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Reporter earns DRS Excellence in Communication of the Year award

Friday, April 03, 2020

OKLAHOMA CITY – Paula Burkes from Edmond earned the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services’ Excellence in Communications award on March 10 at the state Capitol.

Burkes has written and edited award-winning news stories for nearly 40 years. Since 2001, she has worked as a business writer for The Oklahoman.

She received the award at DRS’ 25th People with Disabilities Awareness Day.

Commission for Rehabilitation Services Commissioner Emily Cheng and DRS Executive Director Melinda Fruendt recognized Burkes for “writing a series of compelling and well-researched stories about Oklahomans with disabilities and disability issues.”

“Paula treats the people she writes about with respect and works diligently to make her stories come alive for readers,” Fruendt said.

Fruendt noted in the award ceremony that Burke’s news stories have focused on successfully employed DRS clients with disabilities, DRS’ first Career Opportunities Expo, disability leader profiles and several pieces about the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Potential clients identify with successful clients who become employed, taxpaying citizens,” Fruendt said. “They come to DRS to get the same results because Paula told their stories.”

In years past, People with Disabilities Awareness Day brought nearly a thousand Oklahomans to the state Capitol to talk with lawmakers and share their stories. Construction at the state Capitol this year made such an onsite event impossible, leading supporters to come together online at for a social media event.

Last year, DRS served 82,787 Oklahomans with disabilities with career preparation, employment, residential and outreach education, independent living programs and the determination of medical eligibility for disability benefits. The agency helps job seekers with disabilities face barriers to employment, such as inaccessible worksites, lack of transportation or the need for specialized equipment or training. For more information, visit or phone 800-845-8476.

Paula Burkes (right), a business reporter at The Oklahoman, accepts the Excellence in Communication award from the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services Executive Director Melinda Fruendt (left) and Commission for Rehabilitation Services Commissioner Emily Cheng (center) at the state Capitol.
For more information contact

Jody Harlan, DRS Communications Director
cell 405-203-1318 office 405-951-3473

Last Modified on Jun 08, 2022
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