2021 NASP Awards, Scholarships, and Grants: Biographies

Lifetime Achievement Award (LAA)

Deborah Peek Crockett, PhD, NCSP: 

The NASP 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Deborah P. Crocket, PhD, NCSP, has made a substantial impact on the profession of school psychology through her exemplary work as a practitioner, graduate educator, consultant, scholar, mentor, and volunteer leader at the local, state, and national levels.

Spanning a career of nearly 40 years, Deborah has dedicated herself to service and to the profession. She has made an indelible imprint on the field, blazing a trail for school psychologists, particularly those of color, through her work at both the individual and systems levels. She has advanced diversity and culturally competent practice in schools and worked to support the academic enrichment, mental health needs, and overall well-being of children, youth, and families. She is known as a child and family advocate for appropriate education of all children; development, promotion, implementation, and training of diversity and equity issues; parent education and school involvement; assessment; and professional issues. Deborah has been an important figure in the lives of youth, as well as graduate students around the country. Her mentorship has contributed to the broadening of the field of school psychology to minoritized groups on a global level.
Deborah earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the Georgia State University, where she went on to earn Master of Education, Educational Specialist, and Doctoral degrees in school psychology. She is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist. Deborah worked as a psychometrist for 2 years before transitioning into school psychology when started her work as a school psychologist in Fulton County Schools, Hapeville, Georgia. Over the course of her career, Deborah served in various roles as a school psychologist, including in Cobb County, Fayette County, and Atlanta Public Schools. Deborah also has worked as a consultant, guest lecturer, and adjunct professor, as well as an expert on assessments for The Psychological Corporation.

Deborah has been a dedicated and ground-breaking leader in the profession as well. At the state level, she has served as the President of the Georgia Association of School Psychologists (GASP), Chair of the GASP Multicultural Enrichment Committee, GASP Fall Conference Chair, GASP Secretary, GASP Dialogue Newsletter Associate Editor, GASP Regional Representative, and Chairperson of GASP's Accreditation Certification and Training Committee. Within NASP, Deborah has served many, many roles, including as NASP President, NASP Southeast Regional Director, Contributing Editor for the Communiqué, member of NASP's Ethics Advisory Board, and Chair of NASP's Multicultural Affairs Committee.
Diversity, inclusiveness, and cultural competence are common themes in Deborah's continued efforts to advance the profession. She has been a seminal advocate for increasing diversity in the field, helping to lay the groundwork and build the scaffolding for NASP's work in this area over more than a quarter century. Perhaps one of her greatest legacies in this regard is her role
in founding and growing the NASP-ERT Minority Scholarship Program, which supports the graduate training of traditionally underrepresented groups pursuing careers in school psychology by seeking to lower financial barriers to training and highlighting the accomplishments of promising future professionals.

Deborah's scholarship is evident as she is a widely renowned author and presenter who has published books, chapters, and articles in numerous professional journals and newsletters. She has also contributed articles to news publications and magazines. She has been invited to present at over 100 professional meetings, conferences, and community-based events across the country and internationally. Deborah has received a myriad of honors and awards from professional organizations, community partners, and higher education institutions, including the NASP Honorary Lifetime Membership, the establishment of the Deborah Peek Crockett Endowed Minority Scholarship, Georgia's Lifetime Achievement Award, Alumnae Achievement Award for Education from Spelman College, the Georgia School Psychologist of the Year Award, multiple NASP Presidential Leadership Awards, and countless other awards and recognitions.

Deborah continues to shine as she dedicates time to advocate and promote leadership, equity in education, safety, emergency crisis response, and inclusion for all students. Since 2002, Deborah has served on the College of Education and Human Development Leadership Advisory Council at the Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia. Her additional professional appointments have included the Georgia Emergency Management Agency Crisis Response Team, the Georgia Crisis Assistance Teams to Schools, the American Psychological Association Healthy GLB Students Project's Youth of Color Expert Panel, the United States Department of Education Violence Crisis Response Team, Chairperson for the Committee for Women in Church and Society Georgia-South Carolina Association United Church of Christ, and National Advisory Council Board Member of the Boy's Clubs of America.

Deborah's influence spans many generations. One colleague shared how "her efforts have continued to attract minority individuals into school psychology and NASP. She has overcome adversity in her life and encouraged many others to succeed in school psychology. She is a very worthy recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award!"

Another colleague and friend proclaimed that "of all the school psychologists I have met, Dr. Deborah Crockett is as distinguished and worthy of the NASP Lifetime Achievement Award as anyone I could imagine. Simply stated, she has been a brilliant light of knowledge, wisdom, dedication, and humanity." They continued on to say that they, "have always seen Dr. Crockett as an extraordinary person and professional with outstanding insights and leadership needed to make the positive changes she has. It is certainly clear that Dr. Crockett meets all the criteria for this award. I am honored to call her my colleague and dear friend."

Finally, Deborah is recognized as a, "trendsetter and pioneer in the world of school psychology. She has mentored countless graduate students of color, facilitated the establishment of the NASP minority scholarship, championed NASP's Tolerance in Action Campaign, worked in graduate education, served as the first African American to be elected NASP president, and
published stellar research on topics of tolerance and diversity. However, what is not captured in her résumé and countless lists of accomplishments and awards is her kind and giving nature as well as her commitment to the success of school psychology students and practitioners of color."

School Psychologist of the Year (SPY) Award

Julia E. Szarko, PhD, NCSP:

Julia E. Szarko, PhD, NCSP, is currently a school psychologist in the Central Bucks School District in Doylestown, PA. Julia completed an MS and PhD in School Psychology from The Pennsylvania State University in 1996 and 2000, respectively. She has a background in testing performance and behaviors of children with autism and related developmental disabilities, and she has extensive experience in student and system level intervention and support.

Julia joined Central Bucks School District in 2005 after spending 8 years practicing as a school psychologist in Virginia. As a 14-year veteran of Central Bucks School District, Julia has risen to be a leader in the school psychology department and within her schools. Overall, Julia's leadership has been evident through her work in MTSS, suicide prevention and intervention, early intervention, gifted education, staff development, support, and advocacy as well as supervision of graduate students in school psychology. Her work has included chairing or being a member of workgroups and task forces at the district and building levels, as well as a being a representative to the Central Bucks Education Association bargaining committee, which led to the incentivizing of the NCSP.

At the school level, Julia has worked for the past 14 years to improve the lived experiences of children and families in Central Bucks School District. Focusing her efforts at the elementary level, she applies her expertise of positive behavior and multitiered systems of supports from data analysis to implementation. Additionally, she focuses her efforts on fostering student motivation and engagement and implementing culturally responsive services. In the face of national tragedies, school shootings, and local crises, including a recent devastating fire within her elementary school, Julia responded swiftly and proactively to support student needs, linked members of the community to resources, and collaborated with staff, administrators, and community members to implement proactive change in promoting positive student behavior and mental health, all while creating a safe, positive school climate. Julia also serves as a social justice advocate through her work with key stakeholders at the district, state, and local levels to develop action steps to raise awareness and impact messaging in support of increased school mental health staffing. These are just a few examples of Julia's work with her school district to better the lives of the children and families she serves.

Julia's effectiveness as a leader is also evident at the state and national levels. Julia has served on the Association of School Psychologists of Pennsylvania (ASPP) legislative board since 2007, including positions of Legislative Chair, President, Secretary, and organizer for the association's annual conventions. Her most recent work includes being actively involved in updating the PA State Certification as well as the evaluation rubric to mirror the 2020 NASPPractice Model. Additionally, on behalf of ASPP, she represented school psychologists' expertise in school safety and mental health, serving on Pennsylvania Governor Wolf's School Safety Task Force and working with State Senator Jay Costa's office in supporting language for SB 997, legislation outlining ratios for school mental health professionals. At the national level, Julia routinely participates in "Hill Day" in Washington, DC as an ASPP representative. Julia also facilitated the development of a Pennsylvania school psychologist "Hill Day" in conjunction with PSEA that took place in June 2019. Julia has also been actively involved in the collaborative drafting of legislative bills to address the school psychologist shortage and, most recently, the federal Mental Health in Schools Excellence Program Act of 2019.

In addition to her effectiveness as an advocate, Julia has received awards and honors in recognition of her dedication, service, and advocacy on behalf of students, families, and the profession of school psychology. She was named Pennsylvania School Psychologist of the Year in 2019. Additionally, in 2011, the National Association of Social Workers in Pennsylvania named her the Colleague of the Year, attesting to her strength as a collaborator.

Julia's commitment to the profession and advocacy for the success of all children-including graduate students, the future of the field-is evident in the programs, services, and collaboration she has engaged in, as well as in the accolades from the individuals she serves. Her ability to connect with students and create safe spaces is evident in this parent's comment: "The genuine connection she has with our daughter is one of our family's greatest blessings." Julia's ability to share her knowledge and impact future generations of school psychologists is a strength. A practicum student states, "I frequently rave about my experience with Julia to peers and faculty ... and truly believe that my time as her supervisee will be one of the most influential graduate student experiences on my future career as a school psychologist. I see her as the type of school psychologist that I want to be one day and hope to have half of her dedication to advocacy and natural ability to connect with students." Lastly, a student states the benefits of her collaboration with Julia, "the experiences I had while working with her each week will remain unforgettable. I looked forward to my visits ... where I knew I would come out of our session feeling supported and relieved with whatever my worries were for the week."

Julia was selected as the 2021 School Psychologist of the Year for her commitment to the profession through her advocacy work addressing not only the needs of the children, families, and schools she works with, but for also working on improving systems to better schools and the profession.

Paul H. Henkin Memorial Scholarship

Jessica Thompson:

Jessica Thompson is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist at Spokane Public Schools (Washington). She received her Educational Specialist in School Psychology degree through Minot State University (North Dakota). She is a passionate professional who labors tirelessly to advocate for her students and others with whom she interacts. With the support of great colleagues, and the mentorship of Dr. Joseph Engler, she embraces Josh Shipp's quote that "every child is one caring adult away from being a success story.

GPR Special Friend of Children Award

The Honorable Rosa DeLauro: 

Rosa DeLauro is the Congresswoman from Connecticut's Third Congressional District, which stretches from the Long Island Sound and New Haven, to the Naugatuck Valley and Waterbury. Rosa serves as the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee and sits on the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, and she is the Chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, where she oversees our nation's investments in education, health, and employment. 

GPR Outstanding Advocate Award

Linda Young, PhD:

Dr. Young was nominated as an Outstanding Advocate by Stephanie Patton, President of the Nevada Association of School Psychologists, for her commitment to advocacy during her three terms as a school board trustee and her 32 years of service as an employee of the Clark County School District. Dr. Young has been a teacher, school psychologist, coordinator for special education programs, high school dean, assistant principal, principal, and professor. In each of these roles, Dr. Young has been a tireless advocate for children and families in her community, especially those from marginalized backgrounds. In particular, Dr. Young has fought tirelessly for issues related to mental health and student safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

GPR Certificate of Appreciation

Sherri Bentley:

Sherri Bentley was nominated for a Certificate of Appreciation by Alex Franks-Thomas, President of the Washington State Association of School Psychologists. Sherri has been an extraordinary advocacy leader at the local, state, and national levels regarding many issues affecting education and school psychology services. She has been a critical and effective representative to coalitions advocating for appropriate staffing ratios and integrated systems of support for students, and she has been a helping hand in organizing major advocacy events and activities for the state association. She has been an effective advocate for students in Washington State, and her work will benefit students and school psychologists for years to come.

Michael Rube:

Michael Rube was nominated for a Certificate of Appreciation by Stephanie Patton, President of the Nevada Association of School Psychologists. Michael has displayed leadership in advocacy by working tirelessly with the Clark County School District board to highlight the shortages in the profession and expressing the negative impact they have on children. His commitment to the profession is evident to anyone who comes in contact with him. Michael is always on the lookout for recruits to the field, is quick to assist colleagues with everything from caseload assistance to a kind ear, and acts as a mentor for numerous students and interns in the field, ensuring positive experiences for folks new to the field.

NASP-ERT Minority Scholarship Program

Bao Ngoc Tong:

Bao Ngoc Tong is currently pursuing her Educational Specialist degree in School Psychology at Lewis and Clark College. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Art Practices from Portland State University. Bao aims to advocate for children and families who are newcomers to the United States and other underserved groups. Her mission is to be a bridge between special education and general education, as well as between school and home. Ultimately, she hopes to pursue her doctoral degree and gain the opportunity to learn from and contribute to the field of school psychology internationally.

Marko Corona: 

Marko Corona is a first-generation college student who graduated from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. Marko is currently pursuing his Education Specialist degree in School Psychology at University of Northern Colorado. Marko hopes to inspire other minorities to pursue school psychology as a career choice. As someone raised by Mexican immigrants, he also aims to become an advocate and a collaborator with students and families from culturally and ethnically diverse backgrounds. He hopes to use his bilingual skills to build relationships in the community to strengthen school-family partnerships.

Camika Lewis:

Camika Lewis is a first-generation college student who graduated magna cum laude from Texas Christian University with a Bachelor of Science in Youth Advocacy and Educational Studies. Camika is currently pursuing her Master's/Specialist Degree in School Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. Camika is aiming to create an organization that provides not only evaluation support but grief therapy and socioeconomic support to families that have children who've endured the traumatic experience of losing a loved one. Providing not just support but hope and cultural responsiveness to underrepresented and underserved students and their families has become Camika's primary mission and passion.

Erin Kimble:

Erin Kimble graduated summa cum laude from Spelman College with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. She is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Counseling, option in School Psychology, at California State University, Los Angeles. Erin is passionate about supporting minority students and increasing representation as a Black woman in the field of school psychology. She aims to advocate for all students, to ensure each student is receiving the necessary supports that are specific to their needs. Through advocacy, Erin hopes to foster resiliency and a willingness to grow in the students with whom she works.

Pa Lee:

Pa Lee is a first-generation Hmong American college student who graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Human Resources. She is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Education and an Educational Specialist degree in School Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Her primary goals include committing to social justice issues, ensuring underrepresented groups receive equitable services, and enhancing delivery of mental health services for diverse populations. Pa aims to foster a community-based school climate, where educators and students feel safe and supported in her role as a school psychologist.

Graduate Student Research Grants

Amy Violante:

Amy is from Easton, PA and graduated from Gettysburg College in 2017 with a Bachelor's degree in psychology. She is a second-year doctoral student in the school psychology program at the University of Montana, where she is a member of the Culturally Responsive Evidence-Based Practices in School Psychology (CRESP) Lab. Amy's Master's thesis is a qualitative and community-based research study exploring the relationship between spirituality and social-emotional learning in order to support Native American students and families in more culturally responsive ways in the Flathead Nation.

Sonja Saqui:

Sonja Saqui is a PhD candidate in the School & Applied Child Psychology program at the University of British Columbia. She has a specific interest in school-based mental health services for students with intellectual disabilities (ID). Sonja has developed a universally deliverable cognitive-behavioral based anxiety coping skills intervention that merges evidence-based strategies for supporting children with anxiety with well-established pedagogical practices for students with ID in the classroom. Her dissertation will preliminarily evaluate this intervention. Her dissertation project aims to provide a foundation for further research exploring inclusive and relevant mental health services to children with ID or other developmental disabilities in school settings.

Kelli Lahman:

Kelli Lahman is a second-year student in the specialist program at Texas A&M University-Commerce (TAMU-C). She is interested in educational law and policy affecting school climate and minority youth. Kelli's thesis focuses on the effect that race has on decision-making in manifestation determination reviews through the use of a quantitative approach. She is interested in evidence-based assessments and consulting with allied professionals to provide supportive environments to students with diverse needs. Kelli established a Student Affiliates in School Psychology (SASP) chapter at TAMU-C and is currently serving as the president. Kelli also serves as the NASP Student Leader for her program.