when announcing the award. People First is a national self-advocacy organization that "empowers people with developmental disabilities to advocate for themselves, increase their independence and become a part of their community."
"I have become passionate about self-advocacy for disabled members of the community since my time at the Park City School District's Learning Center," says Lillquist.
She was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 14 months of age and moved here with her family from Colorado a few months later when her father was offered a position at the University of Utah. Her parents researched opportunities for the developmentally disabled in Utah before the move. "All the early intervention specialists said the best programs were in Park City, so that's where we decided to live. Little did we know what a wonderful ride we were in store for and we've never looked back." her father says.
Lillquist, now 23, recalls a childhood filled with "thoughtful and nurturing" teachers. A homegrown product of the Park City school system, she attended Parley's Park Elementary, Treasure Mountain International and Park City High School.
After earning her certificate of completion in 2009, she transitioned into the Park City Learning Center, where she focused on learning life skills and job training. "That's where I met Tessie Palczynski, one of the most influential people in my life. She was my life coach and mentor for the three years I was there," Lillquist beams.
Once shy and retiring, Lillquist has blossomed into a confident, self-assured young woman, passionate about self-advocacy for all disabled members of the community.
Her mother is thrilled with the transformation. "Anna used to be very quiet and was not comfortable making eye contact with people. But she's really come out of her shell in the last few years. Now she speaks out often in meetings and makes valuable contributions. We're very proud of her."
Lillquist recently completed a two-year term as president of People First's Park City chapter. She credits Parkite Kim Millikan, the mentor of the local chapter, for helping her succeed in the job. "She's also been a mentor to me," she says.
The chapter meets monthly to explore issues that affect the developmentally disabled in our community. "We try to think of ways to enhance our position in the community. We met recently with Park City Transit and city police to explain some of our unique needs and suggest accommodations," says Lillquist.
Last month Lillquist completed a 10-week Advanced Leadership Training Course sponsored by Utah State University. Last year she completed a Young Life Leader Training course and next month will begin service on the board of the local Young Life chapter.
Lillquist works one day a week at World Market in Redstone, where she assists in cleaning and customer service. "I really like the 'people' aspect of the job, both the people I work with and the customers," she says. "I also have a pet-sitting business and a business scanning photos, documents and sheet music for people as well."
Though a busy young woman, Lillquist makes time for friends and outdoor recreation. She takes full advantage of year-round programs at the National Ability Center and enjoys regular outings with her friends through "Out and About Utah," a recreation program for disabled teens and young adults run by Park City-area resident Susie Phillips.
Lillquist does water aerobics three days a week at the Ecker Hill pool. "I also have a really cool tandem bike that I love to ride with my parents. I sit in the front in a recumbent position and one of my parents sits behind me and steers. We like to go really fast," she grins.
Accepting her award next month, Lillquist will share the podium with other Utah "people of the year," including Senator of the Year Margaret Dayton and Media Representative of the Year, Fox 13's Big Budah.
Favorite activities: Park Silly Sunday Market; free concerts
Favorite foods: Anything with chicken
Favorite reading/authors: J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series
Bucket list: Skydiving
Animal companions: Phoebe, a 13-year-old white Highland terrier; Kia, a seven-year-old rescue cat from Furburbia