Mariam Adam has worked with East African families for the past 17 years both as a business advisor and adult ESL instructor, and is now a teacher at Minneapolis Public Schools. She is also a doctoral student in the UMN Curriculum and Instruction department. She works closely with educators on best strategies to work with Somali students and their families. Her experience and appreciation for this thriving and diverse community has taught her a lot of valuable life lessons. East African families and students are resilient, determined, and most importantly, want the best education and resources available to benefit their children and families.
She has a vision to serve, inspire and strengthen her community through education and awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASDs) and other neurodevelopmental and related disabilities (NDDs). Mariam hopes to learn from MNLEND’s interdisciplinary training program’s response to the needs of the children and their families, while connecting with professionals and community members from various disciplines and experiences.
Hamdi Ahmed is a second year Master’s of Social Work Student with a concentration in Clinical Mental Health, at the University of Minnesota. Hamdi currently works at St. David’s Center for Child and Family Development. She is a practitioner for the Autism Day Treatment program for the community site at the Harman Center. Hamdi is passionate about the field of Neurodevelopmental Disabilities and enjoys working with children with Autism and their families.
Hamdi’s goals for the MNLEND year include gaining experience working with a different age group population with Neurodevelopmental Disabilities. Hamdi is also interested in disability policies to better serve underrepresented communities. Hamdi hopes the LEND Fellowship can offer her the tools and knowledge to become a leader in her community.
Megan Andre is a native Californian who moved to Minnesota to pursue the pediatric physical therapy residency at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. Prior to moving, Megan practiced in outpatient pediatric and neurologic physical therapy clinics after graduating from Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions. In the clinic, Megan has a special interest in working with children learning to walk and people transitioning from pediatric to adult clinics. In the pediatric clinic she practiced at in California, Megan developed and presented “Babies on the Move!” - a community parent education class - to help decrease issues such as positional torticollis and motor related delays due to improper positioning, and enlighten families about the use of containers and screens based on the need seen in children in the clinic and community.
Outside of work, Megan enjoys being outdoors, running, and playing sports. In the LEND program at The University of Minnesota, Megan hopes to further her understanding of the multidisciplinary management and complex dynamics of families with a child or adult with neurodevelopment disabilities and advocate for community education and engagement in recreational activities.
Kimberly Baker is a special education teacher and has been teaching children in various settings for over ten years. She completed her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education and Early Childhood Education with an Early Childhood Special Education endorsement through the University of Northern Iowa. She recently completed her Master’s degree in Special Education through Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.
As a parent of children with special needs, Kimberly completed Partners in Policymaking Leadership Training in 2018. Kimberly is a passionate advocate for individuals with disabilities and through the MNLEND Program she would like to broaden her knowledge on neurodevelopmental disabilities, improve her advocacy skills, and learn through the various perspectives provided through the interdisciplinary team.
Katie Beard graduated with a B.S. in psychology - behavior analysis and neuroscience from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She works in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences as a research coordinator and in the Autism and Neurodevelopment Clinic in the Department of Pediatrics. Through clinical work and research, she has experience in applied behavior analysis, social skills training, neuromodulation, and transition programming for individuals with autism spectrum disorders.
Through LEND, she hopes to improve systems to connect families with services for individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders, work with minority groups, and investigate family perceptions about neurodevelopmental disorders.
Madison Blair did her undergraduate degree at The University of Wisconsin - Madison, where she began her work with children with ASD. She is now a second year master’s student in speech-language pathology at The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. She is passionate about working with individuals with ASD, especially in the pediatric population. An interest of hers is early intervention and promoting community engagement.
Through the MNLEND program, she hopes to gain valuable skills necessary to collaborate with an interdisciplinary team and continue to expand her knowledge of neurodevelopmental disabilities and how she can use her role as an SLP to help. Madison is very excited for the opportunity to join the program and work with the team to make a positive impact in the world.
Before starting the combined Master’s in Public Health and Nutrition Charles Davis worked for several years in an elementary and middle school in West Saint Paul, MN. He is passionate about working with children from all backgrounds and is excited to grow with MNLEND.
In MNLEND, he hopes to meet other like-minded professionals who are passionate about working with children. He hopes to expand his nutrition expertise and network during his this fellowship year.
Daijah received her bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in sociology from Augsburg University. She has worked as a teaching assistant for Saint Paul Public Schools for nearly two years with young children and has gained experience working with children who have special needs. As a LEND Fellow, Daijah wants to learn how to be an effective advocate for those with NDD, and how to utilize and implement skills and services to educate communities and support those with NDD. She is excited to be a LEND Fellow and looks forward to continuing making a positive impact on young children.
Emily Garness works for Special Olympics MN, an organization she has been involved with for over 8 years as a volunteer, unified partner, intern and staff. She works at Special Olympics MN as a Sr. Program Manager where she organizes events and works directly with the Special Olympics teams and athletes. Emily is the founder and creator of the organization include(her). Include(her) is a monthly event for women with and without intellectual disabilities. Her ultimate goal is to create an inclusive and empowering program/community for women of ALL ABILITIES. As a LEND Fellow, she will be able to expand her knowledge on working with those with neurodevelopmental disorders, become a better advocate, and be able to serve the community.
Courtney is a native of Richmond, Virginia and moved to the Twin Cities two and a half years ago. She completed her undergraduate degree in Allied Health Sciences from University of Connecticut and received her Master of Public Health from George Washington University. She works at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Community Integration on autism prevalence research and early intervention promotion. Her goal for the LEND program is to gain applicable knowledge and the leadership skills needed to better serve her community. She hopes to be a leader in her field and come out of this program better than when she went in.
Carolyn Hockey is an MSW/MPP student. She is interested in working with children in a school setting after graduation. Through MNLEND she hopes to learn more about how to best advocate for the students she works with.
Pascal Kabamba is a second-year doctoral student in Pharmacy and a first year student in the Master of Public Health program at The University of Minnesota. He completed his doctorate degree in medicine in The Democratic Republic of Congo where he worked as a general practitioner from 2007 to 2009 before moving to the United States.
He is now working at Center for Africans Now in America (CANA) as a family counselor for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, as well as a counselor for Vocational Rehabilitation Program for people coping with challenging health conditions.
As a MNLEND Fellow, Pascal is hoping to gain knowledge and skills in both neurodevelopmental disabilities and in the advocacy area. As a researcher and future pharmacist, he will focus on family-centered care and work at understanding more about individuals living with ASD, as well as their families and communities.
Ms. Muna A. Khalif, LSW, SPMI CM, is a licensed Mental Health Social Worker and small business owner with BA in Sociology/Biology from The University of Minnesota. Over the past decade she has worked in healthcare field serving refugees within underserved communities.
After migrating from Somalia in her youth, Ms. Khalif became passionate about advocacy and education upon witnessing the effects of PTSD, NDD, and ASD. She hopes to learn more interdisciplinary approach to combating stigma and removing barriers to care through needed resources, services, and policy reform, as she provides culturally competent care.
Presently at The UMN CUHCC Clinic, Ms. Khalif provides the utmost culturally competent care to clients with various disabilities. Additionally, she manages her online nursing maternity store, “Nursing Baati by Muna”, where she endeavors to provide culturally appropriate clothing that promotes active lifestyles during and after childbirth while striving to create further awareness of postpartum depression.
Kourtney Kromminga is a 4th year graduate student in the School Psychology Ph.D. program. Upon graduation, she intends to work as a faculty member in a University and conduct research. Her research primarily focuses on how to use technology to support student learning in the classroom, particularly in mathematics.
As a MNLEND Fellow, her goal is to learn how to provide better care to children with neurodevelopmental disabilities by facilitating communication between schools and other service providers in order to deliver wrap around care to students. Kourtney is excited to collaborate with individuals from a variety of backgrounds to learn and support one another in the goal of improving outcomes for individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities.
Adam is a first-year fellow in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota. He received a BA in Chemistry at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN in 2006. He then attended medical school as a combined MD/PhD candidate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he also completed his PhD in Chemistry. Most recently, he completed his Pediatric Residency at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, WI. During residency, he evaluated the impact of implementing a NICU reading program on early language development and parental well-being following NICU hospitalization.
As a LEND fellow, Adam is looking forward to developing interventions that can optimize the health and well-being of children with neurodevelopmental disorders in different settings. He is excited about collaborating with an interdisciplinary team to develop his advocacy and communication skills and to become a more well-rounded clinician.
Carl Luepker is a former middle school teacher of twenty years, teaching mostly at Title One schools. During that time he implemented social and academic curriculum, through co-teaching with special education teachers that created an intentional collaborative learning environment between general education and students with disabilities. After undergoing bi-lateral deep brain stimulation (DBS) for his Dystonia, Carl decided to pursue a second Masters as a Mental Health Clinician, where he hopes to work with children with disabilities. Carl has written for the Washington Post and has published a “dark fantasy” book entitled Spite, about high school student heroes with various neurological disorders.
In MNLEND, he hopes to find new methods to socially integrate children with Autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders in school and beyond. Carl lives in South Minneapolis with his wife and two kids.
Catherine is a graduate student in the Social Work program at the University of Minnesota. Her concentration is clinical mental health. She received her undergraduate degree in Cross-cultural studies and Spanish at Augsburg. Her professional experience includes work with diverse populations in various settings, but the majority of her work has been in education. Catherine spent a year teaching in Mexico at a school for students with Down’s Syndrome and currently works with Lionsgate Academy, which specializes in Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Catherine is honored to be a member of the MNLEND program, and looks forward to learning alongside her colleagues of other disciplines. Among her many interests, Catherine is hoping to utilize animal assisted therapy in the future. The possibility of international social work is enticing as well. Her wish is to collaborate with underserved populations and families, providing them with resources and support to address the gaps in the treatment and diagnosis of NDD.
Alyssa Mason completed her undergraduate degree in 2011 at UW-Madison. Her degree was in Human Development and Family Studies with a focus on child development. From there, she went on to teach preschool for 5 years and has spent the past 3 years working as a children’s mental health case manager. In 2017 she committed to occupational therapy as her career path. She has always had a passion for working with children and underrepresented communities. She hopes that her past experiences, integrated with her studies of OT, will make her an impactful practitioner in the future.
Through MNLEND, she hopes to broaden her understanding of how interprofessional teams are working together to support children with NDD and their families. She also wants to learn about what gaps are present at a societal level for this population and become engaged in advocacy for policy change in those areas.
Michaela McCabe is a second year master’s student in The University of Minnesota speech-language pathology program. She completed her undergraduate degree in communication sciences and disorders and vocal performance at The University of Wisconsin-Madison, which allowed her to combine her interests in language and music in a variety of academic and volunteer opportunities related to the field of NDD. As a graduate student, she joined her department’s Bilingual and Multicultural Emphasis Program (BiMEP). This has allowed her to explore disability within the context of cultural, linguistic, and economic diversity.
Through MNLEND, Michaela hopes to understand the unique issues facing children with disabilities and their families from a variety of backgrounds. She also hopes to strengthen her leadership skills and cultural competency, especially in the areas of disability policy and advocacy, in order to be a strong source of information and support for all children with NDD and their families.
Amal Mohumed holds a Masters of Business Administration from Hamline University and a B.A in Communication Studies and Human Resources Development from the University of Minnesota. Amal grew up in Minneapolis and has seen the need for culturally competent mental health services for underserved populations. Her motivation and drive come from understanding the disparities of health services, especially for refugee communities. To close this gap, Amal started a mental health organization agency called Comfort Therapeutic Services which provides mental health services to children with behavioral health needs. Amal is excited to be part of the MNLEND program and hopes to gain more knowledge about working with children with neurodevelopmental disorders and their families. Her goal is to ensure every child and family she serves receives the best care possible.
Jennifer LeGrand Reiter has worked in the arts community for over 20 years. A Minnesota native and graduate of College of St. Benedict, she has worked with Ordway, Guthrie Theater, and Walker Art Center. The diagnosis of her daughter with ASD shifted her focus to creating more opportunities for inclusion for people with disabilities via arts and education.
She is a graduate of Partners in Policymaking Class 30, which is an innovative leadership training program created by the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities. She has been working with local schools and arts organizations to create Sensory Friendly Arts Programming.
Reiter looks forward to the LEND fellowship as an opportunity to deepen leadership skills and community connections to build improved opportunities for youth and adults with developmental disabilities in arts organizations.
Hana Salad’s professional experience ranges from nine years as a Minneapolis Public School family liaison to seven years as a family advocate and office manager in a predominantly Somali student daycare/after school program. Currently, she is a program manager for the East African Student to Teacher (EAST) program at Augsburg University. She serves as a cultural liaison between the East African community and Augsburg’s Education Department with the intent to recruit, train, license, and retain qualified K-12 teachers in area schools. Further, she is a current MBA student at Augsburg University to expand her educational experience and leadership development. Her interest in the program stems from having witnessed and advocated for families with disabilities, especially children, and now with a stepdaughter with autism. She believes it is her responsibility to develop herself to be the best possible mental health advocate for children and young adults.
Whitney Terrill supports Minnesotans living with disabilities to access home and community based services through her role at the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Disability Services Division. She has also worked to develop equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives for the State’s Community Supports Administration. Her work background includes experience in the public and private sectors. She has managed programs and projects in disability services, finance, sustainability and health care.
Whitney intends to use her MNLEND experience to advance social inclusion for people with disabilities in her community and to learn more about disability policy and studies.
Jenny Tessmer, a transracial adoptee, was born in Daegu, South Korea and grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. From the first day of preschool, she quickly learned how it felt to be called out as “different.” This inspired Jenny to pursue a career that would make sure future generations lived in a more inclusive and equitable world. While working as an Elementary Youth Worker in Minneapolis, Jenny began considering a career in social work. Jenny fell in love with the profession’s values of social justice and treating every human with dignity and respect. She knew obtaining an MSW with a clinical concentration would open avenues for her to try many careers and work with people of all ages.
Jenny is most excited to learn from families’ lived experiences in the Families As Teachers experience in MNLEND. She firmly believes in the power of clients’ stories and the resilience they hold every day.
Mrs. Petronellah Thomas-Shanobi holds a Master in Mental Health Science from Flinders University, South Australia and an Associate degree in Mental Health Nursing from Manchester Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom. She is now a Clinical Director at KESMA Flame Lily LLC. Mrs.Thomas-Shanobi is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC), Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor intern, and specializes in the use of behavioral approaches with children with an autism spectrum disorder, intellectual and developmental disorder. Mrs. Thomas-Shanobi has worked with a diverse population in a variety of settings, including people experiencing serious and persistent mental illness including adolescents and adults with severe emotional disturbance, neurodevelopmental disorders, trauma, domestic violence, and substance use disorder in central Australia (known as the Outback).
Her approach to working with families emphasizes the careful consideration of parent concerns and cultural needs throughout the process of clinical care. By participating in the MNLEND program, she hopes to learn evidence-based cultural methods to bridge the gap between immigrant families and neurodevelopment disabilities services to increase access and engagement between providers, families and service users.
Erin Van Dyke
Erin Van Dyke is a third-year doctoral student in The University of Minnesota’s pediatric nurse practitioner program. She currently works as a nurse in the pediatric ICU at Mayo Clinic. Upon graduation, she intends to work as a pediatric nurse practitioner in the Twin Cities.
Erin is excited to be a LEND Fellow to learn best practices in caring for children with neurodevelopmental disorders.
Mariam Warsame is currently a substitute teacher with the Minneapolis Public Schools Early Childhood Screening Department. Her work consists of identifying developmental delays in children, ages of 3-5, with an early preventative stance and promoting kindergarten readiness. Originally from Somalia, she graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology, Society and Environment. Outside of work, Mariam is a wife and a mother of 3 girls and a boy. As a family they love to travel and explore fun activities within the greater Twin Cities.
Mariam hopes to gain leadership skills in the MNLEND program and learn how to build an awareness to better assist children who are learning the English language that are identified with neurodevelopmental disability.
Bridget Winchester is currently a second-year graduate student in genetic counseling at The University of Minnesota. She graduated with distinction from The University of Wisconsin – Madison with a degree in Genetics. As an undergraduate, she led an introduction to biochemistry discussion and a peer mentoring group for an honors biology program (Biocore). She also enjoyed leading an after-school science club for elementary school students. After graduating she moved to Marshfield, Wisconsin, to work as a genetic counselor assistant at PreventionGenetics. In Marshfield, she volunteered with Heartland Hospice and the Personal Development Center as a SANE phone advocate.
As the sister of an individual with Down syndrome, Bridget hopes to expand her knowledge of the neurodevelopmental disabilities community to better serve her patients through MNLEND training.
Yue Wu (Wu) is a native of China. She is currently working as a music therapist at MacPhail Center for Music, the oldest and largest community music school in the U.S. She is also working on her PhD in Rehabilitation Science at The University of Minnesota Medical School.
Wu’s clinical goal is to compassionately enrich the lives of individuals with neurological disorders, terminal illnesses, and other medical conditions by building therapeutic relationships through music. She hopes to deepen and broaden her perspective through interdisciplinary collaboration by participating the MNLEND program.
Chong Yang graduated from The University of Minnesota Duluth in 2017 with a degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders and a minor in Deaf Studies. She currently works at Hmong College Prep Academy as a middle school paraprofessional, working primarily with children with Autism and Emotional Behavioral Disorders.
Chong hopes to gain skills to help her students achieve their goals in school and help the Hmong community understand those with disabilities. Chong hopes to become a Speech Language Pathologist one day and help others find their voice. On her free time Chong enjoys doing art projects with her nieces and nephews.
Heejung Yun is a second year pre-doctoral student in Social Work at The University of Minnesota. She received her undergraduate degree in Special Education from Dankook University and a Masters in public policy from KDI School in South Korea. After receiving her master’s degree, Heejung worked for the Korea Disabled People’s Development Institute (KODDI) as a deputy manager of job development. Her research interests include social service, education and labor for persons with disabilities to improve their quality of life.
Through the MNLEND program and from her peer fellows, Heejung hopes to broaden her knowledge, experiences and relationships for her research in the disability arena.