UWW student Heather Valcanas of Dunstable, Massachusetts is the recipient of a $1,300 Jack M. Wilson Presidential Scholarship. The scholarship is awarded to two students each year across the entire UMass system.
Forty-seven year old Valcanas is the Associate Director of Adult Services for Valley Collaborative in Billerica, MA. A mother of three children, including one with Autism, Heather has dedicated her life to improving the lives of people with developmental disabilities. She is a leader in the movement to develop appropriate transitional services for a new generation of young adults.
“We need to evolve beyond the group home model and create new structures and continuums of care so this population of adults can be successful once they leave high school,” Heather stated. To this end, Heather is working with the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services (DDS) on a study of new models of care and support. Until recently, she served as the New England Coordinator for annual walks for Autism Speaks.
She has traveled to the U.S. capital to lobby Congress for increased medical coverage for people with developmental disabilities, and is a Parent Advocate during the IEP process in the public schools. Heather does all of this, and is finishing her bachelor’s degree through the UMass Amherst University Without Walls academic program with a concentration in Human Services Administration. She has a 3.937 GPA, and is looking forward to pursuing an MBA or a Master’s in Human Services when she graduates in May of next year.
The Jack M. Wilson Presidential Scholarship Fund was established in 2011 to provide special recognition to University of Massachusetts undergraduate and graduate students who demonstrate academic excellence and a passion for public service.
During President Wilson’s 2003-2011 tenure as leader of UMass, he was a strong advocate for research and innovation, understanding that robust research universities are critical to the state’s knowledge-based economy. Under his leadership, UMass took major steps forward in all key areas: from enrollment, to research funding, to endowment. The Jack M. Wilson Presidential Scholarship Fund commemorates President Wilson’s strong record of accomplishment and creates scholarship opportunities for deserving students.