Hamda Ahmed, BS
Political Science, Maine
Hamda Ahmed has lived in Lewiston, Maine since 2013. She graduated from the University of Southern Maine in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a minor in Leadership and Organizational Studies. In 2015, Hamda interned with Maine People’s Alliance, (MPA) the largest action group in the state of Maine. During this time, she also worked as an office assistant at New Mainers Public Health Initiative (NMPHI) while finishing her studies. Hamda immediately demonstrated a lot of potential, particularly with anything related to servicing the community. She is an assertive and pragmatic young leader with a compassionate, diversified skill set in community organizing, activism, and civic engagement. She spent the better part of her internship in MPA working hard on her leadership development, stepping out of her comfort zone, and leading community outreach p rojects and participating in campaigns, including Minimum Wage Medicaid Expansion, Paid Sick Leave, and Mainecare for all. Hamda's consistency and self-discipline made her acquire the full trust of the NMPHI leadership and now she holds the position of Program Manager. The NMPHI program includes a youth leadership program, Covid-19 testing, community health workers supervision and more. Hamda’s passion to help others has steadily made her a person to lean on for people who know her. She played a major role in founding the Covid-19 rapid response coalition called Lewiston/Auburn Emergency Task Force and applied her leadership and interpersonal skills to support the coalition to respond to emerging needs.
Suzanne Austin, BS
Social Work, New Hampshire
Suzanne is a 1989 graduate of Wells College in Aurora, New York where she obtained a BS in Psychology. This degree provided Suzanne with critical thinking, research and writing skills. Suzanne spent many years working in the health care field in ancillary positions, gaining experience with health insurance, computer systems, and customer service. As an intern at Cross Roads House during the 2020/2021 academic year, Suzanne worked directly with families facing multiple barriers to health care which increased her awareness of limitations within the current system. She was able to use the knowledge she obtained at Wells College and her health-related work experience to help assist residents at Cross Roads House. Suzanne has many years of experience in direct care, coordination of care and services, and navigating the associated systems with their accompanying benefits and pitfalls. Her experience was heightened by caring for both her parents and children with complex medical, neurological, and psychological conditions including severe congenital heart defects, autism, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s. Suzanne also volunteered for an immigrant family with a child who experienced severe physical disabilities. She helped them navigate acquiring a wheelchair, the Special Education evaluation process, and other tasks. Their experience outside the familiar systems of commercial insurance revealed disparity in access to services. Suzanne is dedicated to ongoing learning about and support for disability awareness, acceptance, and anti-ableism.
Adrienne Bass, BS
Communication Sciences & Disorders, New Hampshire
Adrienne Bass earned a BS in communication sciences and disorders from the University of New Hampshire in Durham, NH where she is currently working to earn her Masters in this field. She also is a graduate of Plymouth State University in Plymouth, NH, where she obtained a BS in early childhood studies. These degrees have provided Adrienne with a breadth of skills, including interpersonal communication, and understanding of speech and language development. Adrienne spent almost two decades working with young children and their families as an early childhood teacher. She built upon her experience as she worked in her early Head Start classroom and collaborated with many families from diverse backgrounds. This role increased Adrienne’s awareness of the need for all organizations that serve children and families with disabilities to work cohesively for optimal outcomes. Serving and advocating for children with disabilities has always been near and dear to Adrienne. She has had family members affected by various neurodevelopmental disabilities including ADHD, and learning disabilities. This became especially important when her children were diagnosed. Adrienne found support from her Head Start community to navigate the educational system to search for appropriate services. The experience also has reminded her that a bit of determination and perseverance goes a long way.
Tori Bird, BS
Social Work, New Hampshire
Tori Bird is a graduate of Salem State University in Salem, MA where she obtained a BS in Early Childhood Education and Psychology. Tori also completed an Addiction Counselor Certificate program at UMass Boston in preparation for her work in varying capacities with individuals, youth, and families struggling with substance use disorder. Currently, Tori works with young adults experiencing homelessness and housing instability on the Seacoast of New Hampshire. Tori incorporates her knowledge of trauma, substance use disorders, mental illness, and neurodevelopmental disabilities in her work with the young people she serves. Tori also serves on the Head Start Policy Council, the Board of Directors for a local Community Action Partnership and is a member of the Lions Club. Tori demonstrates a love and commitment to working with underserved populations and advocating for those who are unable to do so themselves. Serving children and young adults with disabilities has always been a passion of Tori’s. Tori’s only sister was born with significant physical and intellectual disabilities. Although she is nonverbal and unable to perform any independent living skills, Tori’s sister is the happiest person she knows. This engrained in Tori the idea that ability does not equal happiness or worthiness.
Aviana Coco, BA
Communication Sciences & Disorders, New Hampshire
Aviana Coco joins the NH-ME LEND program as both a self-advocate and a graduate student in the field of communication sciences and disorders. She completed her BA in CSD at the University of Maine with minors in disability studies and women, gender, and sexuality studies. During her undergraduate career, she worked for United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Maine as a support teacher in a specialized preschool program. She is currently a second-year graduate student at the University of New Hampshire, completing coursework and clinical externships, serving clients with a variety of communication disorders, differences, and disabilities. Her educational and professional experiences have highlighted the importance of accessibility in all areas of life and for all people. Traversing the professional and academic worlds as an autistic young adult has provided Aviana equally with challenges and rewards. She seeks every opportunity to further build connections to the worldwide community of self-advocating individuals, families, professionals, and allies working to improve access, care, education, and more for all who are impacted by disability.
Jade Doherty, BS
Occupational Therapy, New Hampshire
Jade is a graduate of The University of New Hampshire in Durham, NH, where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in Occupational Science. This degree provided Jade with a variety of skills including an understanding of therapeutic theories and approaches, evaluation and intervention processes, adult and pediatric conditions, disability, and human development. Jade engaged in a multitude of activities during her undergraduate career including becoming a member of a community service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, a Peer Mentor for first-year students and a Dean’s Ambassador for the College of Health and Human Services. She also worked at the Child Study and Development Center for 3 years as a Teaching Assistant. These opportunities increased Jade’s confidence in leadership roles, interpersonal skills, and love for serving others and helping her community as she enters the UNH graduate program in Occupational Therapy. Being an advocate for people with disabilities has always been important to Jade. Jade’s close family member has various neurological and orthopedic disabilities. This has shown Jade how life can be affected with a disability and the many resources, support, and challenges that come with disability. It is important for Jade to spread awareness to individuals about disabilities as not all disabilities are visible. Jade is interested in exploring accessibility, inclusion, and participation in daily activities for people who experience disability. While interning at a pediatric outpatient clinic this summer, Jade worked with children with diagnoses of autism, ADHD, and sensory processing disorder. This experience has shown Jade that meeting one where they are at and being a support for someone can go a long way with therapeutic benefits and quality of life.
Andrea Dole, BA
Andrea Dole grew up in the woods in rural Maine, singing, dancing, running, and adventuring outside. She graduated from Bennington College in 2003 with a BA in Social Sciences and Music. Innovative, interdisciplinary coursework culminated in intensive cultural and linguistic immersion in the Republic of Georgia, Chile, and Spain, and with thesis work on regional traditional music of Caucasus Georgia. Andrea has toured and taught with Northern Harmony World Music Ensemble in the US, England, and Colombia; advised Youth Leadership Development clubs in South Florida; mentored and facilitated restorative circles with the Restorative Justice Project of the Mid Coast; and offered advocacy and support to children and families as a Behavioral Health Professional and Targeted Case Manager, alloparent, and doula in home settings in Maine, Massachusetts, and Colorado. When her first child, James, was born in 2015, Andrea immediately applied her creativity, communication, care, and courage to advocate for the needs of a medically and developmentally very vulnerable infant. She integrated her experiences with movement, centeredness under pressure, and music to tune in to and help regulate her neurodevelopmentally atypical child’s brain and nervous system. Though many doctors predicted at his birth that James would live perhaps only a few months to a few years, he is six now, physically strong, walking with support, and thriving with a team of dedicated home nurses, therapists, and medical providers, all of with whom Andrea manages, directs, and exchanges inspiration. Andrea is excited to join LEND to continue to vision, create, and support collaborative, creative, spiritually, and culturally resilient healing communities of care within her native Maine, nationwide, and around the world.
Emily Fraser, BA
Communication Sciences & Disorders, New Hampshire
Emily Fraser is a graduate of Assumption College in Worcester, MA where she earned a BA in Human Services and Rehabilitation Studies with a concentration in Communication Sciences and Disorders. This degree fostered Emily’s desire to help others and provided her with a strong foundation for working with a wide variety of individuals ranging from children to adults. She gained valuable experience during her senior year while completing a 400-hour internship alongside a speech-language pathologist. This experience further confirmed her desire to pursue a career in speech-language pathology. She is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of New Hampshire. Emily hopes to use her experiences to best serve and advocate for those with communication disabilities. Throughout her time at Assumption College, Emily participated in many different volunteer opportunities in Campus Ministry. She was a peer minister, as well as the leader/team member of numerous student-led retreats. Emily’s most impactful experiences were the mission trips to Camden, NJ, and Washington, D.C. Both trips involved volunteering in local communities and supporting those with a wide range of disabilities. Emily hopes to continue to strengthen her knowledge in neurodevelopmental disabilities and apply this in her future career.
Audrey Gerkin, MEd
Family, New Hampshire
Audrey Gerkin has a master’s degree in Educational Disabilities from Rivier University. She also holds a Bachelor’s in Psychology from Virginia Polytechnic and State University. While working as a Special Education Teacher at Timberlane High School in Plaistow, NH her oldest daughter was born and eventually diagnosed with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome. Audrey’s professional background benefited her ability to advocate for her daughter’s services, including in-home nursing. This led to the forming of the NH Pediatric Nursing Campaign along with other parents in need of nursing support. Because of its success, Audrey received the 2016 Champion for Children Advocate award by the NH Council for Youths with Chronic Conditions (CYCC). Audrey currently sits as the Chair of CYCC, which is a parent focused state council that works to educate and inform policy makers and stakeholders about the chronic health needs for 55,000 NH children to ensure they have affordable access to care, and supportive home and community environments. She wants all families to access the supports and resources they need for equitable community living. In the past, Audrey worked as a Legislative Liaison, advocating for families within the developmental disability and acquired brain injury community at One Sky Community Services. One Sky is one of 10 area agencies in NH delivering services to this community. When her kids were young, she owned and managed Pickpocket Farm CSA in Brentwood, NH, growing vegetables and pigs for many people. She still does this for her own family with a smaller backyard garden. Audrey has a husband, three daughters, a dog, two cats and other smaller animals, hence, she has no free time and was interrupted multiple times writing this bio.
Krista Gilbert, MS
Family, New Hampshire
Krista Gilbert’s life has been filled with many rich and meaningful experiences surrounded by people with disabilities and chronic health conditions. She began her volunteer work at a young age at Easterseals and her first job was at Cedarcrest Center for Children with Disabilities, where she learned about occupational therapy and found her calling. Building relationships with others who seek to improve the lives of children and adults in New Hampshire is a priority for Krista as she continues to advocate for changes in the educational and medical systems to improve access and equity. Krista is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire in Durham, NH where she earned both a BS and an MS in occupational therapy. During her thirty-year career, Krista has worked as an occupational therapist in various settings including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, assisted living centers, home health care, early intervention, public and private school systems, and her own private practice. Working with and advocating for underserved communities has long been a priority for Krista. She and her son both have rare disorders. Krista is actively involved in councils in New Hampshire including the NH Rare Disease Advisory Council and the NH Council on Developmental Disabilities. She advocates at the state and national level as a member of the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD), acting as the NH co-ambassador for the Rare Action Network. She is an originating member of the NORD policy steering committee.
Amy Girouard, MSW
Family, New Hampshire
Amy S. Girouard holds a master’s degree in Social Work from The Ohio State University and is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker in New Hampshire. She is currently working for Deer Oaks Behavioral Health as a mental health clinician for residents in long term care settings. Prior work includes co-owning LTC Resources, LLC which provided social work and management consulting for nursing homes with a specialty focus on culture change in long term care. Amy resides in Concord, N.H. with her husband Chuck Crush, son Josh, and daughter Allision. Josh attends college at Clark University in Worcester, MA. Ally has Angelman Syndrome and is fully included at Concord High School. Amy has always had a passion for advocacy, a skill she has leveraged to achieve meaningful inclusion at school for Ally. Amy also has a great deal of volunteer experience, including serving as Chair of the Family Support Council for Community Bridges, becoming a member of the Medical Care Advisory Committee for DHHS, and fundraising for the Foundation for Angelman Syndrome Therapeutics. More recently, she was on the search committee for the new Director of Student Services for the Concord School District. In addition to these activities, Amy has authored a prologue for Dr. Calculator’s book Angelman Syndrome: Communication, Educational, and Related Considerations. Amy is a 2014 NH Leadership Series graduate, and she is a current member of NH NASW. Amy enjoys traveling with her family, reading books, and trying new adventures such as skydiving.
Shilo Goodhue, MEd
Early Childhood Special Education, Maine
Shilo Goodhue is an early intervention teacher, specializing in children with autism spectrum disorders. She graduated with a Master of Education with a concentration in Special Education and Early Intervention from the University of Maine and recently completed a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Shilo owned and taught at an inclusive preschool program for 10 years before shifting to infants and toddlers in home settings through Child Development Services in 2010. She earned national certification in the implementation of the Early Start Denver Model for children with Autism while working at the Maine Autism Institute for Education and Research at the University of Maine and currently oversees the curriculum planning and implementation of services for toddlers with ASD at Woodfords Family Services.
Grayson Leichtman, BS
Occupational Therapy, New Hampshire
Grayson Leichtman is a graduate student in the University of New Hampshire’s accelerated MS in Occupational Therapy program. She graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Occupational Science from UNH in 2021. This degree provided Grayson with interpersonal, analytical, and organizational skills that support therapeutic evaluation and intervention for children and adults. Grayson’s passion lies in working with children, especially those with disabilities. She worked for three years as a preschool teacher’s aide, and two years as a camp counselor at TimberNook, an OT-based outdoor summer camp. She volunteered for six years and worked for two years as a Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor at the UNH Therapeutic Riding Program. Through these experiences, she developed an affinity for using active free play in nature and teaching horsemanship and riding skills to benefit children who have developmental delays, cerebral palsy, ADHD, and ASD. For her senior honors thesis, Grayson collected secondary data from researchers in four countries and primary data in the United States to assess the Perceived Stress Scale for Children and evaluated cross-cultural trends in stress perception. This research experience strengthened her belief that practitioners should view all clients holistically, including consideration of their cultural contexts and mental health, which can greatly impact occupational participation. Through the LEND program, Grayson looks forward to better understanding how the holistic view can be implemented in interdisciplinary practice when working with children with neurodevelopmental disabilities.
Wendy Morrison, BA
Family, New Hampshire
Wendy Morrison is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire where she earned a dual degree in Art and Psychology. Her internship was with Head Start where she worked with young children and their families as an in-home visitor. Head Start taught her about diversity and the many struggles different families have. While studying at UNH, Wendy started her career as a DSP in 2013. The people she works with affectionately call her a life coach. In 2016, she attended a class Supporting People in Community Living and earned a certificate. She learned how to be more purposeful in all the experiences individuals have in their communities. Most recently she graduated from the NH Leadership Series. This experience taught her how to be proactive in communities and states to make positive change for people with disabilities. Wendy has worked for people with cerebral palsy, autism, Asperger’s and other secondary disabilities. Wendy has family members with mental illness and lead poisoning which may have caused them to experience ADHD. Family has been a driving force in Wendy’s life and she looks forward to using her experiences to help others improve their journey as well.
Sierra Riley, BS
Social Work, New Hampshire
Sierra Riley is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire in Durham, NH where she completed a BS in Human Development and Family Studies, and Women and Gender Studies. This degree provided Sierra with great skill sets in interpersonal communication, cultural competence, problem solving and working with large groups. Through her broad interest in the success and development of individuals, Sierra strives to incorporate empathy in everyday practice. Sierra spent three years of her undergraduate studies participating in the Kappa Delta sorority, working to support and volunteer with their philanthropies; Prevent Child Abuse America and New Hampshire Children’s Trust. She served two years on the executive board and pushed for awareness and education around the prevention of child abuse. She has interned for Bright Futures Adoption Center in Acton, MA and Feminist Oasis in Somersworth, NH. These experiences gave Sierra the opportunity to provide community outreach and experience real life social change in action. Through working as an assistant teacher at the Harrisville Children’s Center in Harrisville, NH and several years of babysitting and nannying experience, Sierra has found a great passion for working with children. As a child, Sierra spent much of her time with a family friend who was affected by a neurodevelopmental disability. Through her interacting with her, she was able to learn a perspective of life very different from her own. Sierra is excited to begin her work within the social work field!
Anita Tevanian, MS
Anita Tevanian obtained her Master of Science from the University of New England. She is a physician assistant in the state of Maine and brings with her over 10 years of clinical practice. Anita’s six-year-old son, Max, is her greatest teacher as he has overcome many obstacles while living with a rare genetic syndrome. Anita wouldn’t change Max for the world but hopes to change the world for him. Anita is eager to join the LEND program as a Family long-term trainee, with hopes of advocating for the needs of children with disabilities across all areas of life while learning about policy and special education law.
Erin Wood, MEd
Early Childhood Education, Maine
Erin Wood, M.Ed has a BS in Early Childhood Special Education from the University of Maine at Farmington and a MEd from the University of Maine in Special Education with a focus in Early Intervention. Currently, Erin is a one-on-one behavioral health professional at the Children’s Odyssey preschool in Portland, Maine where she works directly supporting students with developmental disabilities. In conjunction with her one-on-one support, Erin also oversees the direct service of several students, coordinates therapies, schedules evaluations, and advocates for services to support both the child and their families. Erin has always known she has wanted to make a difference in the lives of others, a dream which her family believed she could achieve. Each step in her journey has introduced her to different aspects of the lives of children and families working through a complicated system to find supports to create a better life for themselves. She aims to help these families get the support they deserve through research, presenting her findings to others, and changing policy to make it easier to get the services they deserve.
Haley Wood, BA
Public Health, New Hampshire
Haley is a graduate of Bryant University in Smithfield, RI where she obtained a BA in Applied Psychology. This degree provided her with a deep understanding of the self, others and how to apply that knowledge to the professional world. Haley first became interested in working with the disability community when she met the family of a 10-year-old girl, Susan, who has Down syndrome. Haley babysat Susan all through college and was a live-in nanny for a few months enabling her to develop a great relationship with Susan. Haley has experience working with the Child Life Specialists at the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth, where she acclimated children and families of all abilities to the healthcare setting. She identified developmentally appropriate normalization activities for children undergoing procedures to make them feel more comfortable. After graduating college, Haley spent 2 years working as a case manager for a private, non-profit agency that provides personalized services to individuals with intellectual disabilities. She helped individuals and families navigate the complex service system and connected them with the staff and resources to best meet their needs. Through these experiences, she came to realize the systemic change that is necessary to end discrimination and better represent people with disabilities. Haley feels it is important for people to speak up when they see or hear something that is inappropriate, even when it is uncomfortable. Not everyone who experiences disability can speak up for themselves and their peers.
Heather Young, AS
Family, New Hampshire
Heather Young is a 2010 graduate of Hesser College in Portsmouth, NH where she obtained an associate degree in Early Childhood Education. This degree provided Heather with extensive knowledge of the growth and development of young children during their most critical stages of life. She worked for several years educating children before her youngest child was born with complex medical and developmental needs. This shifted her career path to education and advocacy in the developmental services system. Heather has worked closely with other families in the state advocating at state and federal levels for more inclusive schools and communities where every person has a true sense of belonging. She is the Co-Founder of the NH Pediatric Nursing Care Campaign where she continues to collaborate with families and key stakeholders on more innovative solutions for families who require nursing supports in their home for their child. Heather is a 2017 graduate of the NH Leadership Series. She has worked for Community Support Network, Inc. (CSNI) for more than five years as the Director of Education and Advocacy. In her professional role she works closely with the legislative liaisons of the NH area agencies around legislative policy changes and educating families on the legislative process and the importance of advocacy. In her personal time, she runs a local nonprofit called Lucas’ Helping Hands that provides educational, emotional, and financial support to families and their children that experience a disability, illness or a catastrophic event that impacts the entire family.