In 1979, Anna Lou Pickett founded the National Resource Center for Paraprofessionals in Education and Related Services (NRCP) with funding from the Bureau of Education for the Handicapped (currently, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs). During these early years, federal funding was inconsistent. Policymakers at the Federal, State, and local levels paid little attention to issues that impacted paraprofessional roles, preparation, or supervision. Fortunately, Anna Lou Pickett found the resources necessary to continue the work.
Over the year's, the Center's work has evolved. However, several key activities have remained constant. For instance, Anna Lou Pickett has connected people with one another for more than 20 years by sponsoring and organizing an annual, national conference. Anna Lou has also maintained a newsletter as well as a database of issues, models, programs and people. Furthermore, technical assistance and training is still available through the center on a fee-for-service basis.
In January 2000, Anna Lou began her transitional retirement. She selected Dr. Marilyn Likins (Utah State University) and Dr. Teri Wallace (University of Minnesota) to follow her as Co-Directors of the NRCP. With the new millennium and the change of NRCP directors, a time of renewal and a growing awareness among policymakers, personnel developers, parents, and professional organizations is underway. This awareness is reflected in:
- New State and Federal legislative mandates,
- Increased need for information and assistance related to paraprofessionals and their supervision,
- Technology-based dissemination
- Research-based practices, and
- Continued political advocacy.