April 18, 2007
Director of Media Relations

AMHERST, Mass.—On Friday, Mar. 30, in the Sunderland Public Library, the Massachusetts Department of Mental Retardation awarded Laura Stein, an Amherst College junior from Rockport, Maine, a Certificate of Recognition for her work with mentally retarded and developmentally disabled people. The ceremony was part of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (MR/DD) Awareness month, where the department provides information and support for improving the quality of life of people with developmental disabilities. Deborah Omasta-Mokrzecki, the manager of dining services and student dining in Amherst College Dining Services, was also honored.

The daughter of Robert W. Stein and Sarah Stein of Rockport, Maine, Stein began her work with developmentally disabled individuals at the age of 15, when she created a “Tennis for Fun” program in her hometown to teach tennis to adults with special needs. At Amherst she extended the program, working with Riverside Industries and several Amherst College volunteers to continue to give lessons on campus. Stein dedicated herself wholeheartedly to the program, applying for and receiving a grant to purchase equipment for her lessons and even arranging transportation for many of the participants to and from the lessons. “Stein has single-handedly built this program from the ground up,” said a representative of Riverside Industries, “Riverside praises her tenacity and initiative in offering this service to local adults.”

Last week, Stein also received a Student Community Engagement Leadership Award from the Association of Amherst Students for her work with this program.

The Department of Mental Retardation is dedicated to creating, in partnership with others, innovative and genuine opportunities for individuals with mental retardation to participate fully and meaningfully in, and contribute to, their communities as valued members. For more information, please visit Its Website.