2023-2024 Trainees

Aicha Abdillahi Ali, BS

Special Education, Maine

Aicha Abdillahi Ali is a woman wearing large black framed glasses and a hijab head scarf

Aicha Abdillahi Ali was born in Djibouti, the city of Djibouti, in 1984. She moved to the United States in 2011.   She is married and has two children.

Aicha received the B.T.S. degree in Superior Technician Certificate from the University of Djibouti in 2006. She completed her HISET diploma at Lewiston Learning Center in Lewiston, Maine. Aicha graduated from Central Maine Community College with an associate degree in human services in 2021 and the University of Southern Maine with a bachelor’s degree in social and behavioral sciences in 2023.

Since 2018, Aicha is employed with the Department of Public Schools in Lewiston, Maine as a Teacher’s Assistant, Substitute Teacher, Educational Technician, and Interpreter.

English is her fourth language. She has been doing all her studies in French for sixteen years, so now she is happy and excited about doing English and getting some new degrees. While in elementary school she enjoyed participating in community service work at her school. Her advocacy work began with cultural awareness during Ramadan at the McMahon Elementary School, where she was employed. Her role was to lead the students (girls) to prayer time; she also explained to the teachers what time they (students) go to prayers and where. She asked the principal if she could create a place to pray and stay during lunch for the fasting students. She organized cultural events for the family at school, designed henna designs, and distributed the prize tickets to the families and students. She displayed Somali traditional clothes and hair bread.

Hana Chouinard, BS

Occupational Therapy, New Hampshire

Hana Chouinard is a woman with straight long brown hair outside in wooded autumn setting

Hana Chouinard is a graduate of the University of New England where she obtained a bachelor’s of science in health, wellness, and occupational studies and a minor in special education. This degree provided Hana with extensive interpersonal and academic skills and a passion for disability advocacy. Hana is pursuing her master’s in occupational therapy at the University of New Hampshire (UNH).

She recently completed her fieldwork placements in outpatient rehabilitation at Wentworth Douglass Hospital and in community mental health at the Upper Room Family Resource Center. At UNH, Hana was involved with the Stroke Survivors Support Group, where she created lasting relationships with members and gained a lens into the experiences of life after stroke.

Hana has worked professionally as a special education instructional assistant and as an exercise specialist in physical therapy. She also has completed internships in developmental centers and a variety of disability-focused summer camps. These positions raised Hana's awareness of the importance of collaboration across all organizations that assist people with disabilities to achieve optimal outcomes.

Advocating for people with disabilities has always been important to Hana. She has a family member with autism and grew up surrounded by many children with disabilities. Growing up in this atmosphere gave Hana insight into challenges faced by people with disabilities and their families as well as the need for social change. These combined experiences have sparked a fire in her to advocate for disability rights, create connections, and learn more about the varied ways each of us experiences this life.

Emily Conners, BS

Communication Sciences & Disorders, New Hampshire

Emily Connors is a woman with wavy blong hair, pictured outside in a sunny, green, wooded setting

Emily Conners is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island in South Kingstown, RI where she obtained a bachelor’s of science (BS) in communication sciences and disorders. This degree provided Emily with knowledge about development, language, and a passion for helping others.

During her undergraduate career, Emily was an AmeriCorps Jumpstart member. That experience gave Emily experience working with at-risk preschool children, with the focus on developing literacy skills, while completing 300 volunteer hours. Throughout her undergraduate studies, Emily was enrolled in the honors program which required her to complete an individual project in her final semester. Emily’s interest in speech-language pathology and childhood development led her to write and illustrate a children’s book that teaches about one aspect of social communication.

During the summer, Emily worked in an extended school year (ESY) program as an assistant teacher for classrooms with children diagnosed with autism. Through working in that program, Emily developed knowledge about special education and disabilities, observed collaborations between professionals, and assisted the speech-language pathologist. All these experiences have helped Emily find interest in early development services and using a team-based approach.

Emily is currently a second-year graduate student studying communication sciences and disorders. She hopes to support young children and their families through the early process of getting services and transitioning into schools. Emily is excited to continue growing her knowledge about leadership, disabilities, and working with other professionals to better serve families.

Cynthia Cushing, BS

Social Work, Maine

Cynthia Cushing is a woman with wavy brown hair, pictured inside with a bookshelf full of books in the background.

Cynthia Cushing (she/her) is currently in her third year of a four-year master’s of social work program at the University of Maine. She is also currently affiliated with NASW-Maine as the First Vice President.

For 13 years Cynthia has worked as a case manager for adults with developmental disabilities. During the last two years she has been engaged as a Case Management Team Leader, helping those new to the field. She travels the state of Maine and works with many fantastic people.

Cynthia was engaged with the Recovery Opioid Addiction Resources (ROAR) group in Skowhegan, Maine. ROAR is a group which was started by people in recovery who wanted to bust the stigma associated with drug use and recovery. The group is now in its sixth year. The group offers resources, Recovery Coaching (of which she was one, as are many of the group's members), and a space to enjoy community events together.

Cynthia’s big dream is to start a mentoring business which incorporates mentoring for folks from when they are in utero until they are 30 or so, to give all children the best opportunity for success throughout their lives.

Elizabeth Deliso, MEd

Special Education, Maine

Elizabeth Deliso is a woman with very short brown hair and a big smile, pictured outside with a green wooded scene in the background.

Elizabeth holds a master’s degree in special education from the University of Maine. She discovered her passion - working with young children with autism when she began working for Child Development Services (CDS) 8 years ago. She taught in the inclusive preschool before transitioning to the transdisciplinary early intervention team, a position she still holds. She is a certified Early Start Denver Model therapist, working directly with toddlers impacted by autism. She also helps parents create joyful interactions that promote engagement, learning, and development. She spent 18 months as part of a statewide team building and coordinating autism services for families and supporting her colleagues.

Elizabeth loves developing close relationships with young children and their families, bolstering parents’ ability to connect with their children, and watching family dynamics shift as the child and parent gain complementary skills. Elizabeth is also the mother of a teenager with ASD. She has experienced the challenges of navigating services and advocating relentlessly when needed.

She loves to support families who are beginning the diagnostic process or are hearing the word “autism” for the first time by sharing the many joys and wonders of having an autistic child. This perspective, that autism and neurodiversity can be a gift to any family, provides hope and comfort to the families she serves. Elizabeth spent 3 years living in Costa Rica, where her son was born. She has a master’s degree in environmental management from Yale University, and B.A. in human Ecology from College of the Atlantic.

Rachelle Enes

Family, New Hampshire

Rachelle Enes is a woman with wavy styled blond hair, pictured in front of a cloth screen or background.

Rachelle Enes is an early childhood educator in New Hampshire. She works at a local daycare in Hampstead, New Hampshire. She obtained her early childhood education certificate through a course with Waldorf University and Cares Course. She is involved in local community groups helping children within her community. She is a 2023 graduate of the New Hampshire Leadership Series. She is a co-leader of the New Hampshire chapter of the Changing Spaces Campaign, advocating for adult sized changing tables.

The Leadership Series ignited a fire in Rachelle she did not know she had. It not only showed her how far we have come with disability rights, but also how far we need to go. It gave her a different perspective on disabilities and showed her how she can help make change. Rachelle grew up with a grandmother and cousin who had disabilities. She saw their struggles but did not realize how much their disabilities affected their lives until her son was diagnosed with a disability in 2022.

Since then, she has found a passion for advocating and helping families. Going through the process of her son’s diagnosis was an eye-opening experience, without a lot of guidance along the way. The process made it clear to her that more family support is needed. She continues to learn everything she can about disabilities, including neurodevelopmental disabilities, to better help her own child as well as other children and families.

Jaime Gallagher Driscoll, BA

Occupational Therapy, New Hampshire

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

Jaime Gallagher Driscoll is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire, where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology minoring in justice studies. She is currently finishing her master’s degree in occupational therapy. This education has provided Jaime with a comprehensive background in mental health, disabilities, and disorders, as well as an understanding of judicial and legislative systems.

Jaime has spent 20 years in the service industry and in various management positions. She was also a board member of People Care, a local nonprofit aiming to help educate the community on adolescent substance abuse. This experience has helped her develop strong interpersonal skills, leadership abilities, and a passion for affecting change through policy. It also has given her the opportunity to work with people from diverse backgrounds.

Jaime has always been an advocate for equity in healthcare, education, and society in general. She has several family members with neurodevelopmental disorders including autism, ADHD, Tourette’s syndrome, intellectual delays, and sensory processing issues. Her dedication to equity for all was present even in high school when she volunteered at gymnastics summer camps for underprivileged children.

Through her master’s degree program, she has worked with children with gross and fine motor delays, as well as those experiencing difficulties with emotional regulation. Currently she is in a fieldwork placement, working with individuals with severe and persistent mental health issues, helping them navigate the daily requirements of life and the systems that inherently work against them.

Christina Giannopoulos, BS

Occupational Therapy, New Hampshire

Christina Giannopoulos is a woman with curly blond hair

Christina Giannopoulos will receive her master’s of science degree in occupational therapy at the University of New Hampshirein in December 2023. She received a bachelor’s degree in health, wellness, and occupational studies with a minor in special education from the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine in 2021. These degrees provided Christina with an ability to look at individuals through a holistic and inclusive lens.

Christina has a strong passion and background working with individuals with disabilities over the past 10 years. Throughout her high school and college years, she volunteered at several Special Olympics events, became a Challenger Baseball league coach, worked as a Direct Support Professional at a day program for adults and children, gained a best friend with Cerebral Palsy, and mentored children in the local elementary after school program. Christina’s experiences with individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and a variety of other diagnoses, have opened her eyes to the special and unique qualities in everyone.

Christina thrives in environments where she can help individuals accomplish their goals and reach their full potential. These personal and professional experiences have led Christina to recognize the importance of working with an interprofessional team and advocating for the individuals with whom she works.

Seana Hallberg, MS

Family, New Hampshire

Seana Hallberg is a woman with wavy brown hair, pictured outside in front of a autumn colored trees.

Seana received her master’s in clinical mental health from New England College and bachelor’s of science (BS) from Purdue University in child development. Seana worked in a hospital setting as a Family Resource Coordinator, providing care for families with children living with chronic medical challenges, as well as those with developmental disabilities. She has spent the last 5 years advocating for her children and others within her community.

Seana is a 2023 New Hampshire Leadership Series Graduate. She helped start the New Hampshire chapter of Changing Spaces, a grassroots organization pushing for statewide implementation of universal changing stations for individuals with disabilities. In the summer of 2022, Seana completed the Independent Education Consultants Association (IECA) summer training. She also helps facilitate at Camp Bluestone, an immersive outdoor social learning camp in Chapel Hill, NC.

Seana is mother to three children, two of whom are disabled. She works with families utilizing an attachment-based lens focused on supporting emotional well-being. She began implementing low demand parenting strategies with her autistic children in 2019, recently contributing to the 2023 low demand parenting summit.

Danielle Heaton, BS

Family, New Hampshire

Danielle Heaton is a woman with long blond hair wearing red framed glasses and pictured in front a summery, forested, lakeside.

Danielle Heaton graduated from Kent State University in 2002 with a bachelor’s of science (BS). She has over 15 years of information technology (IT), digital marketing, and project management experience in the education industry.

In addition to these tangible skills, Danielle's greatest professional strength is her ability to understand the complicated dynamics of a situation and to translate the information into a digestible and relatable way. This soft skill set was critical as Danielle helped to create Twenty-One Senses; a nonprofit organization focused on advancing inclusion for children with invisible disabilities. She is the Founding Director of Programs and Operations.

Danielle is the mother of two amazing neurodiverse children and has over two decades of experience navigating the medical, educational, and social systems for both her and her children. Danielle is passionate about creating a strong community of families, businesses, civic organizations, and schools that are educated and supportive of individuals who experience the world in their own way. This emphasis on empathy, inclusion, and support is central to all aspects of Danielle’s life.

When Danielle is not focused on Twenty-One Senses, she can be found outside with her husband, two kids, and dog or actively volunteering in the community with Cub Scouts or other youth organizations.

Madelyn Kooima, BS

Communication Sciences & Disorders, New Hampshire

Madelyn Kooima is a woman with wavy blond hair picture outside in the summer in front of a big window.

Madelyn Kooima graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (UWEC) with a bachelor’s of science (BS) in communication sciences and disorders. This degree provided Madelyn with the foundational knowledge and experience to pursue a master’s degree in communication sciences and disorders at the University of New Hampshire (UNH). While successfully completing her BS, Madelyn also gained skills in group leadership, interpersonal-professional relationships, and providing in-home care support.

Apart from her many academic commitments, she dedicated much of her time to the UWEC leadership training program, Special Olympics, Jacob’s Well Church, and working as an at-home care provider. These experiences taught Madelyn the importance and power of community support and communication and providing appropriate and adequate care to persons with disabilities. Madelyn worked closely with families and their children with disabilities in her volunteer positions at Camp Barnabas (a camp for children with disabilities and their families), the Special Olympics, the Jacob's Well Church, and in her clinical work at UNH.

Madelyn hopes to pursue a career that allows her to continue her work within the disability community as her passion lies in the power of individual self-expression and ensuring modes of communication for all.

Shannon Laine, MM

Family, New Hampshire

Shannon Laine is a woman with dark blond hair pictured outside in front of a shrubbery.

Shannon Laine, MM, MT-BC, is a Board-Certified Music Therapist and music educator, holding a bachelor’s in music therapy from Anna Maria College and a master’s in music education (Autism Concentration) from The Boston Conservatory at Berklee. Having founded the first community music school-supported music therapy program in New Hampshire in 2006, Shannon has an extensive background working with clients ages birth through adult with a variety of diagnoses in both school and community-based settings.

In addition to attending advanced music therapy training (including Neurologic Music Therapy and Sprouting Melodies), Shannon maintains a special interest in the intersections of music therapy and music education. A member of the disability community since she was a teenager (when her cousin was born with Down syndrome), Shannon now raises a son who identifies as neurodiverse.

Shannon remains committed to advocacy within the disability community and beyond and has volunteered in numerous capacities. She has worked for Special Olympics, is a founding member of the New Hampshire Music Therapy Taskforce, has rewritten the New Hampshire Arts Standards (as a disability specialist), and currently serves as President Elect of the New England Region of the American Music Therapy Association. She is a supporter of strengths-based and neuro-affirming practices that allow all individuals to reach their fullest potential.

Callie Laprise, BS

Communication Sciences & Disorders, New Hampshire

Callie Laprise is a woman with wavy brown hair wearing a floral print sundress pictured in front of the UNH Library

Callie Laprise is a graduate student at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, NH studying communication and sciences disorders. Callie also obtained her bachelor’s of science (BS) at the University of New Hampshire with the same focus. Her education has provided Callie with a wealth of knowledge and skills related to language acquisition, neurological disorders, feeding and swallowing difficulties, and communication disorders across the lifespan.

As a part of her master’s program, Callie works with clients to improve their speech and language differences and disorders, providing her with optimal hands-on experience. In addition to schooling, Callie has gained valuable knowledge in the field of applied behavior analysis as she spent the last two summers working in day programs with children and adults with autism spectrum disorder. Throughout her undergraduate and graduate careers, Callie has also worked for TRIO Scholars, a federal program that provides academic support services to students in underserved communities. Through Callie’s experiences, she has become more aware of the need for advocacy and education in programs involving families and children with disabilities.

Callie believes that through advocacy and education, effective change can be made in policies, supports, and initiatives to improve the quality of life of those impacted. Serving this population has always been important to Callie and she strives to have a positive influence on all those with whom she works. Callie is excited to begin her LEND journey and broaden her knowledge working with children who have neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Nathaniel Livernois, BA

Self-Advocate, New Hampshire

Nathaniel Livernois is a man with wavy brown hair wearing glasses, pictured outside in front of a building with an a-framed window entrance.

Nathaniel graduated Assumption College with a bachelor’s in Theology and minors in Philosophy and Writing. In addition to teaching him valuable written and verbal communication skills, Nathaniel’s education helped to provide him with a breadth of knowledge on the intrinsic value of the human person.

Nathaniel is also a New Hampshire Leadership graduate from the class of 2022, and recently completed a fellowship with the Self Advocacy Resource and Training Center (SARTAC). Through this fellowship, Nathaniel helped to revise the history session in the Leadership Series. This education and training have helped Nathaniel act on his desire to serve his community.

The desire to serve has always been a core part of Nathaniel’s character. Helping other people with disabilities to live better is a joy unto itself for him -- making it a career is just a perk that comes with doing what he loves. Nathanial does not consider himself a “self-advocate” but rather an “advocate.” To limit oneself to advocacy for a single person detracts from the purpose of advocacy: to speak and provide information for those who need it most. Nathaniel’s goal is to help those he can without putting arbitrary limits on himself. He hopes that through the LEND program, this aspiration can be made possible.

Stephaine Lloyd, BA

Social Work, New Hampshire

Stephanie Lloyd is a woman with straight red hair

Stephaine Lloyd graduated cum laude from Barstow Community College, California, where she obtained her associates of arts (AA) degree in child development. After graduation, she began her journey in education, teaching in preschools in both California and Texas. While in these positions, Stephaine held the position of Assistant Director in California and began taking on leadership roles. While teaching, she quickly realized there were skills and tools she would need to learn how to provide a better education for her students. Stephaine began her next adventure at Western Governors University, Utah where she obtained a bachelor’s of arts (BA) in both special education and elementary education. These degrees prepared Stephaine to teach children with many different diagnoses both in Wisconsin and Oklahoma.

Stephaine has a love for working with children and found a passion in working with students diagnosed specifically with behavior disorders. These experiences introduced Stephaine to children with trauma backgrounds, which led her to begin a journey into trauma-informed care. While working in these positions, Stephaine became a lead special education teacher in Oklahoma and was nominated the following year as an educator of the year. Again, Stephaine realized there were many skills to be learned to better serve and support children and families within the school communities. Today Stephaine is working towards a master’s in social work from the University of New Hampshire.

Kasey McBlais, BA

Family, Maine

Kasey McBlais is a woman with short brown hair styled in a bob, pictured outside on a summer day in the shade of some trees

Kasey McBlais is a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology, where she obtained a bachelor’s of fine arts (BFA) in Photojournalism. After graduating in 2006, Kasey joined Americorps and served a rural K-12 school community in Montana. She returned to Maine in 2010 to be closer to her family. Since then, Kasey has dedicated herself to supporting children and families in a variety of settings, including managing a group home for at-risk girls, as a behavioral health professional, working with youth in therapeutic foster care, and most recently as a Recruiter with the A Family for ME program.

As a successful recruiter with A Family for ME, Kasey works with families and community partners to ensure every Maine child has a safe and loving home. In 2020, Kasey was selected to participate in the Maine State Parent Ambassador training program, which empowers parents to better advocate for themselves and their children. Through the program and now as an active alumni, she continues to gain experience as a public speaker, legislative advocate, and organizational leader.

As a parent, caregiver, and advocate for her neurodiverse 5-year-old son, she has collaborated with organizations such as Zero to Three, Caring Across Generations, and Maine Association for the Education of Young Children (MAEYC) to share her story and influence public policy. She is honored to lift her voice for her own family and families like hers.

Sabitri Rayamajhi, MPH

Social Work, New Hampshire

Sabitri Rayamajhi is a woman with curly brown and blond highlighted hair, wearing gold hoop earrings and smiling on a bright sunny day

Sabitri Rayamajhi is a graduate student at the University of New Hampshire in the field of social work. Sabitri also has a master’s in public health from the University of Bedfordshire, England. She has worked nationally and internationally in the field of public health and social work including child welfare, mental health, and developmental disabilities. She has spent almost a decade working in the field of health and human services.

In recent years, Sabitri’s work experience and her degree provided her with an opportunity to work on steering committees for the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI NH). At NAMI, she has worked as community support staff in the children’s department, supporting children of families who have serious mental health issues. Sabitri also collaborated with Boston Children’s Hospital, North America Family Institute, the Institute on Disability (IOD), Waypoint, and Keene State College to increase community engagement with the New American community. Her work experience has enhanced Sabitri’s interests and knowledge to better serve children and families with disabilities.

Serving and advocating for children with disabilities has always been important to Sabitri. In the last eight years, she has been working as a home care provider with an individual who has mental and physical health challenges. In serving the individual’s needs, the tasks she performs include encouraging the individual to advocate for himself, assisting him with medical appointments, connecting him with needed resources, making him aware of any abuses/maltreatment by others, and helping him find a job.

Fozia Robleh, BS

Education Administration, Maine

Fozia Robleh is a woman wearing glasses and a graduation cap over a hijab head scarf and graduation robes with a yellow scarf/trim for high honors

Fozia Ahmed Robleh was born and raised in the Republic of Djibouti. While she migrated as a non-English speaker, Fozia now has a Bachelor of Science in social and behavioral science and accomplished her degree with the highest honor. Fozia has always been passionate about serving her community, starting by working with disabled students as a substitute teacher at Lewiston Public Schools.

Along with working as an advocate for domestic violence and sexual assault victims, she also coordinated the victims and their children's needs by providing them with logistic, judicial, and mental support referrals. Fozia also worked as a Carrier Specialist in a non-profit organization collaborating with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to support families in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and under government assistance to provide needed support for self-sufficiency. Fozia conducted thorough intake interviews to find their work and education interests for a successful work placement, on-the-job training, or four-year university programs which can fit their professional goals.

To continue exercising her passion for serving and supporting her community, Fozia applied for the NH-ME LEND program to get the needed training and skills to learn how to work efficiently with children and adolescents with neurodevelopmental disabilities in the future.

Katherine Russum, BA

Psychology, Maine

Katherine Russum is a woman with straight blond hair, wearing glasses and pictured outside with mountains and pine trees in the distance

Katherine Russum is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, where she obtained a BA in psychology. This is where Katherine discovered her interest in family studies and child development. After graduating, Katherine worked as a behavioral health professional, and later, a child welfare social worker for nearly 8 years. Her role as a behavioral health professional allowed her to support her clients in learning new skills and joined in celebrating their achievements. She most fondly remembers witnessing her first client tie their shoe for the first time after hours of practicing.

As a Resource Specialist at Help Me Grow Maine, Katherine works to increase many families’ connections to services they need across the state. Being a Resource Specialist allows Katherine to support families getting connected to early intervention services, parental support, and other resources. Katherine’s favorite part of working with Help Me Grow is hearing when a family is finally connected to a service they have been waiting for and helping them overcome barriers they have experienced in accessing services.

Katherine has a specific interest in legislative reporting and generating policies to ensure that all children's needs are being met and advocated for. Through her participation in the NH-ME LEND Program, she is looking forward to increasing her knowledge about factors that contribute to gaps and barriers of service provision, and ways to minimize them.

Emily Seymour, BA

Social Work, New Hampshire

Emily Seymour is a woman with dark brown hair, pulled back, and pictured outside in a bright green forest

Emily Seymour is a master of social work student at the University of New Hampshire and expects to graduate in May 2024. She completed UNH’s Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice Graduate Certificate, which provided a focus on disability equity in education. She holds a bachelor’s degree in community and human services from State University of New York (SUNY) Empire State College and is a graduate of the Atlantic Acting School Conservatory in New York City.

While living in New York City, Emily engaged in the creative arts community, co-founded a theater company, worked in childcare, and began working in mental health. She has worked at community mental health agencies in New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Her roles included vocational specialist, family case manager, residential shift leader, and clinical MSW intern. She volunteered with Project Home serving asylum-seekers in New Hampshire, and with Green Lion Sri Lanka working with women and children with disabilities.

Working in diverse communities has equipped Emily to serve people with many different life experiences. Advocacy and empowerment are central to her work. She utilizes a trauma-informed lens and a person-in-environment perspective. With the understanding that individuals are experts of their own lives, she strives to support her clients as they realize their unique potential. In her social work career, Emily hopes to use clinical and systems-level perspectives to disrupt cycles of oppression. Emily looks forward to deepening her understanding of disability equity, policy, and leadership through the LEND program.

Klarissa Wankel, BA

Social Work, New Hampshire

Klarissa Wankel is a woman with wavy blond hair, pictured in a formal portrait setting wearing a dark off the shoulder blouse and gold necklace.

Klarissa Wankel received a bachelor of art’s (BA) degree in psychology with minors in political science and health, medicine, and society from Stony Brook University in 2021. This degree provided Klarissa with a wide range of skills that allowed her to pursue a career working with both children and adults with mental health conditions. Klarissa spent five years as a volunteer for Special Olympics, helping children with neurodevelopmental disabilities learn new skills and engage in an active lifestyle. In addition to her volunteer work, Klarissa spent three years working as a teaching assistant in a special education program in New York. In this position, she provided one-on-one classroom assistance, engaged in Individualized Education Plan (IEP) development, and implementation of early interventions.

Outside her work with children, Klarissa has spent four years working as a crisis counselor for the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. In this role, she provides individual counseling to callers, conducts suicide assessments, and connects individuals with resources. Klarissa has used her experience in suicide prevention to be an advocate. She has joined the National Association of Social Workers New Hampshire (NASW-NH) Chapter’s Children's Issues Committee and has been an active member in planning workshops. She also co-presented at the NASW-NH Conference presenting “Working with New Moms: Incorporating Suicide Prevention.” Continuing to provide community education and engaging in disability advocacy is extremely important to Klarissa. She looks forward to building upon her skills in this area to best serve the children and families with whom she works.

Rachel Williams, BA

Early Childhood Education, Maine

Rachel Williams is a woman with wavy brown hair

Rachel Williams is a mother of three sons and a stepdaughter. She has an associate degree in early childhood and BS in liberal studies with a minor in education. Rachel has a son that has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder so has a firsthand look at what a family experiences with a child who is neurodevelopmentally different.

Rachel is immensely passionate about working with children, particularly on education, advocacy, and mental health in early childhood. She believes that all individuals inherently hold strengths and resilience and understands the utmost importance of meeting people where they are. She acknowledges the dignity and worth of every individual, advocating for social justice and accessibility as much as humanly possible. Outside of work, Rachel likes to be outdoors hiking, camping, and skiing. She also enjoys spending time with family.

Through the NH-ME LEND Program, Rachel hopes to learn about neurodevelopmental disabilities, engage in interprofessional practice and develop her leadership skills. She is also excited to learn more about policy and advocacy projects for individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities as part of the LEND experience.