Burlington, MA. (May 1, 2022) – The Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress (MDSC), the premier resource for Down syndrome information, advocacy and networking in Massachusetts, is proud to present Philip A. Donahue of Lowell with MDSC’s inaugural Your Next Star Employee of the Year Award.
The award, presented Sunday, May 1, at a private ceremony at the Brae Burn Country Club in Newton, will go annually to an employee with Down syndrome in Massachusetts who exemplifies being a leader and role model for all individuals with Down syndrome to have meaningful job opportunities in the community.
“Phil is so deserving of being honored as our very first Your Next Star Employee of the Year,” said MDSC Executive Director Maureen Gallagher. “His loyalty to his job, his company and his Market Basket customers is unmatched,” she said, noting that Phil even went on strike in support of the company 8 years ago. “The fact is that people with Down syndrome are often among the most dedicated, reliable, honest, hard-working employees around. And there is no better example of that than Phil.”
This is not the first time Phil has been recognized as an exemplary employee. In 2020, while on hiatus from Market Basket because of the Covid pandemic, Phil returned to his store to great fanfare to receive his “25 Year” badge. When the announcement was made over the loudspeaker, his coworkers and customers erupted.
“I was 16 years old when I started working at Market Basket,” Phil said. “I have worked other places over the years. But Market Basket is my favorite. They are like family to me.”
At the ceremony Sunday, MDSC will also announce its first endowed fund, the Philip A. Donahue Endowment Fund, established by the Richard & Nancy Donahue Charitable Foundation, which will focus on supporting individuals with Down syndrome by helping them prepare for and find employment and professional development opportunities. In addition, MDSC will unveil the Philip Donahue Your Next Star (YNS) Employment Center.
Originally launched in 2015, YNS is dedicated to opening employers’ eyes to the abilities of workers with Down syndrome. Research has shown that employees with Down syndrome and other disabilities typically show more loyalty and lower turnover than their non-disabled peers, and their job performance ratings are the same. But they have drastically higher unemployment rates.
Today, the Philip Donahue Your Next Star Employment Center is one of MDSC’s four Centers of Excellence, each providing a unique service in MA and beyond. The expanded Employment Center will continue on the front lines of educating employers about the value that people with Down syndrome bring to the workforce while working directly with employers to build inclusive hiring programs.
This summer, as part of the Employment Center, MDSC will hold its 2nd Your Next Star Academy, a hands-on training program for a group of prospective employees with Down syndrome interested in entering the workforce. The YNS Academy will help participants improve their soft skills, job skills and job search skills as well as financial literacy. At the end of the Academy, graduates are matched with an internship that aligns with their career interests.