Speakers

Nabil Abou Baker, MD
Nabil Abou Baker, MD, is a board-certified internist at the University of Chicago Medicine. Dr. Baker specializes in improving transitions of care between internal medicine and pediatrics for children with chronic illnesses.
Sue Almquist-McGarey
Sue Almquist-McGarey is a Special Education Teacher, Teacher Leader for the department, and Vocational Coordinator for Reed-Custer High School in Will County. She has been teaching special education for 28 years and acquired her Master’s in Educational Administration in 2011. Sue has been with the Will-County Transition Planning Committee for 13 years and has been chairperson for 8 years.
Rebecca Anthony
Rebecca Anthony, RN-BC, BS, MHA works as a care coordinator at the Division of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC) in the Onley Regional Office. She has 30 years of experience working in the hospital setting. She is a member of The American Nurses Association, The Illinois Nurses Association, Arc of Illinois and Special Olympics. Becky is a member of the DSCC Transition Work Group. She is a strong believer in self-determination and planning for success. Becky draws on her experiences with her children to gain insight to assist special needs children and families to envision, plan for and obtain their own goals.
Stacey Aschemann
Stacey Aschemann graduated from Southern Illinois University School of Law in 1998. She joined Equip for Equality, the Protection and Advocacy System for People with Disabilities in Illinois, in 2008, after having worked in the private sector for a labor law firm in St. Louis, Missouri for ten years representing unions and their members. Her work for both organizations has involved advocating on behalf of individuals to enforce their civil and legal rights.
Heather Barcal
Heather Barcal is the Program Data Manager at Lake County Center for Independent Living in Mundelein, IL. She has been working with people with disabilities since 1998 and is a person with a disability who knows first-hand what students with disabilities face. Heather has a MA in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked in many capacities for LCCIL and originally developed the LCCIL Youth Curriculum over 10 years ago.
Krescene Beck
Krescene Beck is an ally from Glen Carbon, Illinois, and a co-director with Blue Tower Solutions, Inc. She has supported self-advocates for more than 30 years. As the Organizational Director for The Alliance as well as working on two statewide grants focused on supporting people with disabilities and Deaf people who experience violence, Krescene enjoys learning from self-advocates and creating opportunities for them to speak up and speak out.
Angela Berger
Angela Berger, LCSW is the Manager and Social Worker for the Transition to Adult Care program at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Previous to this position she served for 5 years as the Social Worker and Mental Health Coordinator for the Division of Pulmonary Medicine and the Cystic Fibrosis Program at Lurie. She has been specializing in medical social work for over 20 years. Angela has experience in a wide variety of medical specialties both inpatient and outpatient from her time at the University of Chicago Hospitals and the University of Chicago. In her current role, Angela is focusing on building infrastructure at Lurie Children’s to proactively and seamlessly transition adolescents and young adults from the pediatric care environment to adult based care.
Jill Bruington
Jill Bruington is the Career & Technical Education Principal at the Illinois School for the Deaf. Prior to becoming a principal in 2012, Jill was the Transition Coordinator at ISD for 12 years. Jill earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Deaf & Hard of Hearing Teacher Education from MacMurray College in May 1999 and a Master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Illinois at Springfield in 2009.Jill is a licensed sign language interpreter (Advanced) and has Educational Interpreter approval. In addition, Jill is a board member of the Illinois Foundation for Deaf Children & the chairperson for the Jacksonville Area Transition Planning Committee.
Martie Buck
Martie Buck is the Program Coordinator of the College for Life and Supported College Transition programs and is also the Project Director of the ICDD grand-funded program, T1 Squared. She has worked with students with disabilities at Lewis and Clark for over 20 years.
William Burroughs
William Burroughs is a Transition case manager and independent life skills teacher for the District 125 Transition Program in Lincolnshire IL. He has worked in Special Education since 2005 and has been working with young adults in transition since 2013. William has a BS in Anthropology and graduate degrees in Special Education as well as Leadership and Administration.
Teresa Callahan, PhD
Dr. Teresa Callahan has worked in the field of Special Education for 43 years. She has been a classroom teacher, job coach, university professor, principal and Director of Special Education for a school district. She is currently a consultant and Coordinator of Discovery Certification with Marc Gold & Associates.
Marisa Cantu-Reed
Marisa Cantu-Reed has worked at the IL/IA Center for Independent Living Center (IICIL) since 2002 as the Community Education Advocate. Marisa recently has rolled out the IICIL Youth Fast Track Transition Program. She provides Disability Awareness Training to businesses, agencies, and individuals who are interested in learning more about how to work with People with Disabilities. She works closely with a Network of Community Organizations and serves as the President for the Council on Community Services of the Quad Cities. She also brings her expertise in the areas of marketing and publicity. Marisa graduated with her Bachelors with and emphasis in Communications from Western IL University.
Reagan Carey
Reagan Carey is an Associate Director at CTF ILLINOIS. She has been employed with CTF for twenty years. For the past 8 years she has been the director of The Autism Program (TAP) at CTF. Reagan is a recent Partners in Policy Making graduate and is the project director of The Southern Illinois Transition Program which is funded through the ICDD and covers twelve counties.
Molly Chapman
Molly Chapman is the Assistant Bureau Chief of Program for the Home Services Program, which is part of the Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Rehabilitation Services. In this role, she provides oversight for training, policy, legislation and services received through three of the State's Medicaid Waiver Programs: Persons with Disabilities Wavier; Brain Injury Waiver; and HIV/AIDS Waiver. Ms. Chapman has worked in all levels of service provision to people with disabilities for over 20 years, including both not-for-profit organizations and State Agencies.
Nancy Cheak-Zamora
Dr. Cheak-Zamora has vast experience in conducting research on underserved and vulnerable populations. Within her previous research, she has examined the psychometric properties of complex measurement tools and utilized them to evaluate health status and health disparities (published in Quality of Life Research 2008). She has developed and implemented several clinical interventions including a Photovoice intervention that used personal photography and group discussions to empower youth with ASD and increase communication and self-determination (published in Journal of Adolescent Research, 2016, Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 2016, and Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 2016).

Dr. Cheak-Zamora has nearly 15 years of experience working with children and youth with ASD in both clinical, as an Applied Behavioral Analysis therapist, and research settings.
Joyce Clay
Joyce Clay is a Professor of Nursing at Richland Community College. She has been a nurse for almost 40 years and has embraced the passion and rewards the profession has for those called to serve in this capacity. Joyce has the pleasure of assisting the newest nurses in bringing advocacy and the art of listening to their daily practice lives. Before joining the academic arena, she was a manager for a community health program focusing on helping the under privileged in Northeast Pennsylvania receive care and services. She has a love and passion for obstetrics and pediatrics and has worked in labor/delivery, NICU, and pediatrics. She and her husband Bob are the proud parents of 8 children and 14 grandchildren. Joyce has the privilege of caring for a daughter and granddaughter with disabilities.
Darcy Contri
Darcy Contri is a registered nurse with 36 years of broad experience in direct patient care and service coordination for children with special health care needs. She is an advocate for Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs (CYSHCN) and their families. She is also a collaborator in working with providers of services and has been involved with UIC, Division of Specialized Care for Children’s transition project since its inception in 1998. Darcy is involved with transition training for health care professionals, educators, youth, families, and other stakeholders. She participates in many outreach activities to establish and strengthen collaborative relationships with outside agencies and transition projects in Illinois. Darcy is the Title V Program Statewide Transition Specialist.
Julie Corder
Julie Corder is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner at Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital. She cares for children with complex medical needs as a primary care provider. She has been working of transition efforts for several years after recognizing a lack of resources for these patients and families as they aged out of pediatric specialties.
Carrie Cuomo
Carrie Cuomo is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with over 19 years of nursing experience in administration, pediatric hospital medicine, cardiothoracic surgery, pediatric intensive care, and pediatric urgent. She began working on transition of pediatric patients to adult providers more than 5 years ago after recognizing a need for her patient population. This work led her to obtain her DNP in 2017 and continues to drive her interest and quality improvement efforts in her leadership and clinical roles.
Emily DeGrand
Emily DeGrand is the Special Learning Needs Counselor and provides disability support services to students enrolled in regular college courses, including academic advising and facilitating accommodations. She also serves as the academic advisor for the Honors College.
Bera Demirbilek
Bera Demirbilek is currently a high school student deeply well read on disability advocacy specifically in terms of political and civic action. Being the twin brother of an individual with severe autism, Bera has been an advocate at all levels and strives to stand with his brother while he transitions to adulthood. He runs an autism publication (Learning Autism) to provide basic resources to families and volunteers in the community regularly. Recently, Bera was named a finalist in a nation-wide STEM and humanities research competition for his work involving voter restrictions on individuals with developmental disabilities.
Nathan Derhammer, MD
Nathan E. Derhammer, MD, FAAP, FACP
Associate Professor, Internal Medicine & Pediatrics
Program Director, Combined Medicine-Pediatrics residency
Loyola University Medical Center
Kathryn Dittemore
Kathryn Dittemore, LCSW, CRSS serves as the Public Service Administrator for Wellness and Recovery for the Illinois Department of Human Services/Division of Mental Health (DMH). Ms. Dittemore’ s interest in mental health wellness and recovery stems from both personal and family experience. She is a Certified Recovery Support Specialist and trained WRAP facilitator. She is also a Family to Family educator with NAMI IL. Ms. Dittemore began her career with the State of IL Division of Mental Health in 1999 providing in-patient social work services to individuals with serious mental illness. Since 2016 Ms. Dittemore she has been working to further the development of recovery-oriented services within the mental health system. In her role as Public Service Administrator she assists in advancing many of DMH’s successful recovery initiatives including WRAP (Wellness, Recovery Action Planning, CRSS (Certified Recovery Support Specialist) training and development, and providing recovery oriented education and technical assistance to a variety of community and mental health organizations throughout the State of Illinois.
Ronisha Edwards-Elliott
Ronisha Edwards, MSW is the current project manager for the University of Illinois at Chicago, Sickle Cell Readiness and Transition (STAR) Clinic, Group Care Program. Through her role, she offers a diverse patient experience, medical social work and case management for patients, develops patients’ educational material,and provides patients with assistance into the post-secondary and workforce placement. Ronisha began the position upon her completion of her undergraduate coursework in criminal justice and sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago in December of 2015, in which her primary focus concerned health disparitiesand the burden of healthcare for minority patients. She continued her studies in medical and trauma informed social work at Boise State University and earned a Master’s of Social Work in May 2018. Ronisha focuses her work on bridging the gap within healthcare, mental health, and empowering patients to pursue suitable workforce and/or post-secondary opportunities despite disability limitations. She has been instrumental in the creation of a Peer Patient Advocate Program that provides mentorship and peer support from transitioned adult patients to adolescent patients. She is also a Certified Domestic Violence Professional in the state of Illinois and empowers women to heal and end the cycle of abuse. As a sickle cell patient,Ronisha has dedicated her professional life to micro and macro level advocacy for sickle cell patients.
Roselyn Ellington
Roselyn Ellington is the Coordinator of the Supported College Transition and College for Life programs. She previously worked as an adjunct instructor in both positions. She is currently an adjunct instructor at Moody Bible Institute and spent nearly a decade working in the Chicago Public Schools.
Kelly Fleming
Kelly Fleming has worked in the field of Special Education for 21 years. She has been a classroom teacher, vocational coordinator and transition facilitator. Her experience ranges from Early Childhood Education to Adult Transition Programming. Kelly currently works at CHSD 218 and is an adjunct professor at Trinity Christian College. Kelly actively participates in her local TPC, Special Olympics Unified programming and works closely with her school’s assigned DHS counselor.
Deb Fornoff
Deb Fornoff is the Director of the Illinois Life Span Program (ILS) has an MS in Education, Counselor Education and her experience includes school counseling, early intervention, working for the Family Support Network, participation on ISAC, and a local Down syndrome parent organization. Deb has a young adult son with Down syndrome, the focus of her advocacy efforts.
Jeanine Geraci
Jeanine Geraci is the Youth and Employment Team Lead for the Lake County Center for Independent Living serving both Lake and McHenry counties. LCCIL is a not-for-profit, disability rights organization who exists to ensure that all people with disabilities have the tools they need to live independently, by providing Youth Transition and employment classes to area high schools and providing realistic office work experiences at both of our locations. Jeanine instructs both youth and adults through our Youth and Adult programing that teaches people with disabilities how to gain and maintain employment, learn about self-advocacy in the community and the work place and many other transition based concepts. Jeanine’s belief that there is a job for every person who desires to obtain permanent competitive employment in their communities is demonstrated by her over 50% employment rate in her Adult Employment Class. Jeanine has received her degree from Roosevelt University-Chicago with a BA in Psychology with an emphasis and certification in family and child services.
Kathy Haberer
Kathy Haberer is the Director of Student Development and Counseling at Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey, Illinois, where her responsibilities include planning programs and coursework for students with mild/moderate learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, low college placement test scores and other learning problems. She presently manages a grant from the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities to provide authentic transition for high school seniors at the College.
Mariel Hamer
Mariel Hamer is a human service professional with administrative experience in special education, home services, vocational rehabilitation, and state and federal benefits counseling. Mariel started out working in the Department of Human Services, Division of Rehabilitation Services' Home Services Program as a Case Manager. A short time after, she accepted a position as a Community Work Incentive Coordinator (CWIC) under the Social Security Administration (SSA) Work Incentive Planning and Assistance Program (WIPA). She became very interested in special education transition services and pursued a position as a Transition Specialist for Chicago Public Schools. She was promoted to Transition Manager in 2016. Mariel is currently the Associate Director of Program and Policy for the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities. She received her Master’s degree in Human Service Administration, Social Services in 2015 from the University of Illinois at Springfield.
Margaret Harkness
Margaret Harkness is a Program Specialist with the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities, focusing on child care, employment, education and medical advocacy issues and monitoring grant project investments of the Council in those areas. In the pursuit of change at the systems level, Margaret connected with several entities also with the goal to improve inclusion in child care and early learning which led to the Council partnering in work on several issues. Margaret is the Council’s representative on the Governor’s Employment and Economic Opportunity Taskforce where she initiated bringing Employment First to Illinois. Margaret also monitors the Council’s Life Like Any Other projects and seeks ways to ever expand creative life options through those projects. Margaret has an M.A. in Applied Behavior Analysis from Western Michigan University. Prior to shifting to policy work, she provided behavior analysis services in-home to families and at schools and community based programs.
Amy Harshbarger
Amy Harshbarger is a parent of four, two of which have disabilities, Dyslexia and ADHD. She has attended IEP meetings for the past 23 straight years. She would like to share the knowledge she has learned to help others. She is an IL-LEND Family Trainee 2018-2019, an Educational Surrogate Parent for ISBE, and Family Matter VAP.
Kim Hasty
Kim Hasty as been an educator for 15 years and is currently a Special Education Teacher (Life Skills) at Prairie Central High School. She earned a Bachelors of Science in Physical Education from Eureka College and a Special Education Endorsement from Trinity Christian College. Kim holds a Masters of Arts in Teaching and Leadership-Saint Xavier University.
Trenda Hedges
Trenda Hedges believes recovery is an opportunity! She delivers recovery education and advocacy support to empower systemic change throughout the state of Illinois. Trenda currently serves in the role of Wellness and Recovery Program Manager with Beacon Health Options. She leads a team of Wellness Support Specialists who staff the IL Warm Line. Trenda has obtained certification and credentials as a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) Facilitator, Certified Recovery Support Specialist (CRSS), and Certified Peer Recovery Specialist (CPRS) and is also a SAMHSA trauma-informed trainer. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Special Populations and has completed all courses in the Master of Arts in Counseling through Lincoln Christian University. Trenda provides biblically based counseling in her community through the ministry she founded, Whole Hearted Counsel and partners with the Community Alliance for Recovery & Empowerment to provide opioid recovery education in the seven counties that CARE serves. Through the opportunities recovery has provided, Trenda is honored to share her experience coupled with her faith to convey a message of hope and healing.
Tony Hill
LeDerick Horne
Diagnosed with a learning disability in the 3rd grade, LeDerick Horne defies any and all labels. He’s a dynamic spoken-word poet. A tireless advocate for all people with disabilities. An inspiring motivational speaker. A bridge-builder between learners and leaders across the U.S. and around the word.

LeDerick uses his gift for spoken-word poetry as the gateway to larger discussions on equal opportunity, pride, self-determination and hope for people with disabilities.
Ryan Iberle
Ryan Iberle is in his fourth year as a transition teacher in District U-46. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Communication from Marquette University and a Master’s in Arts and Teaching from National-Louis University. He has been in the education field for 11 years, teaching transition programs in District 211, District 220, and U-46.
Mackenzie Irelan
Mackenzie Irelan was appointed as Program specialist at Northwest Special Recreation Association (NWSRA) in August of 2015. NWSRA was formed in 1972 to provide a full spectrum of recreation services to individuals with disabilities. NWSRA is a partnership of 17 park districts in the northwest suburbs of Chicago committed to supporting community access to recreation for people with disabilities. Irelan earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Therapeutic Recreation from Illinois State University in 2014. She is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS).
Paula Jablonski
Paula Jablonski, M.Ed., is the principal of the therapeutic day school and transition program at PACTT Learning Center in Chicago. She has 20 years experience working with students with autism and intellectual disability.
Bryan Johnson
Bryan Johnson works at Seven Oaks Financial LLC as an associate to the owner, James Thompson. Bryan is responsible for much of the routine organization duties required in running a Special Needs practice. He is the frontline contact for Mr. Thompson.
Missy Kichline
Missy Kichline lives in Godfrey, Illinois. Her middle daughter is a Ligas Class Member. Missy has worked as a Ligas Family Advocate and currently works with the Illinois Life Span Program as an Information and Outreach Specialist. She also worked for IMPACT CIL in Alton for 23 years. She has knowledge and experience in working with issues concerning the Rehabilitation Act, ADA, IDEA, transportation and the Illinois Developmental Disability Service System. Missy holds a BS in MIS from SIUE and a Master of Arts in Teaching. She is committed to expanding opportunities and supports for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities in community.
Cyndie Kieffer
Cyndie Kieffer is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Illinois & Indiana who combined her passion for helping people with her love of dogs. Cyndie is a Certified Professional Practitioner of Animal Assisted Play Therapy™ through the International Institute of Animal Assisted Play Therapy-R. Cyndie enjoys helping others share their animal’s unique talents through involvement with Pet Partners as an evaluator, instructor and also a handler. She has authored several articles about animal assisted interventions. Additionally, she has spoken at many national, as well as state-level, conferences on the topic of animal assisted interventions. She is the owner and therapist at Sit.Stay.Heal.
Mark Killoren
Nicholas Killoren
Nicholas Killoren has been a student at LCCC since fall of 2018. He is working on his associates in Graphic Design. He enjoys taking Art and Digital Photography classes in College for Life.
Debbie Kunakey
Debbie Kunakey began at the IL/IA Center for Independent Living in February of 2019. She is a youth service advocate and has taught transition planning using the Fast Track program. She is a former special education teacher with nineteen years’ experience working with children and youth in Illinois and Iowa. She runs several peer support groups each month to teach coping strategies, vocational, daily living, and social skills. She works one-on-one peer counseling several children, youth, and family members each week. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education from Illinois State University plus ten semester hours at the Master’s level. She encourages her consumers to embrace their unique personalities and share their strengths with others through self-advocacy and service projects.
Dawn Lamb
Dawn Lamp is the Executive Director of Coleman Tri-County Services, Inc. where the focus is creating more opportunities for individuals with disabilities. She holds a Master’s Degree in Behavior Analysis and Therapy from Southern Illinois University and has been a co-presenter at the following Annual Conventions: American Psychological Association, Southeastern Psychological Association, and The Association of Behavior Analysis.
Chris Lenart
Chris Lenart received a BS from the University of Illinois in 1993 and a Masters in Software Engineering from DePaul University in 2008. Chris was a programmer analyst at HSBC from 1994 to 2009. In 2005, he co-wrote a book about life with Cerebral Palsy entitled "They Said We Couldn't". Chris is now the founder of Disability Awareness which is a blog that talks about issues that people with disabilities face every day. He is a public speaker who talks about life with CP, education struggles with a disability, how to hire a PCA, and other topics.
Robyn Lewis
Robyn Lewis is a secondary special education teacher who specializes in teaching transition related life and vocational skills to students ages 18-22 diagnosed with intellectual disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Robyn’s nineteen-year tenure in the field has been dedicated to providing quality, fully-immersed, community-based training, bridging the transition gap between secondary education and adult services. Robyn’s non-traditional approach has redefined community-based instruction through the development of the Bridges Program, an innovative, cutting-edge program that teaches life skills through practical application. The Bridges Program is the only program of its caliber in the region and serves as a model for other extended programs across Illinois. In 2007, Robyn was honored with the Emerson Electric Excellence in Teaching award. Robyn is currently working on her Doctorate in Special Education at Saint Louis University. She holds an MBA and a Bachelor’s of Science degree in special education from Southern Illinois University- Edwardsville.
Heather Long
Heather Long is a Transition Coordinator at Options CIL in Bourbonnais, IL where she runs the CIL's Youth Transition program Independent CruSaders. Previous to that Heather worked as a Complex Director at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater where she worked with transitional youth to safely and successfully live in the residence halls on campus. She also advised a student group there comprised of students with disabilities and their allies. Heather holds a Masters of Art in Adult and Higher Education.
Jill Lorsbach
Jill Lorsbach is the Director of Student Development and Counseling and manages the College's disability support services and tutoring services. Her previous position at the College include adjunct instructor for both the Supported College Transition and College for Life programs.
Jennifer Marcello
Jennifer Marcello is the Director–Youth Initiatives for Special Olympics Illinois. She has spent her life working for not for profit organizations specifically those serving individuals with disabilities. She has a B.S. in Rehabilitation Counseling from Northern Illinois University and a M.S. focusing in Public Administration -Organizational Leadership from the University of Illinois and Dominican University. She has been instrumental in the growth of the Special Olympics Young Athletes Program and specializes in Youth Leadership across the country and specifically in Illinois. Jennifer has spent her life volunteering and working to help transform the lives of individuals with disabilities. She is currently working with the support of the Federal and State Departments of Education to help create inclusive school communities that foster acceptance and respect for all students.
Nikki Michalak
Having worked in special education for over 13 years, Nikki Michalak strives to facilitate success for special education administrators, staff, and students by providing access to information and tools specifically designed to support students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Her goal is to understand the needs and challenges of educators working with individuals with ASD and be a relevant resource while empowering staff and students to succeed. Nikki continues to provide professional learning, technical assistance, coaching and consultation to educators, and families of individuals and youth with ASD. She co-created online professional development as well as undergraduate and graduate courses on ASD. Ms. Michalak publishes in the field of ASD and informs local service provision through service on multiple leadership boards.
Kate Moran
Kate Moran started working at Northwest Special Recreation Association (NWSRA) in January of 2018. Moran began as a Program Specialist and became a Collaborative Coordinator in August of 2019. Moran earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Recreation and Park Administration with a sequence in Therapeutic Recreation and a minor in Psychology from Illinois State University in 2016. She is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS).
Douglas Morton
Douglas Morton is the manager of the Planning and Business Development Unit for the Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS). In that role he is responsible for the strategic planning, program evaluation, quality assurance and business engagement functions of DRS. His responsibilities include acting as liaison with the U.S. Department of Education around vocational rehabilitation issues and as the primary representative of DRS at the state level around the requirements of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). He also serves as manager of the VR staff development team for DRS. His background is in social psychology, receiving a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Lauren Mucha
Lauren Mucha, M.Ed., has more than 15 years experience working with students with autism and intellectual disability. She is the Transition Specialist at PACTT Learning Center's Therapeutic Day School and Transition Programs in Chicago.
Ron Mulvaney
Ron Mulvaney is the Program Director for IATP-WIPA, which covers 102 counties in Illinois. Work Incentives Planning and Assistance is a grant-funded program through the Social Security Administration. The WIPA Program serves individuals currently receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and/or Social Security Disability Insurance/Disabled Adult Child (SSDI/DAC) benefits that are ready to start employment. Our mission is to offer the correct information concerning Social Security Work Incentives, options available to maintain healthcare while working, and the impact of employment upon other public benefits, both state and federal.Prior to becoming a Community Work Incentives Coordinator, Ron was a Benefits Specialist for the Benefits Planning Assistance and Outreach (BPAO) Project for 2 ½ years. BPAO was the predecessor to the Work Incentives Planning and Assistance Program, both grant funded by Social Security. Ron has also served as an Employment Specialist/Job Coach for the Department of Human Services/Division of Rehabilitation Services in Mt. Vernon. Ron has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Organizational Leadership from Greenville College and holds certifications in public benefits from Virginia Commonwealth University as a Community Work Incentive Coordinator (CWIC) and through Cornell University’s Employment and Disability Institute as a Benefits Specialist (BS).
Teresa Nam, MD
Dr. Teresa Nam is an Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at Loyola University Medical Center. She services as Chair of ICAAP's Committee on Children with Disabilities. Dr. Nam is involved with the developing a transition curriculum for Med-Peds residents at Loyola University Medical Center. She is also a committee member to help develop the adult training curricula on transitioning youth to adult health care developed by ICAAP.
Marissa Nazareno
Marissa Nazareno is the proud big sister of a woman with Down Syndrome. Together, with the support of family, friends, and community, we are learning how to navigate the transition to adulthood. She is an IL-LEND Family Trainee 2018-2019 and student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Doctor of Physical Therapy Class of 2020.
Vicki Niswander
Vicki Niswander is a consultant and trainer focusing on person-centered planning facilitation and developing real community connections for people with disabilities. She hosts a weekly radio program on disability issues. The program, "Disability Beat", is a public affairs program on WEFT Community Radio in Champaign.. Vicki is also parent to Annie, her 36-year-old daughter with Down Syndrome, who is supported to live a full life in her community.
Lyndsay Palach
Lyndsay Palach has been Transition Facilitator for the Special Services Department at Barrington High School. She graduated from Lewis University with a bachelors degree in Special Education. She then attended the University of Kansas and obtained her Masters in Transition Education and Services and then attended the University of Illinois-Chicago and obtained her Learning Behavior Specialist II as a Transition Specialist. Lyndsay obtained her Cooperative Education Certification from Illinois State University and her Vocational Coordinator Certification from the University of Kansas.
Carissa Panek
Carissa Panek is currently an Engagement Consultant at Northwestern Medicine. Prior to joining Northwestern Medicine, she completed a graduate internship at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Patient-Family Experience where she focused on the 18 and older patient population providing a special emphasis on those preparing for and/or in the process of transitioning from pediatric- to adult-oriented care. Carissa took a keen interest to this specialized patient population as a result of her own experience transitioning from pediatric- to adult-oriented care. Carissa received her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Elmhurst College and her Master’s degree in Healthcare Administration from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Ellen Parker, MD
Dr. Ellen Parker is a primary care physician who is passionate about transition. Her interest in transition started in medical school and drew her to complete her residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at Loyola University Medical Center, where she stayed on as faculty. This unique specialty allows Dr. Parker to follow kids through the crucial years of adolescence and young adulthood when YSHCN often struggle with transitioning medical services and responsibilities. As the Associate Program Director of the Med Peds residency at Loyola, Dr. Parker has recently been a part of a nationwide collaborative aimed at developing transition curriculum for trainees.
Erica Patricca
Erica Patricca started working for Northwest Special Recreation Association (NWSRA) as a part-time staff in 2007. Patricca began working full time for NWRSA in 2013 as a Program Specialist then as a Support Services Coordinator, followed by the Recruitment and Volunteer Coordinator. In 2018, Erica started her new position as a Collaborative Coordinator, overseeing PURSUIT Rolling Meadows and STAR Rolling Meadows. Erica earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Special Education from Roosevelt University. She taught special education at the high school level and was the Autism Specialist at Auburn High School in Rockford Public Schools prior to working at NWSRA.
Cassandra Payne
Cassandra Payne is the Director of Community Job Development with Coleman Tri-County Services (CTS). During the past 26 years, she has worked with individuals with disabilities in residential and vocational settings. During the past seven years while employed at CTS, Cassandra has focused on the development of programs to increase opportunities for competitive integrated employment for transition youth and adults with disabilities. Ms. Payne holds a Masters Degree in Rehabilitation Administration and Services as well as a post master's certificate in Rehabilitation Counseling.
Lane Pfeiffer
Lane Pfeiffer has been a student at LCCC since fall of 2014. He enjoys being a College for Life student. He lives independently and loves riding his bicycle around the community. Lane is a big sports fan!
Olyvia Phillips
Olyvia Phillips, MPH/MBA Candidate. Olyvia joined ICAAP July 2017. Prior to working with ICAAP, Olyvia worked on projects with the national American Academy of Pediatrics and now continues to excel by supporting the implementation of local projects rolled out nationally. Olyvia graduated from DePaul University with a bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences and minors in Communication Studies and Sociology. Olyvia is currently a MPH/MBA student at Benedictine University and an Albert Schweitzer Fellow for Life. With a passion for public health, Olyvia remains an advocate dedicated to improving the lives of children and their families!
Kish Pisani
Kish Pisani is Executive Director of the Illinois Association of Microboards and Cooperatives (IAMC). She has over 30 years of marketing, digital content management, public relations and advocacy experience. Kish lives in Naperville with her husband Paul, son Louis (21) and daughter Danielle (24) who works and resides in St. Louis. Her personal experience into the world of advocacy for people with disabilities came with her son Louis who lives with intellectual disabilities. Determined to build an inclusive community, the Pisani family is active in Special Olympics Illinois. They also started DuPage Valley Special Olympics (DVSA), an all-volunteer organization offering six sports for peer partners and athletes with disabilities in the western suburbs of Chicago. Kish and her family have had to rebuild circles of support and social capital several times having lived in Kansas City, Naperville, Montreal, Quebec, for four years and back to Naperville in 2012.
Joshua Powell
Joshua Powell has been a student at LCCC since summer of 2016. He loves College for Life, and his favorite classes are Scrap-booking and Digital Photography. Outside of school, he enjoys horseback riding, swimming, and riding his bicycle.
Tammy Powell
Paula Powers
Paula Powers has been a principal education consultant with the Illinois State Board of Education for the last 8 years, and on the ISBE Secondary Transition – SPP Indicator 13 Team for 7 years. She has assisted districts and schools in Illinois to meet compliance by providing technical assistance and support.
Katie Ricketts
Katie Ricketts has been an educator for 11 years and is currently a Special Education Teacher (Life Skills) at Prairie Central High School. She has a Bachelors of Science in Special Education & Elementary Education from Eastern Illinois University and a Masters of Arts in Teaching and Leadership from Saint Xavier University.
Angela Rivers, MD
My research interest have always focused on sickle cell disease. My postdoctoral fellowship project investigated folate deficiency in the sickle cell mouse model. My initial K01 and fellowship project used transplantation in the sickle cell mouse model to develop AAV vectors. In the second year of my K-award I made the decision to leave the University of Florida. I made this decision because of my devotion to the goals of sickle disease and service of the underserved. Although I was already pursuing the goals of excelling in biomedical research and mentorship at the University of Florida, I knew that University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) would provide me with the environment and the tools I needed to excel in this field. The goal of my K01 research model was to provide a safe vector for transfer of an antisickling globin. Patients treated with such a vector would still have to undergo a stem cell transplantation which is currently not a viable option for global treatment of sickle cell disease. I became the Director of the UIC Adolescent Transition Program in 2015. In that role, I run a co-localized clinic where the pediatric clinic occurs in the adult clinical facility. I have observed the limitation of our current healthcare delivery models and I am interested in developing new models of care. I coordinate an adolescent transition fair each year. The transition fair is an annual patient and family event that includes lectures on transitioning and presentations from social service agencies who highlight available resources for patients during their transition. An important feature of our fair is the chance to meet the adult providers one-on-one in a relaxed, non-medical setting as well as a chance to tour the Sickle Cell Center and Acute Care Center. I have developed a group care program for pediatric to adult transition period as well as a peer patient advocate program.
Katie Rogers
Katie Rogers is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor with 10 years of experience in the field of vocational counseling. She is currently a Transition Specialist for Tri-County Special Education in Murphysboro, IL and previously worked for nine years as a Vocational Counselor in a private post-secondary transition program in Southern Illinois. Katie obtained her Master's degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from Southern IL University. Along with her passion for vocational counseling and working with young people, Katie strongly values an inter-disciplinary approach and learning from other professionals.
Rita Rossi-Foulkes, MD
Dr. Rossi-Foulkes is an experienced general internist and pediatrician with expertise in transition care and medical education. She has extensive experience with student and resident curricular development and evaluation, inter-professional education and collaboration, practice management and quality improvement in primary care training. Since 2006, Dr. Rossi-Foulkes has served as the Program Director of the University of Chicago Med-Peds Residency program and in 2017 was awarded the inaugural Program Director of the Year award from the Graduate Medical Education Committee. Her excellence in quality improvement was recognized in 2007 awarding her the Department of Medicine Excellence Award in Clinical Care and Education. She was inducted into the Academy of Distinguished Medical Educators in 2009. She served as an advisor to the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics in developing their training courses for the Illinois Healthcare Transition Project and has served on the Illinois Department of Public Health Immunization Advisory Committee since 2005. Nationally, Dr. Rossi-Foulkes serves on the Transition Care Committee for the Med-Peds Program Directors Association and was elected and served for four years as Secretary-Treasurer for that organization. She has conducted workshops and been invited to lecture on medical education, quality improvement, and transition care for local, regional and national meetings. She volunteers for the Community Health Center, Washington Park Clinic, Pitchfork Music Festival Medical Tent and raises money for the International OCD Foundation with her classic rock band, Elementary Penguins.
Benjamin Rubin
Attorney Benjamin (Benji) Rubin, is the “little/big” brother of Mitchell Rubin, now 38, who has Autism. He has been a partner in the law firm founded by his father, Brian Rubin, since 2010. The firm's practice is limited to legal and future planning for Benji's and Brian's fellow Illinois families of individuals with special needs. Benji graduated from the University of Illinois College of Law, Magna Cum Laude, received his undergraduate degree from Northwestern University, and received his Graduate Law Degree, an LLM (Tax), with honors, also from Northwestern University. Benji is also a Faculty Member for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education (IICLE) on the topic of special needs planning, as well as a Speaker for the American Bar Association and the Illinois State Bar Association on those topics. Having Mitchell as a brother profoundly shaped who Benji is today, and thus the type of law he chose to practice. His personal experiences as a sibling offer a unique perspective into the responsibilities that come with caring for a sibling with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Kathy Sanabria
Kathy Sanabria, MBA, joined the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (ICAAP) in 2004 as Director of the Illinois Medical Home Project, ICAAP’s first $1 million grant funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In 2011, Ms. Sanabria became ICAAP’s Associate Executive Director focusing efforts to expand the Chapter’s Continuing Medical Education program, Maintenance of Certification initiatives, and web-based eLearning activities. From 1985 to 1998 Ms. Sanabria worked for the national AAP serving 10 of those years as Director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Health. Ms. Sanabria holds a double BA in Public Relations and Spanish from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; possesses an MBA from Dominican University, IL; is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP); received designation as a Patient Centered Medical Home Certified Content Expert (October 2013 to October 2015); and is the parent of a youth with special health care needs who is undergoing transition to adult health care.
Sherri Schneider
For over thirty five years, Sherri Schneider, President of Family Benefit Solutions, Inc., QDDP, and the mother of a child with some special needs, has been tirelessly dedicated to helping individuals with special needs and their families. Her career began as a social worker in a CILA, where she helped those with developmental disabilities acquire the government benefits they so desperately needed, including SSI, Medicaid and food stamps. She helped launch one of the first CLF facilities funded under a Medicaid waiver. As her career flourished, she supervised personnel in Illinois, Missouri and Nevada to assist hospitalized patients apply for and obtain the government benefits for which they appeared eligible, with a strong emphasis on SSDI, SSI, Medicare, community and long-term care Medicaid. She now meets with families to thoroughly assess their situations and pursue appropriate benefit assistance programs by personally guiding them through the application process. Her vast experience has enabled her to establish and maintain open, productive relationships with government agencies involved in the entire decision-making process. She is Vice President of the Arc of IL and is on faculty of the Illinois Institute of Continuing Legal Education.
Parag Shah
Parag Shah, MD MPH is a general pediatric hospitalist working at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. He serves as the medical director of the Chronic Illness Transition Program, which runs a life skills program, a transition clinic, and a workforce development program for young adults to help them ease their transition to adulthood and adult healthcare. In addition the team conducts consults to other medical divisions and collaborates with community organizations to enhance transition to adult care services.
Mike Shea
Mike Shea is an attorney in Equip for Equality’s Special Education Clinic who advocates for parents at IEP meetings and ISBE mediations. A former pastor and still a licensed minister, Mike began his second career in 2013 when he graduated from the University of Illinois College of Law. He is also the husband of a special educator and the father of six children, including one with an IEP.
Denice Smith
Denice Smith is a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor with the IDHS-Division of Rehabilitation Services. She has a general caseload that includes STEP and transition as well as specialized cases for deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Denice has a bachelor’s degree in Audiology and Speech Sciences from Purdue University and a master’s degree in Deafness Rehabilitation Counseling from Northern Illinois University. She has been employed with the state of over 24 years and is the current Chairperson for the Southeastern Illinois TPC. She has been a member and occasional chairperson since the TPC was established.
John Spears
John Spears, MBA has spent 35 years working for the State of Illinois at Public Aid, Human Services, Public Health, and Healthcare and Family Services. For more than 25 of those years, he had the pleasure of traveling around the state training caseworkers and doing outreach to community groups about medical programs.
Megan Sugrue
Megan Sugrue has been a special education teacher at Stevenson High School for the past 12 years. Among her credentials, Megan is Nationally Board Certified with her Masters in Educational Leadership. As her district pulled out of their Cooperative, she was selected to develop and lead the school's current Transition Program. In the past six years, she has helped to lead and developed a program encompassing life and vocational skills, community opportunities, socialization partnerships, agency linkages, and a business located inside the school.
Taylor Sweeting
Taylor Sweeting is a 31-year-old autism advocate with a BS in Social Work and National Certification as an Activity Professional for Psychiatric Mental Health. Diagnosed with Aspergers/Autism at the age 3, Taylor became aware of his diagnosis at age 12 and promptly began advocating for himself. He began work as a paraprofessional 1:1 aide in the local school district, served as a Qualified Intellectual Disability Professional for a residential service provider of adults with developmental disabilities. Taylor is now the Activity Director at Illini Community Hospital in Pittsfield, IL. As a child, Taylor didn’t realize that not everyone saw the world the same way he did. Once that reality set in, he made it his goal to share his personal experience with autism so that others can empathize with those on the spectrum. Taylor’s life goal is to share his experience of autism with any and all who will listen to share a glimpse of what their loved ones are living through each day.
Liz Thomas
Liz Thomas started working for Northwest Special Recreation Association (NWSRA) as a part-time staff in 1998. Thomas began working full time for NWRSA in 2004 as a Program Specialist then as the Special Events and Leisure Education Coordinator, followed by the Adult Day Program Coordinator, for PURSUIT. In 2018 Liz started her new position as a Manger of Special Recreation overseeing Collaboratives for NWSRA. Thomas earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Developmental Neuro Psychology and Sociology with a minor in Intercultural Disabilities Studies and Social Work from Elmhurst College. She focused on learning multiple avenues to work with people with disabilities and graduated in the top of her class.
James Thompson
Jim Thompson is CFP (Certified Financial Planner), ChFC (Chartered Financial Consultant), and a ChSNC (Chartered Special Needs Consultant. The ChSNC designation is for one who has received advanced training and information in estate and tax planning concepts, special needs trusts, government programs, and the emotional dynamics of working with people with disabilities and other special needs and their families. He is the principal and owner of Seven Oaks Financial LLC. and has been in the financial services industry since 1985. He along with his wife has been raising a granddaughter diagnosed with autism and other disorders.
Kristopher Versteegt
Kristopher Versteegt has been a student at LCCC since spring of 2018. He is working on his associates in Graphic Design. He enjoys being a student and participating in all of the school activities.
Kristin Wagner
Kristin Wagner, MA, LCPC has worked for Division of Rehabilitation services for over 11 years both as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor and currently as the Manager of Community Resources. Prior to working for the State of Illinois, Kristin worked in the private sector in mental health, child welfare, domestic violence, substance abuse, private counseling, and taught an undergraduate class for a year. She earned a Bachelors of Arts from Illinois College and then a Masters of Arts from University of Illinois-Springfield. Ms. Wagner has held an LCPC for 17 years.
Susan Walter
Susan Walter is an Independent Transition Consultant and currently working with the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities on the Southern Illinois Transition Project. Over the past 20 years, secondary transition has been her personal and professional passion. She has developed a variety of transition-related training materials including person-centered planning, self-determination and transition-focused IEP’s; she has traveled around the state to reach educators, parents, students, and community providers. Susan has presented at numerous workshops and conferences at the local, regional and national level and has also authored or co-authored several articles focused on secondary transition. Most importantly, she is the parent of a young adult who has a disability that requires significant supports and services and she adds that perspective to enhance her work. Susan has supported her daughter, Jennifer, in navigating the adult service system, participating in a customized employment process and moving toward a self-employment/entrepreneurial career as an artist.
Elizabeth Watson
Elizabeth Watson is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, Certified Case Manager, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (Illinois), and Certified Brain Injury Specialist. She earned a MS degree in Rehabilitation Counseling and has worked in the rehabilitation field since 1985. Her current practice includes transition assessments of special education students, and expert witness and consulting services related to IEP Transition Plans. Elizabeth is active in training fellow rehabilitation professionals and other professionals on vocational rehabilitation transition services and is active promoting vocational rehabilitation services for special education students. Recently Elizabeth guest edited a special issue on transition for the Rehabilitation Professional Journal. Elizabeth was awarded the Outstanding Professional Member Award of the International Association of Rehabilitation Professionals in 2016. In 2015, she was named Chair of the International Association of Rehabilitation Professionals newly formed section, Vocation Rehabilitation Transition Services, and Section Representative to the IARP Board. She is employed by Watson VR Resources, Inc, Arlington Heights, IL.
Steve Whitlatch
Jessena Williams
Jessena Williams, MSW, LCSW, is the Statewide Coordinator for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing for the Illinois Department of Human Services-Division of Mental Health in Springfield, IL. She began these duties in June 2014. Previous to this, Jessena has worked in several different social service positions within the community, State of Illinois, and Veterans? Health Administration systems. With the State system, she has been employed by the Illinois School for the Deaf (ISD), the Department on Aging's Senior Helpline, McFarland Mental Health Center, and Division of Developmental Disabilities? Bureau of Quality Management.

Jessena graduated from MacMurray College with a Bachelor's in Social Work and a minor in Deaf Education and Liberal Arts. During these studies, she also worked at Illinois School for the Deaf in their college worker immersion program and an administrative position. She earned her Master's in Social Work degree from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She completed her MSW internship at McFarland Mental Health Center, and this led to eventual employment there as an inpatient social worker. In this capacity, Jessena worked with both the civil and forensic populations of individuals served. She obtained social work licensure in 2010. Jessena also has experience with free-lance interpreting.
Kristie Witte
Kristie Witte is a Special Education teacher in the Community Based Transition program at LaSalle Peru Township High school. She has worked at LPHS for 13 years and 11 of those years in the Transition Program. Kristie received her bachelor’s degree in Special Education from Illinois State University in 1999. She also has earned a master’s degree from University of Illinois Chicago in Disability and Human Development with a focus in Alternative Augmentative Communication in 2009 and received her administration degree from University of St. Francis in 2015. Kristie has been part of the Illinois Valley Transition Planning Committee for 13 years and has served as a chair member for the last 7 years.
Susy Woods
Susy Woods is the Public Policy and Education Liaison for the Illinois Assistive Technology Program. She has worked with schools and families to assist with IEPs, Transition Plans and 504 plans for 38 years. She has worked in many areas of education including early intervention and higher ed where she served as director of Disability Services. Her community involvement includes serving on the Illinois State Advisory Council for Special Education, the Arc of Illinois, Impact CIL, the Springfield Commission on Disability and the Employment First Council where she also serves on the transition sub committee.
Shijin Ye
Shijin Ye is an international student in her third year of the Doctor of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Practice Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She would like to promote culturally-sensitive health service delivery to families of individuals with disabilities. She is an IL-LEND Nursing Trainee 2018-2019.
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