Fadumo Ali is a third-year doctoral student at the University of Minnesota’s pediatric nurse practitioner program. She currently works as a nurse in the family birth center at Mayo Clinic. Fadumo serves on the Somali Health Advisory Committee (SHAC), which focuses on health issues impacting Somali immigrants in Minnesota. Upon graduation, she hopes to work as a pediatric nurse practitioner in the Twin Cities. As a LEND fellow, her goal is to learn further on how to provide care for children with neurodevelopmental disorders, strengthen leadership skills, and gain the essential tools needed to be a better advocate.
Kimberly Anderson graduated from The UMN’s Masters of Science Occupational Therapy program in 2005. She has since served as an outpatient rehabilitation specialist and long term community volunteer most recently with a Federally Qualified Health Center in health screenings of K-8 children (i.e. vision, BMI, dental screens) and a County based Health and Wellness Racial Equity Action Team. She is the co-chair of the Health Equity Special Interest Group for the Minnesota OT Association and leads education in physical disabilities, persistent pain, mental health, neuro-reeducation, and occupational injustice.
Her interest in pursuing the MNLEND Fellowship is to expand her knowledge of neurodevelopmental disability practice areas, explore the intersection of disability, race, and policies affecting families and children with NDD from birth to school age, and build upon her leadership skills to better serve her OT associations in Health Equity work of racially and ethnically diverse communities.
Irene Asong-Morfaw is a first-generation US citizen of Cameroonian ancestry. Before emigrating the US, she dedicated more than a decade of her teaching career with students from diverse backgrounds, some with undiagnosed disabilities and learning needs.
After obtaining a Diploma in Teaching, her love for scholarship and continuous improvement led her to pursue undergraduate coursework in Curriculum Studies and Teaching. She later obtained an M.Ed. from the University of Buea in Cameroon in 2004. She has since completed an M.Ed in Special Education at the University of St Thomas, a Minnesota’s teaching license in learning disabilities, and a specialist program on Autism.
Irene is an experienced and devoted special education professional. The MNLEND fellowship will provide the intellectual enrichment she needs to expand the scope of her work and advocacy needed to bring about transformational changes in our schools and community.
Anna Bolgrien is a doctoral candidate at the University of Minnesota, Humphrey School of Public Affairs with concentrations in public policy, demography, research methodology, and international development. She completed her undergraduate research at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin and her M.A. in Demography and Social Analysis at the University of California, Irvine. Anna grew up with a sister with Down Syndrome which motivates her current research interests including the intersection of family structures and sibling relationships between children with and without disabilities, particularly on a global scale. As a fellow, she hopes to participate in interdisciplinary work and gain more knowledge on how to influence policy and better advocate for children with disabilities and their families at a systems-level.
Bryan Boyce grew up in Waseca, MN, and graduated from Grinnell College before teaching high school English in Lesotho and the Rosebud Lakota Reservation and serving as Assistant Director of Breakthrough San Juan Capistrano, which he led to nationally recognized student gains. He is the Founder and Director of Cow Tipping, a social venture dedicated to changing our narratives on developmental disability, for which he is the winner of Grinnell's Wall Alumni Service Award, Teach For America's Social Innovation Award, and a 4.0 Schools Tiny Fellowship. As the sibling of a brother with developmental disabilities, Bryan knows firsthand the value and richness of exchange across neurological differences. As a LEND Community Fellow, he is particularly excited to explore the tensions and possibilities between disability justice in theory and our systems in practice, as well as to just carve out some space for long-term, big picture think as Cow Tipping enters its sixth year of programming!
Joshua Chapman, MD, was an internist and pediatrician in Perham, Minnesota for 8+ years before returning to the University of Minnesota this summer. He is currently in his first year of three training to specialize in developmental and behavioral pediatrics. Through MNLEND Josh hopes to build on his experiences in rural primary medical care and partner with others toward improving the access and quality of interdisciplinary care related to behavioral health in greater Minnesota.
Darcy Cole has over fifteen years of collective experience leading first the Meeker and now, McLeod County 4-H Programs as an Extension Educator for 4-H Youth Development with the University of Minnesota Extension. Through her role, she places special attention on supporting youth with disabilities and has led 4-H staff training across the state, as well as blogged, podcasted and done scholarly writing about how youth development professionals can create inclusive environments for the disability communities. She infuses her professional experience with her lived experiences as a parent of three kids, two of whom are on the Autism Spectrum.
Darcy is excited to connect, learn and grow with the rest of the MN LEND community. She aims to advance her skills so that she can be an even better parent, advocate and educator for disability communities. As a LEND community fellow, she hopes to gain skills to help her develop and implement a replicable training and technical service model targeted to 4-H staff, volunteers and peer mentors to develop inclusive 4-H clubs throughout Minnesota. This work will create opportunities for youth with disabilities to be more positively involved in 4-H, increase the organization’s ability to reach new audiences, contribute to public value, and help reach the University of Minnesota Extension mission.
Jules Edwards is an Autistic activist and parent of Autistic children. Her advocacy includes founding the MN Autistics and Allies social media group; volunteer work in the areas of disability services, alternative education, and family services; political advocacy with a focus on child safety and disability rights; and grassroots work focused on intersectional disability rights. Roles include: Chair of the Minnesota Senate Autism Council, President of the Board for Minnesota Disability Support Alternatives, Board member of Minnesota Ombudsman for American Indian Families. She hopes to develop leadership skills to better serve the disabled community in Minnesota.
Deqa has been a registered dietitian in the Twin Cities for over 10 years. She focuses her work on teaching underprivileged communities the importance of good nutrition and healthy living. Deqa is the co-author of the book Somali Carbohydrate Counting Guide, an online tool to count the amount of carbohydrates in traditional Somali foods. In addition to holding various positions in the public and private sector, Deqa is a sought-after presenter and speaker for professional organizations, community groups, and media outlets. For the past six years, Deqa has spoken about the health disparities immigrant families with children with neurodevelopmental disorders are facing and the need for evidence-based and culturally sensitive solutions. She hopes to hone her skills as an advocate for these families through her participation in the MNLEND program. She wants to provide underprivileged communities with the keys to living a happier, healthier life.
Sheyhan Gelle received her Bachelor’s degree from University of MN in Family and Social Science. In addition to English, Sheyhan speaks Somali and Swahili. She has experience working as an Outreach Worker, Care Coordinator, Mental Health Case Manager, and as a Service Coordinator with Children’s Hospital working with children with special needs. Currently, Sheyhan is employed by Hennepin County, in the Family Group Decision Making team as a facilitator. Sheyhan serves on the Newborn Screening Advisory Committee with MDH, and is passionate about advocating for children with special needs. Sheyhan recently, in the last year won a contract with Hennepin County to provide Waivered case management services for Hennepin County residents.
Sheyhan also has a vibrant, energetic 9 year old son who is special needs, diagnosed with Autism. Sheyhan’s son has helped her become passionate about advocacy and assisting adults/children live expressive lives.
Asiya Hassan is a 2nd year doctoral candidate in the Occupational Therapy program at the University of Minnesota. She completed her B.S. undergraduate degree at UMN in 2017. Most recently, her clinical experience includes working with adults experiencing co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders. She has also worked in a pediatric setting with children who have developmental delays and complex medical conditions.
As a LEND Fellow, Asiya hopes to gain the knowledge necessary to implement evidence-based interventions to improve outcomes for individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities. She looks forward to expanding her perspectives on research and clinical care in an interdisciplinary team.
Hassan A. Hassan is a second-year doctoral student in Ed. Leadership program at The University of St. Thomas. He completed his Master’s degree in special education in 2018 at the University of St. Thomas. He completed his undergraduate in Business from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. He holds multiple teaching licenses.
Currently, He is working at Higher Ground Academy in St. Paul as a special education teacher for children with special needs including those with Autism Spectrum Disorders. AS an educator, Hassan is passionate about the field of Neurodevelopmental Disabilities and enjoys working with children with Autism and their families.
As a MNLEND Fellow, Hassan is hoping to gain knowledge and skills in both neurodevelopmental disabilities and in the advocacy area. As a researcher and future leader, he will focus on family-centered care and work at understanding more about individuals living with ASD, as well as their families and communities.
Ikram Hassan is predoctoral intern in clinical psychology at Washburn Center for Children. In her every day clinical practice, she has a deep commitment to meet the mental health needs of diverse, at-risk, underserved, and disenfranchised populations. Through her fellowship training at IL-LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disorders), she has extensive experience in providing developmental screenings with different community partners in Chicago, IL. Ikram Hassan is proud to return to Minnesota and work in pediatric care. She is committed to use the power of her voice and knowledge of her profession to advocate local, state and national funding agencies to incorporate culturally and linguistically competent guidelines into proposals for programs for racial and ethnic minority children, youth and families with disabilities. Her interest in the MN- LEND Program is rooted in her deep commitment to help communities of color and immigrant communities receive the required treatment.
Lisa Hilliard is a second year master’s student in speech-language pathology at the University of Minnesota. Lisa also completed her B.A. in speech-language-hearing sciences at the U of M, and was a leader in the marching band as an undergraduate. She is a member of her department’s Bilingual and Multicultural Emphasis Program, and has been involved in research in Dr. Finestack’s Child Language Intervention Lab for the last three years. Lisa has volunteered with various programs for children and adults with disabilities over the years, and especially loved her experience working at an inclusive summer camp. After graduation, Lisa hopes to work with children who have autism and related NDD.
As a LEND fellow, Lisa is looking forward to learning about being active in disability advocacy and gaining leadership skills through interdisciplinary collaboration. She also hopes to further develop her cultural competency and humility throughout her fellowship year.
Kelsey Koss recently graduated from Creighton University, receiving her Doctorate in Physical Therapy. She will be pursuing her pediatric specialization by completing a pediatric residency at Gillette Children’s Hospital in St. Paul, MN. She is looking forward to learning the dynamic ways numerous disciplines interact to provide the best care for our patients, and how the different professionals can support our patients and each other.
Jessica Krause is an Audiology student at the University of Minnesota. She graduated from St. Cloud State University with a Bachelor of Science in Communications Sciences and Disorders. While Jessica has always had a heart for people with disabilities, her passion for working with and advocating for these individuals blossomed through her work as a direct support professional for adults with special needs. A particular area of interest of hers is working with people with comorbidities to hearing loss and innovating testing techniques for these individuals.
Through the MLEND program, she hopes to learn how to improve the systems that connect families with services, how to advocate on behalf of these individuals, and investigate professional stigma around working with people who experience disabilities.
Jamie Linert is a PhD student studying the cognition of language in people with neurodevelopmental and related disabilities (NDD). As a sibling and supporter of someone with a developmental disability, she has seen first-hand how the ability to communicate effectively enhances the quality of life of people with disabilities. During her LEND year, she plans to complete a project that documents language abilities in people with Smith-Magenis syndrome, a severely understudied developmental disability. She looks forward to LEND’s interdisciplinary training, which will equip her not only to make significant strides in filling gaps in clinical knowledge, but to become a knowledgeable, interdisciplinary leader in the field of NDD research.
Sydney Malone is currently in her 3rd year pursing a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry. She graduated with an undergraduate degree in Neurobiology and certificates in Gender and Women’s Studies and Stem Cell Sciences from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. As the sister of an individual with Down Syndrome, Sydney has always been passionate and driven to serve underrepresented communities. Throughout the pursuit of her undergraduate degree, Sydney became a personal care assistant (PCA) to a child dually diagnosed with Down Syndrome and ASD. Through these experiences she became motivated to pursue a career in dentistry in which she can focus her efforts on serving children and adults with special health care needs.
Sydney hopes the MNLEND program introduces her to peers working towards a similar goal – improving the experiences, care and treatment of individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities. She is excited to work on this interdisciplinary team to ensure she becomes a competent provider and forever advocate for the neurodevelopmental and related disabilities population.
Alyssa Mason completed her undergraduate degree in Human Development and Family Studies with a focus on child development in 2011 at UW-Madison. From there, she went on to teach preschool for 5 years and has spent the past 4 years working as a children’s mental health case manager. In 2017 she committed to occupational therapy as her career path with an original completion date of June 2020. COVID 19 has delayed her graduation although it also provided her with the opportunity to work on an impactful project. Alyssa is working with the creators of a motor assessment that is used worldwide to update the assessment to a new version.
As a second year fellow Alyssa hopes to continue her growth as an advocate on disability issues and increase the depth of her knowledge on disability issues and how different disciplines can work together to better the lives of those living with disabilities.
Kristin Norderud is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a second year Master of Public Health student with a concentration in Public Health Nutrition. Originally from Helena, MT, Kristin received her undergraduate degree in Food and Nutrition Science from Montana State University in 2014. As a dietitian, she worked in both clinical and community nutrition settings. Through these experiences Kristin has developed a strong interest in maternal child health, especially regarding child nutrition and chronic disease prevention.
Through LEND, Kristin plans to improve systems connecting families of children with neurodevelopmental disorders to nutrition services. These services are vital given that children with these disorders can have unique nutrition challenges that present health implications throughout life. Kristin also hopes to use the knowledge and skills gained from the fellowship to educate families of children with neurodevelopmental disorders how to communicate health concerns with healthcare professionals effectively.
Quinn Oteman is a second year Master of Social Work student with a concentration in Health, Disability, & Aging. Quinn is also studying Public Policy and Disability Policy & Services. Prior to graduate school, Quinn received his BA in Music from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an undergraduate certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Quinn then worked as a Special Education Teacher in the Milwaukee Public School system and later as a Behavioral Treatment Therapist at the Wisconsin Early Autism Project (WEAP).
As a Pre-doctoral Fellow, Quinn is eager to strengthen his understanding of Long-Term Support Services (LTSS), socio-emotional learning strategies for youth, adolescents, and young adults, and explore the intersections of neurodiversity and gender identity. He believes exploring these ideas in an interdisciplinary setting will make him a more effective advocate, worker, and friend with individuals who are neurodiverse.
Caroline Roberts is a second-year doctoral student in Educational Psychology and from Denver, Colorado. Her research interests include self-injurious behavior, how to assess pain in nonverbal populations, how to close the research to practice gap, and how to support families and siblings of individuals with IDD. Her involvement with the disability community goes back to age 3, when her brother, Benjamin, was born with an undiagnosed genetic syndrome. Through MNLEND, she hopes to learn more ways to support families like hers on the interpersonal, systemic, and policy levels.
Sally Sexton has over twenty years combined teaching experience in middle school and early-childhood family education. As a 2020 Partners in Policymaking leadership training graduate, her passion for serving her community and advocating for inclusive education remains strong. She integrates her teaching experience with youth and families, with her lived experience of being a parent of a child with a disability, as she advocates for systems and policy changes.
Sally is excited to collaborate with an interdisciplinary team and grow along with the MNLEND community. She aims to deepen her leadership skills and build community connections, become more culturally responsive, and advance her skills as a person-centered advocate. As a LEND community fellow, her primary focus will include developing and improving inclusive higher education opportunities for youth and adults with intellectual disability.
Seth Stafki grew up in Perham, Minnesota. He graduated with a Bachelors in Science from the University of Minnesota, Duluth, where he obtained a major in Biochemistry with minors in Biology and Psychology. During this time, he volunteered with genetic counselors at Essentia Health and worked as a Personal Care Assistant at McCarthy Manor in Duluth. After graduation, Seth worked first as a substitute teacher in the Duluth ISD 709, then as a Genetic Counseling Assistant in the Cancer Genetics Clinic at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. Seth has since returned to Minnesota to attend the UM Twin Cities Genetic Counseling Master of Science program, of which he has completed the first of two years. Seth has a strong interest expanding his understanding of neurodiversity. It is his hope to learn how to work with a diverse group of professionals in providing care that is inclusive and equitable.
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 Fiscal Policy Team. Whitney is deeply interested in value and outcomes based payment design, and currently works on a legislatively mandated project to explore options for how Minnesota might pay for disability services in the future.
Whitney intends to use her MNLEND experience to advance self advocacy and social inclusion for people with disabilities in the United States and in African countries, and to deepen her understanding of disability policy and studies. Her research and training experiences focus transition age youth with Autism and interventions to support their success, and in truly understanding the extent Minnesota and other communities are truly integrated at every level, such as monitoring deinstitutionalization.
Charity Unongo grew up in Makurdi, Benue State, Nigeria where she obtained her elementary-to-secondary school education. She graduated from Queen of the Rosary Secondary School, an exceptional student, science club president, and dorm prefect. She holds a B.Sc. Architecture from the University of Jos - conferred in 1990, the same year she relocated to America. Post MDS certification in Computer-Aided Design+Drafting, Unongo worked for Laser Custom Designs before joining the engineering department at Walters and Wolf Glass, Fremont, California. Her experience involved the role of SPD project manager until 2001. When her family moved to Minneapolis (2016), Unongo realized her goal to be an educator via Reserving for the Minneapolis School District while simultaneously earning her MBA at Augsburg University (October 2020), and sponsoring kids with autism. Acquiring the policy knowledge and leadership grounding in neurodevelopmental issues to be an effective advocate is her goal for becoming a MNLEND Fellow.
Erin is a Community Fellow and is a native of the Twin Cities. She has completed a Masters program in Education from Augsburg College where she focused her studies on the impact and legacy of early childhood trauma. While completing her master program she also authored an academic review which researched the effectiveness of treatment programs on the recidivism rate of criminal sexual behavior among juveniles. Outside of these studies, Erin is an artist, a wife and a mother to four children. She is very active in the child welfare community and leads a support group for foster and adoptive parents.
There are several directions the MNLEND program could lead Erin. There is no one single solution to best serve the diverse needs of those in our community with neurodevelopmental delays. However, she is confident that the leadership skills and connections with local advocates and policymakers will help her continue to advance awareness and understanding for the needs of children and young adults who have experienced early developmental trauma.
I am a Black woman with power and strength that comes from my faith in God and resilience learned from my ancestors. A Mother of five beautiful children whom I love with every bone in my body. My passion is for women, children and families and how to keep them together. I am committed to system changes and look to see the best out of everyone. I believe the key to success is to remain positive regardless of the negatives no matter the circumstance or situation. It's my hope to continue to make change within systems that aren't for the benefit of or for people of color. Everyone deserves to be treated fairly regardless of the color of their skin. Also, within our communities I want to be a part of giving the necessary tools for families to thrive and be their BEST self!
Elijah Awalaya Zina is a Master of Arts (MA) student at Luther seminary where he is reading “Leadership Innovation for Ministry.” He also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of Liberia. He also holds Certificate in peer mediation and counseling, Certificate of participation in the UN Conference on Climate Change (COP19), and many others leadership training certificates. Elijah is a former Executive Council member of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) based in Geneva, Switzerland, and the Liberia Council of Churches in Liberia. Currently, he is a member of the Gethsemane Lutheran Church where he is deeply involved with activities at the church in helping to teach confirmation and baptism classes. Therefore; he is looking forward to enhancing his leadership experience through the MNLEND program. Elijah has a strong drive for community development and working with non-profits organizations. He currently serves as Board member and founding member of Partnership for Community Transformation (PACT), and Center for Changing lives Liberia (CCLL). Two nonprofit organizations that are currently providing primary and vocational education and food for less fortunate Liberian Children who lost their parents to Ebola, HIV/AIDS, and the Liberian Civil war. Elijah big goal is he wants to return to his native land (Liberia) in the near future to help advocate for equal opportunities for people with disabilities. He is a Liberian by nationality, married to his beautiful Wife Yamah Sackie Zina; they have one son (Elijah Zina Jr.).