Wilkinson named recipient of 2018 Barash Award for Human Service

Krista Wilkinson, professor of communication sciences and disorders in the College of Health and Human Development at Penn State, is the 2018 recipient of the Barash Award for Human Service.

Created in 1975 by the family of the late Sy Barash, the award honors a full-time member of the faculty, staff or student body on the University Park campus who, apart from his or her regular duties, has contributed the most to human causes, public service activities and organizations, or the welfare of fellow humans.

Colleagues and community members say Wilkinson has made a huge and lasting impact through working with individuals with Down syndrome. Wilkinson is an expert on research related to children and youth with disabilities.

Drawing on her own children’s love of music and theater, Wilkinson founded the Good Performance Troupe in 2012 as a way to offer those with Down syndrome the opportunity to experience the power of the performing arts. Since then, dozens of performers have benefited from the program that’s been featured by various media outlets.

The group now consists of about 20 members and 10 peers. A second group that she founded, For Good Beginnings, benefits younger children who have Down syndrome.

By being the driving force behind the Good Performance Troupe, Wilkinson is building community on multiple levels,” said a colleague. “Most obviously, the people with Down syndrome who participate as performers gain the many benefits of rehearsing and presenting a show, such as working with others to achieve a goal, forming friendships, exercising their bodies and minds, and experiencing the applause of the audience. The peers and volunteers also gain friendships, confidence and the satisfaction of helping others.”

A parent whose child is a member of the group praised Wilkinson's dedication to helping others.

“Wilkinson not only provided a place where our children’s dreams of becoming performers come true but she also has managed to fill a parent’s need, which is providing a place for their child to feel unique and significant while giving parents the chance to be spectators,” the parent said. “Raising a child with Down syndrome can be a daunting task. However, Wilkinson knew many of us parents had limited time and resources to help her, so she built the bridge that connected the peers from Penn State with the individuals who are participating with the For Good Performance group.”