Every year NH-ME LEND trainees are paired with community organizations for their leadership project to further develop their leadership skills and advance their knowledge of the system of care for people with disabilities. This year we welcome three organizations who will challenge trainees to build community engagement, support innovative research and assess parental needs.

The Manchester Community Action Coalition (MCAC) was formed in 2020 with a mission to elevate the voices of People of Color (POC) in New Hampshire by co-creating spaces for community engagement and development and equipping POC to have equitable opportunities and representation in civic and community matters. By supporting stronger family ties and encouraging children to achieve success, MCAC strives for equal social and economic opportunities for families of color.

Jaime is a woman with wavy brown hair, outside pictured in front of white garden lattice work

Jamie Gallagher Driscoll is the first LEND trainee to partner with MCAC. Under the guidance of Co-Director Kile Adumene (LEND 2015), Jaime is collaborating with MCAC community partners to improve family engagement through educational activities, program development and program evaluation.

 “I am hoping to gain a broader understanding of diverse cultures and individuals' lived experiences. I would like to use the knowledge and experience I gain from this placement to help formulate next steps for my advocacy. Kile is brilliant and tenacious. Her goal is not to lead people to what she believes they need, but instead carefully listen and empower her community members to have a voice, advocate for themselves, and be a part of the change.”

The UNH Center for Digital Health Innovation (formerly the Telehealth Practice Center) is an interdisciplinary center for digital health learning and application. Under the leadership of Dr. Marguerite Corvini, the center is moving into innovative technologies such as extended reality and biofeedback. For her leadership project, Emily Conners is working with the UNH Child Study Development Center (CSDC) in collaboration with the Department of Nursing and Occupational Therapy on the implementation of a Biofeedback Emotional Regulation Training program for preschoolers. Using heartrate watches, Nursing and Occupational Therapy students educate preschoolers on the mind/body connection, discuss how the heart works, and how they can tune into their bodies. This is followed by a short unit on mindfulness and balancing one’s emotions and feelings. Emily works with the research team to make field observations, assist with semi-structured qualitative interviews with the teachers, UNH students, and parents. She is also participating in an iterative qualitative analysis which will culminate in a co-written research manuscript.

“I never thought I'd be involved in research and it's never something I imagined myself doing, but the project we're doing really speaks to my interests. Being a part of this project has enhanced my skills as a researcher and using that information in clinical practice. I've also had the wonderful opportunity to practice interdisciplinary work and build connections that will be undoubtedly beneficial as I begin my career.”

Emily Connors is a woman with wavy blond hair, pictured outside by a wall.
Aicha Abdillahi Ali is a woman wearing large black framed glasses and a hijab head scarf

We are also excited to renew our leadership partnership with the New Mainers Public Health Initiative (NMPHI), a health related, community-based organization serving the needs of immigrant and refugee youth and their families. NMPHI educates and empowers Mainers to overcome social and health challenges.

Having recently embarked on offering early intervention connections and supports for the New Mainer community, trainee Aïcha Ali is participating in community listening sessions to build relationships with the parents of children with disabilities to help identify their needs. Additionally, she will be working with the NMPHI staff to plan, execute and evaluate the early intervention program. 

“I am so excited about my work on a new project called Black Women Maternal Health. We are at the beginning of the project, and I am happy to learn about the organizations that have relationships with women's health. It will help my goals, as a black woman who has relatives with disabled children."

Aïcha shared a favorite French proverb, “Petit a petit, l'oiseau fait son nid," which translates to English as "Little by little, the bird makes its nest." She reflects, “I am making progress little by little and I am sure at the end of the LEND program I will be different.”