Karen J. Lee
In 1987, four Maryland families who had children with developmental disabilities launched the Supported Employment Enterprise Corporation to help find community-based jobs for their sons and daughters — jobs that were virtually non-existent at the time.
Three years later, they hired Karen J. Lee as their executive director. Today, the company, now known as SEEC and based in Silver Spring, has a staff of more than 200 people and provides community-based support, including jobs and recreational and educational opportunities, to more than 250 adults with disabilities.
Along the way, finding jobs for disabled individuals that are out in the community, as opposed to work in sheltered workshops, has become the norm, in Maryland and elsewhere.
Lee, meanwhile, has become a recognized leader in the field. For the past year, she has been working with the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene/Developmental Disabilities Administration on a statewide employment program for individuals with disabilities.
This year, the Association of People Supporting Employment, an advocacy group that pushes employment and self-sufficiency for people with disabilities, gave Lee its National Public Policy Advocate Award. And, the National Alliance of Direct Support Professionals gave SEEC its “Moving Mountains Best Practice Award” for its innovative staff development to boost the quality of supports for people with disabilities.
“The future of supported employment for people with developmental disabilities in in the community,” Lee said. “The leadership roles I’ve chosen to hold in various local, state and national groups is making person-centered services standard practice, not just as a singular best practice idea.”