Samantha Barb, BS
Social Work, New Hampshire
Samantha Barb received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology degree with an interest in early childhood development and developmental psychology from Loyola University New Orleans in 2018. With the skills and knowledge Samantha obtained, she went on to pursue a career working with children with neurodevelopmental disabilities as a private caretaker. Engaging in Early Intervention therapies, IEP (Individualized Education Program) development, and daily medical interventions are among the skills she developed in this current role. In addition to her one-on-one experience with children with disabilities, Samantha has worked with children in school settings as a classroom aide. Along with her passion for working in this field, Samantha has experience as a representative on the board of directors for her town’s Alliance Against Violence, a volunteer advocate at the Harry Thompson Center of New Orleans, and a Sexual Assault Emergency Hotline Operator at her University’s counseling center. Samantha’s fervor for helping individuals feel seen, heard, and understood has been present throughout all her professional opportunities. Her experience working closely with families has been a great inspiration for pursuing a career in child and family support. Samantha takes pride in forming unique bonds with every child she works with and hopes for continued opportunities to form these special connections throughout her career. Disability advocacy and support is extremely near to her heart, and she looks forward to growing her skills in this area to leave a positive impact on the children and families with whom she works.
Sarah Belhumeur, BS
Nutrition, New Hampshire
Sarah Belhumeur is a graduate of Keene State College in Keene, NH where she obtained a BS in Nutrition and Business Management. This degree provided Sarah with a wide range of skills to work with patients to achieve their nutritional goals. Sarah has spent the last four years working for NH’s Special Medical Services at Amoskeag Health in Manchester. In the Nutrition, Feeding and Swallowing Program, she provides services to children with special healthcare needs who need specialized care related to, but not limited to failure to thrive, slow weight gain, gastrointestinal concerns such as constipation and reflux, anatomical related differences including oral ties and cleft palates, trouble advancing textures, and dysphagia. This role increased Sarah’s awareness of the need for programs that advocate for and fill the gaps for children with disabilities and their families to ensure positive health outcomes. Sarah envisions working with a team of people who have compassion and excitement to participate in discussions, give input and suggestions regarding team decisions, and grow together, while maintaining a professional work environment. She is eager to grow and improve upon her knowledge and skills to better understand, better support, and better serve the community she works with. Sarah has a passion for helping others and is excited for the opportunity to grow her skillset.
Micaela Demeter, BS
Family, New Hampshire
Micaela Demeter wears many hats, but her proudest role is that of mom to her two kids, ages 12 and 8. She and her family live in Dover, NH where she has settled in many fulfilling ways. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Nutrition & Dietetics from Messiah College 20 years ago. Since then, she has worked as a nanny, public health, and private nutritionist, Head Start home visitor, and briefly as an unsuccessful annuity claims processor. All these experiences have helped Micaela identify, develop, and use her skills in meaningful ways within her community. She became an education advocate serving on her local PTA executive board for 2 years and helped create a remote learning parent support group within her school district. She was recently elected to Dover’s School Board. As the proud mom of an awesome autistic kid, she uses her own life experiences to support other families who are also navigating the special education system. She is a 2022 graduate of the University of New Hampshire Leadership Series through the Institute on Disability. Micaela is passionate about elevating conversations around mental health in her community and is a member of the Dover Mental Health Alliance. Combining all these areas of interest, she is working toward restarting a Dover-specific parent support and advocacy group for families with special education students. In everything she does, Micaela seeks to connect, inform, support and advocate with the goal of investing meaningfully in the people and systems around her.
Michelle Fong, BA
Public Health, Maine
Michelle Fong holds her bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of San Diego and is a current graduate student in the University of New England’s master’s in public health (MPH) program. Her early career spanned almost two decades in biosciences. She then became self-employed as a medical writer and transitioned into philanthropic and non-profit endeavors. She organized community check-ins during the COVID-19 pandemic, led a project with a local food pantry to revitalize their student weekend meal program, and currently works with Knox County Homeless Coalition developing collaborative cross-sector health programs for a new supportive housing project. Advocacy for equitable, early identification and treatment of neurodevelopmental conditions became important to Michelle through her parenting experience. From it, she gained insight into the isolated experience of children and their parents encountering less-visible neurodevelopmental challenges such as Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder, and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Further, she gathered awareness of access and navigation challenges associated with obtaining diagnostic, educational, healthcare, and legal services. Her journey and research have revealed thousands of families affected similarly and evidence indicating that left untreated, neurodevelopmental disabilities are a risk for accumulating poor health and economic outcomes over the life course. She hopes to apply her LEND experience to policy and program work to reduce the risk, create connections, improve health, and disrupt cyclical poverty.
Julia Forcillo, BS
Occupational Therapy, New Hampshire
Julia is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire (UNH) in Durham, New Hampshire where she obtained a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Occupational Therapy. This degree provided Julia with a multitude of communication, interpersonal, empathy, and collaboration skills. Julia has worked with children since she was young through babysitting and camp counselor positions. She has also participated in the UNH Life Skills group working with adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. These roles in addition to an interprofessional project increased Julia’s awareness of the need for many different disciplines to help children and families with disabilities work together to reach successful outcomes. Working and creating bonds with children has always been part of Julia’s life. After working with children who were affected by various developmental disabilities at summer camp, she realized how much she wanted to continue helping this population of children be heard and understood. In addition to working with children, the UNH Life Skills group gave Julia a chance to work with adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and to understand their experiences with different organizations throughout their life. Julia’s experiences have shown her that every individual is unique and has their own goals with varying versions of what success means to them.
Gabriela Fuentes, BS
Gabriela is a graduate of Saint Joseph’s College of Maine, where she obtained a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Psychology with a specialization in Behavioral Neuroscience. This degree provided Gabriela extensive understanding and knowledge of the biological mechanisms and how the brain senses and perceives the environment, stores, and retrieves memories, generates emotions, controls behavior, and produces consciousness. While working on her second degree, Gabriela worked as a caseworker for PresenteMaine, a non-profit organization that works to empower displaced indigenous and Afro-Latinx peoples of Maine through survival programs, community power building, cultural celebration, and transformative healing practice. Gabriela was born and raised in Cochabamba, Bolivia and immigrated to the United States at age eight. Gabriela has lived in Arlington, Virginia for most of her life until recently moving to Maine in 2020. As an immigrant Gabriela is a strong and loud advocate for the Latinx community in Maine. Her life experience and her work have revealed the un-dignifying ways some nonprofits and governmental organizations treat immigrants, people of color, and people with disabilities. This has fueled Gabriela’s mission to stop the cycle of mistreatment bidirectional support, where personal growth can only happen if and only if others are also growing. “The only way to evoke change is by treating each person with dignity and respect, my end goal is to help vulnerable communities reach their fullest potential”.
Sarah Hewitt, BA
Communication Sciences & Disorders, New Hampshire
Sarah Hewitt is a graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder where she obtained a BA in Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences. This degree provided Sarah with a range of skills including interpersonal communication, early childhood language support, and school aged speech intervention. Sarah spent two years working as a Deaf-Blind intervener in special education where she supported a child with multiple disabilities including Cerebral Palsy and Deaf-Blindness. Here she acquired specialized skills in tactile communication, nonverbal communication, and educational supports and adaptations. Sarah also worked as a respite provider and summer camp counselor. These experiences lead Sarah to a special interest in working with children with disabilities as she observed a lack of access to resources and trained professionals needed to support these students. Sarah shared informational resources with her multidisciplinary team to establish best practices with every person who interacted with the student. Throughout her time as a Deaf-Blind intervener, she was exposed to the widespread lack of resources, in the form of education, training, and adaptive equipment, in the public school system. Witnessing the inequity in resources for children with disabilities, she became passionate about advocating for children with disabilities having access to the services and equipment that they need and deserve. This passion aligns with LEND’s goal of improving the lives of children and families with disabilities. In her future career Sarah would like to work with children, specifically young children in early intervention.
Karina Mancini, BA
Genetics, New Hampshire
Karina Mancini is a graduate of the University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT, where she received her BS in Diagnostic Genetic Science with a concentration in Cytogenetics. During her senior-year internship, she completed a 6-month rotation with the Cytogenetic laboratory at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA. Since then, Karina has taken the skills she has learned from her undergraduate degree and applied them to her work as a Genomic Technologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Karina has been involved in many community activities over the years. She was a teaching assistant for two different courses: a first-year experience course solely for first-year students to help acclimate them to college life, and Medical Cytogenetics. She has been part of the Big Brother Big Sister program for two consecutive years, where she mentors two middle school students. More recently, Karina has been involved in Crisis Text Line, where she speaks with texters in crisis to calm their state of mind. Finally, recognizing a gap in her own work community, Karina created an employee resource group at her hospital titled “Emerging Leaders” where she held workshops and events to grow the potential of the next generation of Dartmouth employees. Karina plans to pursue a career in Genetic Counseling. This has been a goal of hers for the past six years. By being a part of the LEND program, she hopes to increase her knowledge of policy, clinical health, and education as it relates to individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities. She wants to be the best leader she can be in the future when interacting with patients in this community.
Lisseth Milkovits, BA
Communication Sciences & Disorders, New Hampshire
Lisseth Milkovits is a graduate student of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of New Hampshire who has the aspiration to provide services to families with multicultural and multilingual children. Prior to pursuing this degree, she completed her studies in Translation and Interpreting in her birthplace, Lima, Peru, and devoted nine years to working as a community and medical Spanish interpreter in Southern New Hampshire. Her work experience allowed her to engage closely with Limited English Proficient (LEP) individuals across the lifespan to help bridge the gap to equal care and act as a cultural broker and advocate in a variety of settings ranging from schools, early intervention, hospitals, family practice, and specialty clinics. Working for Special Medical Services gave her first-hand experience with families of children with complex medical needs and neurodevelopmental disabilities and allowed her the opportunity to provide support to families beyond the scope of an interpreter. The disparities in language access in healthcare and education, have fueled Lisbeth’s desire to go back to the classroom to become a provider. Being a parent of a young bilingual child, she is passionate about heritage and cultural competence and believes that empowering caregivers is crucial to helping children thrive. Therefore, she plans to resume her work with families in early intervention. She’s looking forward to the opportunities and clinical skills she will gain through LEND.
Victoria Muñoz, BA
Social Work, New Hampshire
Victoria is a master’s in social work (MSW) student at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) and expects to graduate in May 2024. She graduated from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Sociology and minors in Child & Family Studies and Women & Gender Studies. This degree provided Victoria with critical thinking, research, and advocacy skills needed to enter the social work field. While pursuing her undergraduate degree, Victoria completed two summer qualitative research internships focused on social issues and policies related to children living in poverty. She also interned at the Granite United Way on the Community Impact Team, which helped her realize her passion for social work. Victoria received the 2019 MCLA Faculty Association Outstanding Student Award for her leadership and commitment to community engagement in and out of the classroom. Over the last two years, Victoria has worked in clinical and research settings at a community mental health center in New Hampshire. She first worked in a therapeutic role with children and families in their homes, schools, and other community settings. She now works in a research role at the same community mental health center. Victoria’s core interests are justice for women, children, and families. She draws on her knowledge of trauma, mental illness, neurodevelopmental disabilities, and social justice in her work with clients. She is interested in the ways that research, policy, and clinical practice interact to address complex systemic issues and she looks forward to advancing her knowledge of neurodevelopmental disability to strengthen her future career in social work. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, hiking in the White Mountains, and going to the beach. She recently started a Trauma-Informed Yoga Teacher certification.
Ashley Mulkern, BS
Special Education & Early Childhood Education, Maine
Ashley Mulkern is the parent of a child with Autism as well as a Special Education Teacher and Case Manager with Child Development Services in Downeast Maine. Ashley attended University of Maine-Orono for her BS in Child Development and Family Relations and continues to pursue higher education in the field. Throughout the past twelve years, Ashley has been involved in early intervention services, with a focus on children between the ages of three and five years old. She has supported families and children in the home, directed special education services in the classroom, coordinated services for children prior to entering Kindergarten, and provided advocacy and support for her own son who transitioned into public school two years ago. Ashley’s passion for advocacy and supporting students increased when she, as a parent, needed to navigate the multiple systems affecting childhood evaluation and eligibility processes, as well as service delivery. Ashley quickly realized that navigating the system of care alone has a severe impact on families, especially parents. Families often need additional support, education, and patience which Ashley hopes to improve for the families she serves. While Ashley has enjoyed her time working in a classroom setting, she is interested in doing more to help families understand the special education process and navigate the system. She is excited about the opportunities for professional growth that her LEND training experience will bring.
Abbott Philson has spent almost a decade working on disability advocacy and policy issues. He has sought out leadership and advocacy opportunities to further his experience and expertise. Abbott is a past recipient of the Page Barton Award for his leadership and promotion of self-advocacy across the state of Maine. Abbott put this experience to work on the executive committee and board of Speaking Up for Us (SUFU), the Maine Developmental Disabilities Council, the HCBS Workgroup and the Prader-Willi Syndrome Association. Since 2019, he has represented self-advocates on the HCBS stakeholder group. Abbott participated in the SUFU Leadership Development Program and has served as the Chair of the SUFU Chapter Representative Committee. Since 2002, Abbott has served on the Prader-Will Syndrome Advisory Board and has been Board Co-chair since 2018. Abbott's favorite part about being a part of the SUFU board is having the privilege of representing SUFU members. Serving and advocating for children and adults with disabilities has been a goal of Abbott's. Abbott's goal is to work with the LGBTQ community within the disability community and unite with other LGBTQ without disabilities in the performance of "You Will Be Found" so LGBTQ people with disabilities can know they are not alone.
Dimitri Santos, BS
Nutrition, New Hampshire
Dimitri Santos is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire (UNH) where he obtained a BS in Nutrition: Dietetics. This degree provided Dimitri with a solid foundation in nutrition, dietetics, food management, food science, and metabolic biochemistry. He also developed strong research and nutritional assessment skills including data collection, analysis, and critical thinking. One of the most special experiences Dimitri was able to be a part of during his time at UNH was the clinical experience at the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth Hitchcock. During this experience Dimitri was able to connect with diverse patients and their families to further understand their diagnoses. He observed a pediatric dietitian as she solved nutrition related problems and helped him understand why certain decisions were made. It brought nutrition into a new light for Dimitri as many of the children had chronic health conditions and neurodevelopmental disabilities which called for the use of different strategies to help the patients. Dimitri’s interest in neurodevelopmental disability started because his youngest brother has autism. They were extremely close when they were younger, and Dimitri spent most days helping his little brother throughout the day. Many of Dimitri’s family members have other kinds of disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and bipolar disorder. He also has close friends who have family members with autism and ADHD that he interacts with. These firsthand experiences have sparked an increasing interest in him advocating for children with disabilities as he wants to support them in any way he can and to the best of his ability.
Rachelle Smith, BS
Communication Sciences & Disorders, New Hampshire
Rachelle is currently a second-year graduate student in Communication Sciences & Disorders at the University of New Hampshire where she also obtained a BS in Communication Sciences and Disorders in 2007. The degree provided Rachelle with the skills and knowledge to work as a speech language pathologist assistant (SPLA). She worked in a preschool setting as an SLPA for 13 years helping children with speech and language impairments improve their communication skills. Continuing her professional development, Rachelle is one of the first SLPA’s in the country to be certified through the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA). She received her C-SLPA certification in 2019. Rachelle is committed to the advancement of children with developmental disabilities and attended several seminars related to the social and emotional development of children between 2018-2019. Rachelle is committed to improving the lives of children with disabilities. Working with children has been a passion of Rachelle’s for the past 15 years. She has worked with parents, special needs educators, occupational therapists, and physical therapists. She realizes that collaboration with parents and other interdisciplinary professionals is necessary to improve the lives of children with special needs so they can maximize their potential to thrive communicatively, academically, physically, and socially.
Yusi Turell, MA
Family, New Hampshire
Yusi Wang Turell is a PhD Candidate at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), authoring her dissertation on how and why social entrepreneurs seek to change public policy. Over the course of parenting her two sons (now 12 and 14 years old) with neurodevelopmental disabilities, Yusi has interfaced with many groups and services in school and community related to mental and behavioral health. She is eager to learn more about the broader ecosystem in which these organizations operate and to identify promising levers for systemic change. Yusi has a keen interest in social justice. She serves on her local school board and recently completed a community listening research project with the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation on inequality in NH communities, finding wide disparities in access to mental health services. Neurodevelopmental diversity can be a strength, yet, without appropriate supports and a resilient ecosystem, children and families with neurodevelopmental differences can be disproportionately affected by economic shock, climate change, and other societal shifts. Since 2011, Yusi has worked at UNH’s Carsey School of Public Policy in community development finance and social entrepreneurship. Previously, she was a national program director for Citizen Schools, an educational nonprofit that helps middle school students to thrive in school and beyond through hands-on learning and career mentors. Yusi holds a BSE in Civil Engineering & Operations Research from Princeton University and an M.Phil. Technology & Innovation Management from the University of Sussex, UK.
Noelle Walker, BS
Communication Sciences & Disorders, New Hampshire
Noelle is a graduate of the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS where she obtained a BS in speech-language-hearing and finance. During her undergraduate career, Noelle worked in a Montessori preschool as an afternoon teacher. This experience gave Noelle valuable experience in working with young children with developmental disabilities and helped verify her desire to work with this population. Noelle is currently a second-year master's student studying Communication Sciences and Disorders. She hopes to one day use this education in an environment to better serve children. During high school, Noelle was required to complete 500 hours (about 3 weeks) of community service to graduate. These hours were fulfilled by serving at a location for hippotherapy (horseback riding therapy), the local homeless shelter, and a nursing home. She continued to volunteer throughout her time at the University of Kansas. Noelle envisions herself in a leadership role in advocating for inclusion in schools. More specifically, she wants to see students with neurodevelopmental disabilities in mainstream classrooms. She believes that our school systems should be built around supporting and giving every student the same opportunities. Noelle is excited to join LEND to continue to develop her knowledge in working with the population of those who have neurodevelopmental disabilities.
Molleigh Wyman, BS
Occupational Therapy, New Hampshire
Molleigh is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire where she obtained a BS in Occupational Science and will receive a MS of Occupational Therapy in December of 2022. Her education, which includes participation in multiple leadership courses, has provided her with an array of child development and intervention-based knowledge and experiences. Molleigh currently works as an associate teacher in a daycare. Previously, she completed a 3-month fieldwork experience within the Manchester School District of New Hampshire. Her work throughout multiple elementary schools in Manchester has raised her awareness of the need for improved general education and care for children and families who face challenges due to disability. Throughout these experiences, Molleigh has worked with typically developing children alongside children who experience behavioral challenges and developmental delays through conditions such as ADHD and ASD. I have worked with children who require assistance with self‐regulation to decrease arousal as they face challenges expressing their emotional responses through verbal communication. Her work with children who experience neurodevelopmental disabilities, and their families, has shown her that no accomplishment is too small, and that advocating for these children and educating others is the first step in advancing change. Molleigh’s overall goal for the future is to work in pediatric occupational therapy as an advocate for children with disabilities while developing opportunities which encourage participation in meaningful activities for these children alongside their peers.