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Barbara Hoffman
Assistant Coordinator

Barb Hoffman has been a per diem employee of Parent to Parent for since 2012 working with both the Finger Lakes and Western New York offices. Already a valuable asset as a Support Parent, in her per diem role Barb supports our coordinators in a geographically large and diverse coverage area. Additionally Barb represents Parent to Parent of NYS and the families we serve on the Money Follows the Person and Navigating Multiple Systems statewide committees.


Barbara’s journey into the world of developmental disabilities started in 1990 when her oldest son Kurt was born with Down syndrome and associated medical problems. Having a child with a developmental disability prompted Barb to become an active member of the special needs community. Barb was a member of one of the first Partners in Policymaking classes as well as the Visions and Values trainings.

Barb is proud to tell us that Kurt currently has a part-time job at a local grocery store for 4 hours a week and volunteers in the community at the local nursing home, a food pantry, Meals on Wheels, the library, etc. In April 2013 Kurt was given the Arc of Orleans annual Community Service Award for his numerous volunteer activities in the community. Barb also has a son, Eric, who has autism. Eric also does lots of volunteering and is an active member of the community. Barb has been married to Bob for more than 30 years and admits her house is very busy, and full of testosterone.

Barb’s grandparents were florists and taught her how to grow all sorts of flowers. Barb can often be found with a flower in her hair and always brings flowers to outreach events. Barb has been to Hawaii twice and signs off her emails with ‘aloha.’ Barb says that, even on a bad day, ‘aloha’ makes her happy.

Working for Parent to Parent of NYS has allowed Barb to help other parents by giving them the tools they need to help their own children lead successful lives.



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Julia Luppino
Regional Coordinator

Julia Luppino is a Regional Coordinator in the Staten Island office of Parent to Parent N.Y. State. Julia has been involved with the special needs community since 2007, when her son James was diagnosed prenatally with Down Syndrome and congenital heart defect. From her own experience Julia knows how important it is for families to know there is support available and that they do not have to face the challenges of being a parent of a child who has a developmental disability or special healthcare needs in isolation.


As a member of the Staten Island Down Syndrome support group, Julia has both received and provided support from and to other families. After her youngest son was born both having Down Syndrome and congenital heart defect, her world was turned upside down. Doctors, medical tests, therapy, and early intervention consumed her family life. Her baby had two open heart surgeries, and other medical problems that required two more surgeries before he turned three. Meeting and sharing resources with other parents of children who shared the same diagnoses as her son helped her to get through these difficult times.

Julia has since become an advocate for people who have developmental disabilities and their caregivers. She believes that if you help the parent, you are also helping the child. Julia is the PTA President at her sons school. She is also the co-chair of the Schools Leadership Team and is an IEP Parent member. Julia is a member of the Staten Island Developmental Disability Council. She is on the SIDDC Education committee, and the Family Supports and Services committee.

Julia is excited to contribute to the work and mission of Parent to Parent NYS.

Julia resides in Staten Island with her husband and four children. Her oldest son is a Middle School Science teacher, her daughter is a college student who plans to be an engineer. Julia also has a sixth grade student who enjoys Lego robotics, and a fourth grade student who enjoys swimming and gymnastics.



.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | 1-800-866-1068; (718) 494-3462



Dawn Bozuhoski
Online Content Editor

Dawn Bozuhoski is an Online Content Editor for Parent to Parent of NYS. Dawn majored in Advertising and Marketing as well as Parent Advocacy. Additionally, Dawn has spent more than twenty years working for news media in both print and online capacity as a copy/photo/content editor as well as a Graphic Artist. Along with her professional experience, Dawn co-founded and provided management and technical work for an online parent support website for over 15 years offering an opportunity for parents to provide support to other parents of children with special needs and medically complex children.


In recent years, in addition to her continued work for an online newspaper, Dawn has worked part-time as a marketing coordinator as well as a number of years working for two school districts. In marketing she learned a great deal about how to present information to the public in a clear, concise and engaging manner. Her work for school districts has helped her understand their point of view, which in turn, has assisted her in her advocacy for her child as well as advice given to other parents.

Dawn has lived in 12 cities across the United States and Canada. She and her family currently live in Suffolk County, on Long Island, where she and her husband are raising their four children. The two oldest children were diagnosed with Reflux as infants and experienced many difficulties at that time. It was that experience that prompted her to co-found an online support group which offered support to children with Digestive Disorders. Over time that group expanded to include children with many needs ranging from behavioral to medically complex and fragile children. The group provided support to well over 10,000 families world-wide.

Dawn's oldest child was diagnosed at the age of four with Asperger's Syndrome. It was this journey that led her to become educated in advocacy, in order to both help her child as well as other parents in the community. To that end, she became trained in lay advocacy following which she helped to start a local PTA for her school district.

As a mother to three teenagers and a toddler, Dawn seldom has free time, however in those occasions when such time does present itself, she enjoys reading, drawing and painting. Currently, she is preparing herself and her oldest child to go off to College in the fall of 2017, a prospect that is both thrilling and terrifying.

She is currently a Girl Scout leader for two troops; and acts as chauffeur for all of her children's various programs and activities.



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Valeria Jimenez
Coordinadora Regional; Regional Coordinator


Valeria Jiménez es la Coordinadora Regional de la oficina del Distrito Capital en Parent to Parent of NYS. En esta posición, se proporciona información, referencias y apoyo a las familias de niños con discapacidades del desarrollo y otras necesidades de salud en el Distrito Capital. Ella obtuvo una licenciatura en psicología en UTESA en la República Dominicana; Ella actualmente asiste a la Universidad para obtener un título de asociado en Servicios Humanos en Schenectady County Community College. Valeria ha sido voluntario en Delaware Community School en Albany en el año escolar 2014.

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Valeria Jimenez is a Regional Coordinator for the Capital District office for Parent to Parent of NYS. In this position she provides information, referrals and support to families of children with developmental disabilities and other healthcare needs in the Capital District and surrounding counties. She has earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from UTESA, Dominican Republic and is currently attending college to pursue an associate degree in Human Services at Schenectady County Community College. Valeria has been a volunteer in Delaware Community School in Albany during the 2014 school year.

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Valeria comenzó su vocación en el campo, después que su hijo Uriel fue diagnosticado con autismo, trastorno por déficit de atención con hiperactividad en 2009, trastorno de ansiedad (NOS y déficit intelectual en 2014.


"Fue un gran desafío el diagnóstico, porque nos acabamos de mudar desde la Ciudad de Nueva York a Albany, no conocíamos a nadie y muy poca gente podía darnos información sobre el autismo en español; Por lo tanto, me siento muy comprometida con Parent to Parent of NYS, porque sé que puedo ayudar a muchas familias hispanas y no hispanas en la canalización de las necesidades de los distintos tipos de discapacidad que tienen sus hijos ".

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Valeria began her vocation in the field after her son Uriel was diagnosed with Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in 2009 and then Anxiety Disorder NOS and Intellectual Disability in 2014.


Valeria shares: It was a great challenge to receive the diagnosis because we had just moved from NYC to Albany; we knew no one and very few people could give us information about autism in Spanish. Therefore I am deeply committed to Parent to Parent of NYS because I know I can help many Hispanic and non-Hispanic families with the needs they face raising children with various disabilities.

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.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | (518) 381-4350




Shannon McCracken
Regional Coordinator

Shannon McCracken is the Regional Coordinator for the WNY office for Parent to Parent of NYS. In this position, she provides information, referrals and support to families of children with developmental disabilities and other healthcare needs in Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans, and Wyoming counties. Prior to her position here, she was an intern for Parent to Parent in Spring of 2016 to fulfill requirements towards her Associates degree. She has a Human Services Certificate from Erie Community College and is currently attending school to pursue a degree in Social Science. Shannon has been a Volunteer Support Parent for Parent to Parent of NYS since 2013, after asking a member of the the organization to be a speaker for her Autism Awareness event.


Through her internship, education and personal experience Shannon has excellent knowledge of Individual Support Plans, Individual Education Plans, different Therapy approaches and Coping skills, community resources and services for people with disabilities. Shannon has a knack for problem solving, especially when it involves helping others; she is always willing to go the extra mile for anyone in need.

Shannon is a single mother of an amazingly funny and compassionate teenage boy. Her son was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of six. She was determined to get her son all of the services he needed to prevail, prompting her to learn everything she could regarding different therapies and ways to help her son thrive. Shannon truly believes that her son is the incredible person he is today due to their supportive family (especially her parents) and her son’s perseverance to overcome any obstacle he may come across.



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E. Yvette James
Director of Programs

 

E. Yvette James has joined the staff of Parent to Parent of New York State as Director of Programs.  Yvette is a recent recipient of a Masters of Arts degree in Public and Social Policy from Empire State College/SUNY.  Previous to her position with Parent to Parent, Yvette managed various anti-hunger initiatives including W.I.C. and SNAP outreach programs.   She has five years’ experience in the emergency preparedness arena working for FEMA as well the American Red Cross.  Additionally, she has ten years’ experience in working with adults with disabilities in residential settings.  However it is her role as sister to a differently abled adult that attracted her to the Parent to Parent organization and its’ mission.


 

Yvette has assisted her mother and witnessed best friends struggle with the challenges of securing educational and employment opportunities for her brother and her friend’s children, respectively.  In her role with Parent to Parent of NYS, Yvette hopes to promote the services of the organization to populations unaware of the vast resources available to support families as they meet these and other similar challenges. 


Yvette’s strengths are in contract management, outreach and finding resources with the goal to work with people to find applicable solutions to specific life challenges.  She is excited to be part of a team that educates and empowers people to make informed choices.  A talker, a story teller and a public speaker, Yvette uses all these talents to engage and educate the public.  


Yvette is the mom of an awesome teenager and is soon to become a married person.  She enjoys travel, museums, aquatic education and quality time with friends and family.  She hopes to pursue her dream of a PhD in policy in the near future. 


Yvette attributes her effective advocacy skills to her mom.  



.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | (518) 381-4350




Lindsey Pensabene
Regional Coordinator

Lindsey Pensabene is a Regional Coordinator in the Capital District office of Parent to Parent NYS. Lindsey holds degrees in both Business Administration and Culinary Arts, and is a parent to two young children. Lindsey has a passion and thirst for knowledge about developmental disabilities, with the purpose of helping other families to become greater advocates for their children. Lindsey feels strongly that knowledge is power. She believes that given proper support, parents of children with special needs can present the best version of themselves to the world. Lindsey feels that being a part of the community of special needs parents has been essential to her family’s well-being throughout their journey. 


Lindsey chose to be a stay at home parent after the birth of her son in 2009. She began researching developmental disabilities in 2010 because of the extreme behaviors her son was exhibiting. She felt confused and lonely, certain that no one would understand him. After four years of learning about developmental disabilities and seeing many doctors and specialists, Lindsey’s son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory issues and suspected ADHD. She became frustrated with how hard it was to get her son seen by the right person and decided to take action. She completed the Parent to Parent NYS Intensive Lay Advocacy Training Series as well as the Parent Education Program through SUNY Albany’s Center for Autism and Related Disabilities. Lindsey goes to any and every informational workshop or seminar she can find related to developmental disabilities and plans to use this education in her quest to help as many people as possible. Her son’s behaviors and challenges are ever-changing, causing Lindsey to live on her toes. This also allows her to keep current on different methods to deal with challenging behavior and different kinds of sensory input.


In her free time, Lindsey loves cooking, hiking, kayaking and doing anything outdoors with her husband, kids and dog.


Lindsey can be reached at (518)381-4350, extension 26 or lpensabene@ptopnys.org. She is always happy to listen and help.



.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | (518) 381-4350, Ext. 26




Trish Washburn
Education Advocate

Trish Washburn is an Education Advocate with the Capital District Office of Parent  to Parent of NYS.  Prior to working with Parent to Parent of NYS, she worked at the Capital Region Child and Adolescent Mobile Crisis Team. Trish has a son and a daughter on the autistic spectrum. She is very passionate about helping parents with a children with various types of disabilities. Her motto is “Knowledge is Power.”

 




.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | 1-800-305-8817 or (518) 381-4350 ext 23




Alissa Morris
Regional Coordinator

 

Alissa Morris is a Regional Coordinator for Parent to Parent at the Long Island office located in Hauppauge, NY.  In this position, she provides information, guidance, and support to families of children with developmental disabilities, drawing from her own experience as the mother of two boys with autism. Connecting with other special needs parents has gotten Alissa through the most difficult and isolating of times. These connections have opened up countless opportunities for her family, and have helped her learn how to be a strong advocate for her sons. She is thrilled to be able to connect fellow special needs moms and dads with the support and resources they need in her new position.


Prior to joining Parent to Parent, Alissa worked in the field of international education, coordinating academic and professional exchange programs between the United States and the countries of the former Soviet Union. Alissa began her international career by serving in the Peace Corps, and she has lived overseas in Uzbekistan and Slovakia.

 

Alissa has her Bachelor’s degree in English from SUNY Geneseo. Outside of the office, she enjoys cooking and exploring Long Island’s beautiful beaches with her husband and boys. 



.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | (631) 434-6196




Dianne O’Connor
Regional Coordinator

Dianne O’Connor came to the Capital Region office of Parent to Parent of NYS in October 2014. Prior to working with Parent to Parent, she worked for the NYS Research Foundation of Mental Hygiene at the NYS Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services implementing a sub-contract for SAMHSA on the Prevention of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). She is a certified FASD trainer through the Center for Disease Control and has been a national speaker and advocate for families who have loved ones with FASD. Over the years she has helped her children to also advocate for themselves and has brought them with her on many New York State and national speaking engagements. In 2005, Dianne received  the  New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner’s Service  Award for her work on FASD prevention. Dianne’s passion to help those with FASD and the families who love them has kept her going. She tells families, “Don’t stress if you don’t get it right or fall back on old parenting ways. It’s OK. Our loved ones have memory issue so you get a ‘do over’ to try it again.”  Dianne continues to work with NYS OASAS on the FASD Interagency Workgroup.


Dianne’s family is a blend of foster, adoptive, and birth children and a huge sense of pride for her and her husband.  In addition to her work in the field of FASD, Dianne also is an adoption and foster-care advocate and worked as a Post Adoption Advocate for many years. Through this work, she was able to help set up many parent support groups and connect people with needed services in their communities. She was the foster care and adoption family member on the Children’s Coordinated Service Initiative Tier III, working with state level representatives from the various service delivery systems to help families with children who had unique treatment and service needs. Dianne is a certified MAPP trainer and has helped  develop several foster and adoptive family curriculums. 

Dianne and her husband Mickey have been married for 40 years and have nine children, several with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. They also have four grandchildren, two of which they are raising. Dianne states about her grandchildren, “We are having fun with our grandchildren. They keep us young and we seem to be more patient with them than we were with their parents. We aren’t starting over, we are just continuing with our family.” Dianne enjoyed her time as a volunteer at a local day care center rocking babies until starting at Parent to Parent. When Dianne is not busy working on her college course work, she loves to read and go to camp. Her guilty pleasure is watching Project Runway. 



.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | (518) 381-4350




Jacqui Liebman
Assistant Coordinator

Jacqui Liebman, now Assistant Coordinator, was the Regional Coordinator for the Finger Lakes office of Parent to Parent of New York.  In this position, she provided support, information, and referrals to families of children with developmental disabilities and special healthcare needs in Monroe, Livingston, Ontario, Wayne, and Yates counties.  As part of a family touched by developmental disabilities, Jacqui feels passionately about helping individuals with special needs and their families. 

 


In addition to her work at Parent to Parent of NYS, Jacqui is the Coordinator of the Brighton School District for TIES (Together Including Every Student) program, which promotes inclusion for all students by using trained peer volunteers to support students with disabilities in extra-curricular and community activities.  Jacqui also volunteers through the Advocacy Center as a trained lay advocate and through AutismUp as a trained mentor, and presents on the topic of disability awareness to students at the elementary, middle, and high schools in Brighton.


Jacqui has a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and lives in Rochester, NY with her husband, Scott, and two children, Matthew and Alex.



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Kerbanoo D Rozario
Regional Coordinator

 

My name is Kerbanoo D'Rozario, my husband and I are the proud parents of a 23 year old son and an 18 year old daughter. I would like to share my experience of what brought me here today to be a part of Parent to Parent.


After a perfect story book pregnancy with my first born, my son had the most traumatic birth. Yohaan came into this world paralyzed due to a clavicle break, aspirated and had asphyxia' causing him to have multiple seizures. I had no concept of what his life was going to be, the medical accident had left my husband and me so astounded & emotionless. I mechanically began doing everything to get him into a peaceful space. I had been an educator who had volunteered at schools for Children with Special Needs but was not educated enough to understand the depth of my challenges.


I had left home straight after high school, and after my education drowned myself into a career of Art and Design that I was always passionate about. Walter, my husband and I had wanted to settle in India as close to our parents as possible. Yohaan's birth changed our thought pattern and when, Walter got his next offer to work in New York we moved uprooting ourselves from our accustomed lifestyle and ambitious careers but leaving India and my parents was most devastating.


Yohaan's greatest teaching to me has been do not look at what a person cannot do or to worry about what he is going to be able to do but, to enjoy what he can do and embrace it. Yohaan is a young man who is physically challenged, in a wheelchair, completely dependent, non verbal and is fed by a g-tube. He has gone through school in an inclusion program, spoken with an augmentative device with his peers and has walked at the special games strapped in a device with complete support. His humor and yet serious personality have made me understand so much as we as a family have crossed over several medical hurdles.


In return, his sister has taught me to enjoy life with Yohaan like driving on an open road  journey with a couple of bumps and a slight curve but the scenic view does not change. Life has not been as easy as it is written and we have had to go through our erratic times bringing up two children in two different styles of life and yet trying to bring about as much normality and harmony as possible without any emotional or physical family support. Socially we have included both our children equally and tried not to deprive our daughter with the emotional could haves and would haves but that, has been a stepper and more challenging hill to climb.


The Big Apple is culturally so similar to India but landing in New York was so emotionally cold and lonely, I had to make new attachments with people, build a space to call home, learn how to achieve a better medical and educational life for Yohaan. I was thankful for my upbeat personality and positive outlook that gave me the strength to move on this journey, now Yohaan was my educator. When I met up with the first evaluation team and support systems, I was oblivious of the fact that, I was getting involved with families taking them through the similar paths with me as I learned. I joined every group at school level PTA, SLT, support teams and attended every meeting that I learnt about at the State or city level, I made sure I was seen & heard because this was opening doors for me to be a better advocate.. The medical and school staff that I came across sent me contacts to reach out to advocate in different ways. I took these opportunities was able to support families and guide them about the correct language and respect of this new world that I had stepped into.


     Being appointed as a NYC Regional Coordinator by Parents to Parent of NYS gives me an opportunity and a platform to be able to walk this walk with other parents and be able to reach out emotionally and advocate to even a larger population. It give me the good fortune to share what I have learnt to be able to make a difference in the lives of others.  No one should ever have to take this journey alone.



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Kerbanoo D’Rozario Delivers Keynote at Q811 June 2013

Commencement address made by Kerbanoo D’Rozario, Regional Coordinator for Parent to Parent of NYS, New York City office on June 20, 2013


Good morning, to all Administrators, Teachers, Staff, Parent, Caregivers, Family & Friends Special Shout out & Congratulations to the Graduates of Q811 at QHST

 

Last Wednesday, I was at a Committee for Day Hab meeting, and at the end of the meal I opened a fortune cookie. It read… "You will receive some high prize or award soon”

 

I had just accepted this most honorable invitation to talk to a class of graduates and that too from Q811. What better award could I have been given?

 

I have it etched in my memory, the day I visited Q811 Marathon parkway in 1995. It has been an extension of Yohaan’s life for over 16 years, hence making it a part of our family. He had the opportunity to attend three of their sites and eventually graduated from QHST.

 

Read more by downloading the PDF.


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Lin Perry
Family to Family Project Director

Lin Perry is the Family to Family Project Director for Parent to Parent of NYS and works out of the South Central Regional Office located in Vestal, NY.  Lin holds a Master of Public Administration degree from Binghamton University, a BA in Economics from SUNY Cortland and an AS in Business Administration from Broome Community College.  Prior to becoming a parent, Lin enjoyed a career in public and private Finance.  Lin is a problem solver and enjoys helping people navigate complex systems.  Having children with special needs has led her to use her skills on a different career pathway.

 


Lin is the proud mom of four children who all have a currently unspecified Connective Tissue Disorder.  The children also have other diagnoses such as ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, Neuro-Motor Coordination Disorder, Developmental Coordination Disorder, and have both visual and aortic abnormalities.  Discovering that all of her children posses this genetic condition was very difficult for Lin.  What has gotten her though the rough times is having other parents that she can reach out to for support.  Lin understands the complexity of raising a child (or children) with special needs and how having the right support network makes all the difference in helping those children reach their full potential.

Lin lives in Broome County with her husband, Brian, and their children, Erin, Aedan, Ian and Declan.  They also have three cats and a dog.  Lin loves to be outdoors and she and her family enjoy camping.
 



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Valerie Colavecchio
Regional Coordinator

 

Valerie Colavecchio is a Regional Coordinator for Parent to Parent at the Long Island office located in Hauppauge, NY.  Before joining the staff at Parent to Parent, her involvement in the disability and special needs community began several years ago, with the birth of her son. Valerie's son was born with a visual impairment and rare genetic disorder called Galactosemia. Having a child with special needs motivated Valerie to become involved with helping other parents in similar situations.   

 


Prior to working for Parent to Parent, Valerie’s career included corporate recruiting. Years of corporate networking and recruiting have helped Valerie effectively reach out to the special needs community on Long Island. Connecting parents with other parents is very important to Valerie, which is why The Parent to Parent Matching Program is something Valerie is passionate about.  Valerie feels that matching parents with other parents helps everyone realize they are not alone. The disability or special need may be different but as parents, the experiences and journeys tend to be similar.

In addition to working for Parent to Parent, Valerie is on the board for The Miracle League of Long Island, is on the council for her local SEPTA, a Parent Member for her school district and actively involved with her local township to ensure programs are created for special needs children.

 

 



.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | (631) 434-6196




Sandra Bigelow
Tech Support Specialist and Assistant Coordinator

 

As Technology Support Specialist, Sandra Bigelow helps Parent to Parent of NYS best utilize modern technology to carry out its mission.  Sandy began her career with Parent to Parent in December 2000 and served as a regional coordinator for ten years.  With an office in Canton, Sandy continues to assist the North Country Regional Coordinator in providing service to the St. Lawrence County area.  Prior to working for Parent to Parent, Sandy created  a newsletter for families raising prematurely born children which she  published for five years.  Sandy began learning about personal computers and using the internet while publishing the newsletter and quickly learned she had a natural ability for working with technology.

 


Sandy holds an A.S. in Human Services from State University of New York at Canton and a certificate for Secretarial Education from Northwest Tech BOCES.  Sandy also worked as a parent educator teaching families about preschool special education.  Sandy was a reviewer and contributor for Your Premature Baby and Child by Amy Tracy and Diane Maroney.

 

Sandy has a knack at seeing the good in any situation and sees a problem as a challenge to find a number of possible solutions from which to choose the best one.  Sandy finds these qualities as beneficial when working with families as well as when working in technology.  

 

Sandy resides in St. Lawrence County with her two young adult children whom were both born prematurely. Sandy has first-hand experience on partnering with community resources from raising her daughter who has cerebral palsy, cortical vision impairment and a mild intellectual disability.  

 

Sandy has served on various local boards and committees advocating for people with special needs and their families including St. Lawrence NYSARC and St. Lawrence County ‘s MRDD Subcommittee.  Sandy’s hobbies include crocheting, scrapbooking, camping, gardening and attending classic car shows.  A personal goal of Sandy’s is is to own a classic car or truck and show it at the Syracuse Nationals.

 



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315-379-1538




Ellen McHugh
Regional Program Manager and Regional Coordinator

 

Ellen Mc Hugh has been employed by Parent to Parent of NY State since 1995.  Parent to Parent of NY State’s New York City office began as a one person office in Brooklyn and has expanded to six employees in the NYC area. Our new offices are located at 25 Beaver Street, in downtown Manhattan.   


Ellen attended elementary and high schools in Brooklyn and Hunter College, CUNY.  While at Hunter and during a semester in Ireland, Ellen was a participant in a joint project with Trinity College, Dublin and University College, Dublin appearing in a student production of James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake with  The Abbey Theater, Dublin.  After returning to the States, Ellen was employed as an editor for Plenum Press of New York and London.  Shortly after her return to the States, Ellen married John Mc Hugh.  They are the proud parents of three young men, one of which has a severe to profound hearing loss.


After a few years off to be with her three children, Ellen served as a Parent Member of the Committee on Special Education for five years.  Upon leaving the CSE, Ellen worked in the Chancellor’s Office for Student Advocacy at the NYC Department of Education and  then as Parent Liaison for the New York City Department of Education, coordinating workshops and training opportunities for parents of students with special needs.  During that time, Ellen was an integral part of the team that developed the Children’s School, the first elementary school in the NYC public school system to offer a fully integrated setting for students with IEPs.  With the successful launch of the Children’s School, Ellen participated in the development of integrated sites at the junior high school and high school levels.


In addition to this work, Ellen and Dr. Debra Shanley of Brooklyn College, CUNY, developed a syllabus and taught classes for graduate students in the Education Department of Brooklyn College regarding improved parent engagement with teaching staff. Ellen has also been a guest instructor at Teachers’ College, Columbia University; New York University School of Teaching and Learning and Touro Graduate School of Education.


Ellen has served on many local and statewide task forces. Among them are: The NY State Task Force on Inclusion (member), the Education sub-committee of OPWDD Commissioner’s Advisor Council (Co-chair), Chancellor’s Advisory Parent Council (member), and as the Public Advocate of the City of NY appointee to the Citywide Council on Special Education, which advises and comments on the delivery of services to students with special needs in NYC public schools.  Ellen is a founding member of the ARISE Coalition in NYC, a coalition of advocates, professionals and parents and a member of PIE (Parents for Inclusive Education).  Ellen has coordinated and presented at parent conferences hosted by the United Federation of Teachers and by the Citywide Council on Special Education. 


Ellen has been published in a number of on-line and hard copy journals, including The NY State Task Force on Inclusion Guide to Inclusive Schooling, and has been a commentator on the NYC Schools blogspot. Ellen has presented a number of statewide conferences on Inclusion as well as at OPWDD family conference events in Albany.  Ellen was a featured speaker at the NY State Black and Latino Caucus in February of 2014.


Ellen is a recognized leader in parent engagement to improve outcomes for diverse students; a persuasive and credible voice for inclusive public education policy and practice; a trusted adviser to families, public officials, policy-makers and educators; and a respected and effective advocate for students with disabilities 


Ellen believes that parents are their children’s first and most important teachers and advocates and are the greatest untapped resource our society possesses.  



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Sharon Marrella
Regional Program Manager and Regional Coordinator

 

Sharon Marrella is the Regional Coordinator in the Southern Tier for Parent to Parent of NYS, a position she has held since September 2005.  She became the Regional Program Manager for the Western NY Region (Western, Finger Lakes, North Central and Southern Tier) as of December 2014.  Sharon believes she has a good working understanding of this organization since she worked her way through different facets and positions from her initial request to be matched with another parent to where she is today.


 

Sharon is the parent-caregiver of two boys with special needs who fostered her innate desire to advocate for them across systems—medically, educationally and community services.  Her journey has taught her to nurture positive relationships, deal with what you have in front of you and keep hunting for more information.  Along the way she has met some of the most amazing people who are making similar journey as parent-caregivers.  Their willingness to encourage, support, teach and share information cultivated the desire in Sharon to pay it forward to other families.  Her current position is a culmination of the seeds planted by those first connections; in turn, she hopes to continue that process for others. 

 

Sharon believes that one of the greatest opportunities she can offer a person who calls the chance to have a supportive, reassuring person to connect with when they call the office.  Often, parents diminish their efforts before they connect with someone who will listen, be honest and validate their feelings.  Sharon insists she inherited her “gift of the gab” genetically from her Irish-born mother; this allows her to converse with pretty much anyone in any situation.  Her husband, Phil, says that is why she is qualified for this position—she honestly cares about a family’s situation and wants to try to connect them with support, resources and services. 

 

Sharon graduated from SUNY Geneseo with Bachelor’s degrees in Studio Art and English, earning the double-major on a Three-Year Honors Program.  She is a trained Lay Advocate and formerly was a Parent Resource Specialist for The Advocacy Center.  Sharon is also a graduate of the Partners in Policymaking program.  She is a member of the OPWDD Region 1 Family Support Advisory Council in Region III (Wayne, Ontario, Seneca & Yates Counties).  Sharon has also take part in Autism studies as a parent participant, both through Rochester and a national study.

 

Some notable accomplishments Sharon has enjoyed through her position is co-creating and presenting the Support Parent Webinar and being mentioned (by name and position) in the book When Libby Lost Her Smile, a book written by a parent in her region.  She has also mentored new coordinators in different regions through the years.  She is looking forward to celebrating her 10th anniversary with Parent to Parent in the fall of 2015. 

 

Sharon, along with her husband Phil, has lived in various parts of New York throughout their marriage.  Her children, Cullen and Burke, are the inspiration for her drive and passion in the field of supporting individuals with developmental disabilities and special health care needs.  They remain the catalyst in her connections with families because she can identify with their needs, feelings and eagerness to support their loved ones.

 

Sharon enjoys traveling and has been fortunate enough to visit various states as well as Ireland, Scotland, England, France, Canada and Australia.  She enjoys reading, artistic endeavors and attempting to garden.



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Michele Juda
Executive Director

Michele Juda has been appointed Executive Director of Parent to Parent of NYS effective January 1, 2014.  Employed by Parent to Parent of NYS since 2008, she was initially responsible for directing the work of the Family to Family Health Information Center prior to assuming the role of Director of Programs in 2013.  As Executive Director Michele will be responsible for all program and operational functions, ensuring Parent to Parent of NYS is able to fulfill its mission of building a supportive network of families, reducing isolation and empowering those who care for people with developmental disabilities or special healthcare needs to navigate and influence service systems and make informed decisions. 


Michele has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.  Prior to her employment with Parent to Parent of NYS, she had worked in various social services positions, the majority of which have involved assisting caregivers of aging parents in navigating health care and insurance systems.  She is currently a fellow in the national Maternal Child Health – Public Health Leadership Institute at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill.

 

As the parent of two prematurely born children, one of whom required seven months of NICU care and continues to face developmental and medical challenges, Michele initially felt isolated and unsure as she worked to meet their needs.  She eventually left paid employment to be a full-time Mom and caregiver to her youngest son.  Fear of the future was always nearby, whether that be fear of transitions that lie ahead for her son or fear of long-term family stability in the face of sometimes overwhelming stressors.  And yet in all this, joy always found a way to bubble to the surface.  Families are uniquely able to understand this mix of emotions.  They understand how grief and loss can be part of the emotional array of reactions to parenting a child with special needs.  And once families have navigated to stability, confidence, and hope they are in the best position to support other families.  Like most of our other employees, it was this lived experience and understanding that brought Michele to Parent to Parent of NYS.

 

Upon the announcement of her appointment as Executive Director Michele stated, “In times of unprecedented systems change, it is vital to recognize that individuals with disabilities exist within a family system.  Families need support:  from families in similar circumstances, within their local communities and within broader service systems.  It is an honor to work with our staff statewide in carrying out our longstanding tradition of ensuring that families do not feel alone, that someone is available to listen, to share their experiences and knowledge, and to foster hope.  In coming together, across lines of disability, to support and strengthen each individual family member, to learn from each other, and to develop positive parent-professional partnerships  we ensure the best possible outcomes for our loved ones within families that thrive.”

 

Michele has previously called both Potsdam and Buffalo home, but now resides near her hometown in Saratoga County with her husband and youngest son.  Her eldest son is at home during breaks from his freshman year of college.  Michele has an interest in issues that impact foster and adoptive parents, having adopted their youngest son from foster care.  She teaches the Model Approaches to Partnerships in Parenting Class for prospective foster and adoptive parents in Saratoga County.



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Making the Difference 2010 - Michele Juda

Michele’s mission is to make a difference for families and helping to help them meet their child’s needs. She is regularly teaching parents to advocate for their children and guiding them to learn the questions to ask. Michele makes time to answer questions and help solve problems for both staff and families.


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Tina Beauparlant
Regional Program Manager and Education Specialist

Tina Beauparlant is a Program Assistant and Educational Advocacy Specialist with the Capital District office of Parent to Parent of NYS.


Tina is the former Vice President of the Parents and Professional Special Education Advocacy Council and currently serves on the Planning Committee for the Albany Law School Annual Special Education Advocacy Training Conference. She is a member of the Advisory Council Educational Subcommittee of the NYS Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD).

Tina began her vocation in the field of Educational Advocacy after her son, David, was born with Down Syndrome. When her son started in school there were few agencies to help her. She felt the world had moved her family aside and that they were all alone. She was told by a friend to call Parent to Parent of NYS. When she called she found a kind voice on the other end of the phone that said YOU ARE NOT ALONE. WE ARE HERE TO HELP! Tina has a true passion for what she does and is committed to educating parents and professional to insure that ALL children with special needs receive “A Free and Appropriate Public Education.” Tina lives in Schenectady County with her husband Ronald and their two children David and Ronald II.
 



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Maryalice Fegeley
Regional Coordinator

 

Maryalice Fegeley is a Regional Coordinator in the Staten Island office of Parent to Parent of NYS.  Prior to her work with Parent to Parent – where she started in November 2009 – Maryalice worked in New York City in various fields, including a non-profit organization, an advertising agency and a financial services organization.  Maryalice is currently a co-chair of the Staten Island Developmental Disability Council’s Education Committee and is on the Executive Board of the SIDDC. 


Maryalice became involved in the disability community on Staten Island after her then 4-year-old son was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. She and her husband were blind-sided by the diagnosis and, over the upcoming months (and years), Maryalice immersed herself in the world of therapies and counseling, and quickly learned the challenges facing a parent who has a child with special needs, as well as the uphill battles they must fight – sometimes on a daily basis -- in the best interests of their children. The one thing that helped Maryalice the most were the moms she met along the way. She learned where to go for everything from social skills programs to dentists for children with special needs.  It is this knowledge that she now shares with the families who reach out to Parent to Parent.


In her time at Parent to Parent, Maryalice has worked hard to offer support and comfort to families of children with developmental disabilities and/or special health care needs.  She understands that when parents are at their lowest point, getting a compassionate, understanding voice on the other end of the phone can sometimes make all the difference.  Maryalice partners with other organizations to co-host a parent training series, as well as other informative workshops.  In addition, she presents an Education Records Organizer workshop.


Maryalice resides on Staten Island with her husband and their 14-year-old twins, who are in their freshman year of high school.  Her daughter, who is a fantastic writer, is a fan of the NY Giants and the NY Mets and enjoys going to games with her father.  Maryalice’s son is a Boy Scout who has his eye on becoming an Eagle Scout and who loves all things technological.  In the summer, Maryalice and her family enjoy spending time at her family’s home in upstate New York.



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Mary Beth Fadelici
Regional Coordinator and Medicaid Service Coordination Parent Educator

Mary Beth Fadelici is a Regional Coordinator and Medicaid Service Coordination Family Educator in the New York City office of Parent to Parent of NYS.  She covers all five Boroughs and travels to speak to large and small groups.  Mary Beth enjoys meeting and talking with people and feels comfortable in most situations.  Without even realizing it, Mary Beth first began advocating for her own children at school and then for her nephews.  Working for Parent to Parent of NYS has allowed Mary Beth to advocate and educate people in a way she had never imagined.  Mary Beth feels that the best part of her job is not just having the correct information for a family, but to watch that family grow and discover their own advocacy skills.

 

Mary Beth and her husband live in Brooklyn where they have raised two children.  She is most proud of her children as they are strong, independent and kind people, each employed and living on their own.


 

 



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