Moving Mountains Award

Pathfinder Village was selected as a top four finalist in the 2021 Moving Mountain Awards, an honor for any human-service nonprofit organization working with individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. The award was sponsored by The National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP), the Research and Training Center (RTC) at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Community Integration and the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR). As one of the selected finalists’ Pathfinder was recognized for its leading practices in direct support staff workforce development.  

A live presentation was given by our own Chief Program Officer, Kelly Meyers, Staff Support Specialist, Michelle Banks and Director of The Kennedy Willis Center, Brittany Goodrich alongside Dr. E. Adel Herge of Thomas Jefferson University to showcase Pathfinder’s innovative direct support training programs which were introduced in 2017. The programs work to advance the knowledge and application of person-centered service delivery by enhancing the skills and confidence of our front-line workers and ultimately improving direct support professional retention and vacancy rates.

DSP 3.0 Training Program

Pathfinder Village graduates eight in new DSP 3.0 training program

Direct Care Staff reach professional attainment in supporting individuals with dementia

Pathfinder Village celebrated the career growth of eight staff this week as they were graduated from the agency’s new Direct Support Professional 3.0 training program. The students’ final presentations and recognition ceremony capped off eight months of classwork and practicums focused on providing quality person-centered care to aging individuals with cognitive disabilities and dementia.

The eight graduates are Brittany Bond, Rose Davis, Christina Gregory, Heather McCoy, Tammy Meyers, Jeanette Nutt, Amanda Piech, and Ashley Townsend. These staff serve in Pathfinder’s Residential and Adult Day Service programs and have completed the Direct Support Professional (DSP) 2.0 program, which was launched in 2017. This is the inaugural class for the advanced 3.0 program.

“This program teaches that you need to look at all aspects of a care situation, put yourself in the shoes of the person you are working with,” said graduate Amanda Piech, who has been with Pathfinder for 15 years. “You need to understand what they may be feeling but are not able to tell you.”

The DSP 3.0 curriculum has two goals for students: To empower staff with knowledge on how aging may progress for those with cognitive disabilities and dementia, and to provide assessment tools and skills that can be applied through all stages of aging and throughout individuals’ day and home settings. The 3.0 course was developed in collaboration with the Kennedy Willis Center on Down Syndrome, the Village’s outreach, education and research arm, the Occupational Therapy Department at Thomas Jefferson University of Philadelphia, and Jefferson Elder Care, the university’s training and consulting service for human service agencies.

At graduation, each student presented a case study that exemplified successful Best Practice strategies used to assist an individual. Afterward, the students were presented with diplomas and congratulated by Pathfinder’s Chief Executive Officer Paul Landers and Professor E. Adel Herge, OTD, OTR/L, FAOTA, of Thomas Jefferson University, who helped develop the evidence-based curriculum last year.

“From the start, we felt there had to be a distinction between a Direct Support Worker and a Direct Support Professional,” said Mr. Landers, who began his career in direct care. “The DSP 2.0 and 3.0 credentials provide entry-level DSP’s the opportunity to develop enhanced knowledge, skills and ethics that lead to a rewarding human service career. Since inception, our DSP 2.0 and 3.0 learner retention rate has topped 80%, and Pathfinder’s vacancy rate has dropped to seven percent. The proof is in the numbers, the program is working for staff, for Pathfinder and most importantly, the folks we support.”

According to Staff Support Specialist and student mentor Michelle Banks, the 3.0 program included monthly workshops and independent coursework in problem-solving. Specific topics covered addressing challenging situations and changing behaviors for seniors; lessons were structured around case studies that grew more complex over time and that allowed students to apply learned content. Throughout the training, students met with mentors and managers to reflect on these lessons and to determine their professional goals.

Mr. Landers said that having a trained, knowledgeable Direct Support Professional workforce is critical as there are growing numbers of aging individuals in the US with cognitive declines and dementia and there are higher job requirements and duties for direct care staff from employers and oversight agencies. The development of the DSP 2.0 and 3.0 trainings extends Pathfinder’s decades of work in aging programs and infrastructure supports for people with intellectual disabilities.


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