GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Julia Popefka, of Marmora, received a 2019 Community Engagement Award at the Martin Luther King Day of Service at Stockton University on Monday, Jan. 21.
Popefka is a 2013 graduate of Stockton with a master of science degree in occupational therapy.
As a graduate student at Stockton, Julia was an active member of the Student Occupational Therapy Association. One of her activities was with the nonprofit organization Faces 4 Autism, which she continues to work with today. Popefka works with a group of adults with autism, which meets weekly and focuses on building relationships and social skills through participation in a variety of activities. As the group’s facilitator for four years, she has witnessed each member learn to communicate with peers who are both verbal and nonverbal, leading to the development of sincere friendships with one another as well as increased self-confidence and a sense of belonging within the group. Over time, these skills have contributed to multiple members becoming more engaged within the community, leading to employment in the workforce and increased participation in educational programs.
Popefka hopes to continue expanding this level of awareness and acceptance of individuals with autism, and ultimately dreams to develop a program that will further help young adults with disabilities in the same ways.