Hanan Ahmed

Hanan Ahmed

Hanan Ahmed earned her B.S. in Biology at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities with a minor in Sociology. As an undergraduate, she balanced her coursework while acting as a mentor and tutor for young BIPOC students and organizer for cultural and faith-driven events  and spaces within the University community. Her undergraduate research projects have centered around public health, and the varying impact of socioeconomic factors on health and wealth disparities. This has translated into her growing interest in the pathology of chronic, disabling illnesses, neurodevelopment disorders, and how the COVID-19 pandemic has shaped the accessibility of telehealth for patients. 

Hanan hopes to learn more about creating, advocating, and furthering policies and resources for equitable healthcare access for disabled communities, and understanding the best means of support for NDD youth.


Akeem Anderson

Akeem Anderson

Akeem is from Brooklyn, NY but is currently based out of Twin Cities, MN. He is of Guyanese and Panamanian descent. He is currently a J.D. and Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota. He actively enjoys working on photography as well as with plants and animals in the house. Akeem is working to redefine and reconceptualize the ways in which the intersections of race, health, and law are utilized and used as a point of strategic reference.


Kritica Arora

Kritica Arora

Kritica Arora, DO, completed her Pediatrics residency in Buffalo, NY and is currently in her first year of three, training to specialize in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics. Through MNLEND Kritica hopes to gain the knowledge and skills to guide, advocate for and improve the quality of life for her patients with neurodevelopmental disorders and their families. With these learned skills, she hopes to educate other healthcare professionals, including medical students and residents, regarding disability policy, strengths and weaknesses of our current system, and the importance of inclusion and accessibility for all.


Ayat Arrale

Ayat Arrale

Ayat Arrale is a recent graduate from the University of Minnesota's College of Biological Sciences, with a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience. During her undergraduate career, she served as a teaching assistant for several undergraduate biology courses, as well as a volunteer tutor for young learners. Throughout her undergraduate coursework and directed research, she maintained a focus on neurodevelopmental disability, primarily ASD and ADHD. This research interest is driven by her experience as the older sibling of a brother with neurodevelopmental disabilities, and a strong desire to positively impact the lives of adolescents with NDD.

As a LEND Community Fellow, Ayat hopes to gain a better understanding of the intersection of disability, race, and class as individuals and families navigate the system, and how to best support and advocate for adolescents with NDD.
 


Shanna Chahine

Shanna Chahine

Shanna was born in Liberia but raised in several countries as a refugee from war. She’s lived a hard life in the service of her family and has always attended to the needs of others. She eventually made it to America and was excited to have opportunities she never dreamed of. Yet still she was drawn to the life of service for those in need. Since arriving she has spent the last 12+ years working with people with disabilities. She has various certifications and training in the field and completed some coursework at Rasmussen University.

Shanna is excited to continue her education with MNLEND and hopes it will help her to become a leader who is able to better impact the lives of people with neurodevelopmental disabilities. She hopes to make a difference for not only the few she serves now, but also for the thousands that can be helped through policy, advocacy, and research, both today and for future generations.


Jennie Clare

Jennie Clare

Jennie Clare joins the MNLEND program as a community member. She holds a BS degree in K-12 education with Early Childhood Development Accreditation and is a DHS Certified Parent Support Specialist. She is an ACE Interface Presenter and a Certified Circle of Parents facilitator. 

Jennie began her career during college as the director of an intergenerational child care center in South Minneapolis. This eventually led to creating work-family balance programs for corporations before leaving the workforce to raise her own two children with disabilities. Ten years ago, she began to develop and implement workshops for families of children with disabilities which she continues to provide on the topic of building one’s own circle of support. She is a strong believer that a network of positive social connections is the foundation of individual and community wellness. In the last five years, she has focused primarily on developing training programs for professionals who work with families living with chronic stress or trauma. She has presented several times for the annual Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health Conference, the Anoka-Hennepin school district, Cigna Health, was a keynote speaker at the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Opioid Intervention Conference, and more. Jennie served as a committee member on the Bemidji Area Human Services Collaborative’s Self-Healing Communities project from 2019-2021, the Bemidji Early Childhood Collaborative committee, and on two Minnesota district Special Education Advisory Committees. 

Jennie intends to use her LEND opportunity to learn from program experiences and connections with cohorts to further enhance and improve collaborative efforts between parents of children with disabilities and the professionals across medical, therapeutic, educational, social work, and judicial systems that serve them. She has learned that while she cannot speak for others, she can proactively work toward facilitating safe and effective communication spaces for voices to be heard and needs to be met.


Jeannie Clark

Jeannie Clark

Jeannie lives in Rochester MN with her husband, three children and two dogs. She has been a pediatric nurse at the Mayo Clinic for 17 years; the last 8 of those years working with children with complex medical needs. She is starting my second year of the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner program at the University of MN this year. Her goal for participation in LEND is to gain a deeper knowledge about working with children with neurodevelopmental conditions and complexity so she can be a future provider and advocate for these children.


Agnes Cole

Agnes Cole

Agnes Cole is a beloved child of God who has dedicated her life giving back to the disabled community at large and believes all disabled children should have the opportunity to pursue their dreams. Agnes is from Liberia, West Africa and was born with a congenital disability. She is married to her husband (Prince Cole) and they have three daughters. Being disabled, she has a number of difficulties in life but hasn’t let them define her or her vision. With determination and perseverance, she has completed a Masters Program in Health and Human Service Administration from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. Agnes is also a co-founder and President of a 5o1c3 non-profit organization called Disability Motivational Network, that seek to motivate, inspire and educate children and youth with disabilities, equipping them with knowledge, skills and resources to overcome poverty and make a positive impact in society. Agnes intends to use her MNLEND experiences and skills to advance self advocacy, and be part of building disability-inclusiveness and help create a change in the United States and underdeveloped countries.


Shelby Flanagan

Shelby Flanagan

Shelby is a PhD student in the School of Social Work, with a supporting program in biostatistics. Shelby graduated from the University of Minnesota, Morris in 2017 with majors in psychology and English and minors in statistics and gender, women and sexuality studies. Following this, Shelby obtained a master's degree in clinical psychology in 2019 from Eastern Michigan University. Shelby also works as a research assistant for the Autism and Neurodevelopmental Clinic. 

Shelby's research interests are in health equity and health care policy, with a focus on health care access and experiences for both LGBTQ and disability communities, and the intersections of these communities. Shelby's goal for the LEND year is to make connections with community organizations working towards disability justice, and to contribute to research that supports health equity for people with disabilities.


Annabelle Hearne

Annabelle Hearne

Annabelle Hearne is the Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare Physical Therapy resident of the 2022-2023 term. She grew up in Stillwater, Minnesota and received her Doctorate of Physical Therapy at University of Indianapolis, Indiana in May of 2022. She developed a passion for working with children with disabilities from experience as a respite care provider and working as a classroom aide at a center for children with cerebral palsy. These experiences as well as physical therapy clinical experience led to her current goal of pursuing a pediatric clinical specialty in physical therapy. During her time in the Minnesota LEND program Annabelle hopes to develop skills to advocate more effectively for her patients as well as improve her wholistic understanding of the challenges faced by those living with a lifelong disability and how healthcare providers can be supportive in these challenges.


Archita Jain

Archita Jain

Archita Jain is currently in her 3rd year pursuing a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry. She graduated with an undergraduate degree from York University in Biomedical Sciences in Toronto, Ontario Canada. She has always strived to give back to the community and serve underrepresented communities. Throughout her high school and undergraduate education, Archita became a leisure buddy and integration counsellor to special needs children. Within dentistry, she has spent time volunteering for organizations that provide oral healthcare services to underrepresented communities such as the Dr. Borna Meisami Commemorative Foundation, Give Kids a Smile, Hope Dental Clinic, and Special Smiles. 

Archita hopes the MNLEND program will help her learn and improve her training as a dental provider to better treat children and young adults with NDDs. She is excited and grateful for the opportunity to be amongst other like-minded individuals and learn to be an interdisciplinary leader and advocate for the neurodevelopmental and related disabilities population. Archita is committed to developing her leadership skills and knowledge in disability policy to better serve members of this community.


Julia Klein

Julia Klein

Julia Klein is a second-year medical student at the University of Minnesota, where she also received her Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience in 2019. She is the founder and president of, "Neurodiversity in Medicine," a student group that aims to provide inclusive support for neurodiverse patients. Additionally, the group provides continuing education for healthcare professional students on topics of anti-ableism, inclusive language, visit adaptations, and the umbrella of neurodiversity. This passion project is close to her heart, as she is the co-guardian and sister to a child with ASD, NDD, and medical complexities. Julia is elated to be a part of the MN LEND program, and she hopes to join the other fellows in disability justice advocacy. Her ultimate goal is to work in a pediatric subspecialty where she can collaborate with patients, families, and other providers to improve healthcare outcomes and accessibility of care. Within and outside of her medical practice, she hopes to be a resource and advocate for the NDD community. In her free time, she enjoys acrylic painting, baking (ask about her sourdough starter), spending time with loved ones, and reading.


Sanju Koirala

Sanju Koirala

Sanju is a PhD student in the Institute of Child Development (ICD) at the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities. Previously, she graduated with a bachelor's degree in Neuroscience from Hamilton College, NY. Then, she was a Simons Fellow in Computational Neuroscience at Marcus Autism Center, Emory University. Her research focuses on characterizing brain-behavior association over development and examining how that might differ in various neurodevelopmental disorders and delays. She is also interested in sharing scientific awareness and creating resources about various developmental disorders and delays in minority communities. As a LEND fellow during her graduate studies, she hopes to become a scientist who has a rigorous computational/scientific training as well as a deep respect for the nuances of human experiences.


Isabelle Morris

Isabelle Morris

Isabelle is unapologetically Autistic. Her special interests include dogs, rowing, and ASL. She loves nothing more than to tell you all the facts about dogs you never actually cared to know. Receiving her autism diagnosis at age 19 positively impacted her life in innumerable ways. For the first time, she was able to find a community of people like her who “got it” and helped her put words to her experience. Isabelle’s lived experience with autism and other disabilities has driven her to engage in advocacy work and focused her academic interests.

Isabelle obtained her B.A. in Psychology from Stanford University in 2019. She is now a Ph.D. student in the Institute of Child Development. As an Autistic academic, she realized how little representation there is of autistic voices in autism research and, unfortunately, has experienced firsthand how unwelcoming those spaces can be towards people on the spectrum when they do try to make their voices heard. Isabelle hopes to help change this through her recently-launched participatory research project called RADAR: Research on Autism, Driven by Autistic Researchers. She realizes this is a huge undertaking and is excited to join LEND to further develop her leadership skills and build connections to the local autism/disability communities.


Uma Oswald

Uma Oswald

Uma Oswald is an Access Specialist for LEND at the Institute on Community Integration, and is a current Fellow. She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts but has developed a passion for disability rights over the last decade. She has used her art, which was loaned to the University of Minnesota at the Institute on Translational Research for the past four years, has often explored themes of disability culture, adversity, and stigma. She is a part of the disability community, and is learning how to be a self-advocate, and an advocate for others. She is currently working on a certification in Disability Policy and Services, and plans to go to the School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota for a Master’s, following her LEND year. Uma is most interested in policy, digital accessibility, post-secondary education for youth and young adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, and the prevalence and genetics of Schizophrenia and Autism in significantly premature babies. Some day she would like to get a PhD, goaling towards bridging the gap between the disability community and the medical field.


Melanie Reese

Melanie Reese

Melanie Reese grew up in rural west-central Minnesota. After completing a degree in Biology with a minor in Psychology from the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, MN, Melanie worked for a few years in various jobs, including non-profit work and early childhood education. Melanie is currently a Masters of Public Health Nutrition student in the Coordinated Masters Program. This program will prepare Melanie to be a registered dietitian. Her primary area of interest is supporting children with nutrition-related concerns and their families.


Adam Ruff

Adam Ruff

Adam Ruff received his Bachelors of Social Work from Augsburg University in 2018. He has been working with people with disabilities in various roles since 2014, and currently works at Advocating Change Together in St Paul as the Program and Communications Manager. Adam is passionate about making his community more accessible and inclusive for disabled people, and works to break down stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding the disability community through conversations and programming.

As a LEND fellow, Adam hopes to strengthen his leadership and interdisciplinary skills and gain insight from his peers to better understand the ways that our current systems and professions can improve to make our society function better for disabled people.


Anvita Singe

Anvita Singh

Anvita Singh has a bachelor’s in biology and a minor in South Asian language & civilization. Following college, she taught high school science while receiving her master’s in education. She is now in medical school at the University of Minnesota, and volunteers her time at a free clinic, with NAMI MN as a BIPOC support group facilitator, and serves as a board member/PR Chair for the student group, ‘Neurodiversity in Medicine’. As a medical provider, Anvita hopes to assist others as they strengthen and heal their bodies while also providing spaces that lead to healing the social and personal experiences of our communities. As a LEND Fellow, Anvita hopes to facilitate and embody the knowledge, self-awareness, patience, and empathy needed to provide inclusive, individualistic, and effective care to those with neurodevelopmental disorders, specifically people of color. By fostering conversation and community with other LEND Fellows, she also hopes to learn where her strengths subside and where the strengths of other professionals shine to form a coalition of interdisciplinary professionals energized and prepared to better serve the needs of those with NDDs, and their loved ones.


Erik Skoe

Erik Skoe

Erik Skoe is in his fourth and final year pursuing his Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree from the University of Minnesota where he also graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. Erik has a passion for public education and minimizing disparities in oral health outcomes that exist in our community. He spends Wednesday nights in his wife's classroom helping with Minneapolis Public Schools math programming and Tuesday nights at the free Hope Dental Clinic in the East Side of Saint Paul.

Erik wants to be a MNLEND fellow to round out his training at the University of Minnesota and be a better trained dentist for all patients, especially patients with NDDs. His ultimate goal is to become a pediatric dentist who is an interdisciplinary leader in policy making while advocating for best practices in treating patients with NDDs. Erik is driven to make positive change in the field of dentistry and in his community and is deeply appreciative of the opportunity to be a part of the MNLEND program.


Arianne Slaughter

Arianne Slaughter

Arianne Slaughter is currently a student at Concordia University - Wisconsin in the Doctor of Education LICI (Leadership, Innovation and Continuous Improvement) program. She just completed writing her dissertation and is going through the editing process with her dissertation chair. Early Childhood Education, Mental Health and ways of improving Cognitive Impairments are things that she feels strongly about. In her spare time she likes to exercise, spend time with her son who is on the spectrum and visit with friends.  She is excited to be part of such an amazing opportunity.


Bailey Smith

Bailey Smith

Bailey is a second-year graduate student completing her master's degree in speech-language pathology at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. She got her bachelor's degree in English and Psychology at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. Bailey is a part of the Bilingual and Multicultural Emphasis program in her department, is the president of the Future Professionals Committee for the Minnesota Speech Hearing Associations, and is a research assistant working to increase support for students of color in the department of speech-language and hearing sciences. Bailey's goal for the LEND program is to learn more about how to respectfully and effectively work with children with neurodevelopmental disabilities. She hopes to learn more about how to advocate for all children, especially those with disabilities, and ensure that every child is respected and provided the services they need.


Sophie Strzok

Sophie Strzok

Sophie Strzok is currently finishing up a Masters in the Study of Law at Hamline University and is enrolled in the U of MN Disability Policy and Services certificate this academic year. She earned her B.S. in Political Science from St. Catherine's University in 2021 and spent all of her undergrad in Student Senate and also served as the Chair for the Minnesota Association of Private College Students. Her undergrad projects included research papers around topics of disability rights and discrimination in special education and employment related to individuals with disabilities. Her experience at St. Kate's has translated into becoming a passionate advocate for all individuals with disabilities and learning as much as possible as to how our current legislation and systems in place have put many individuals with disabilities at a disadvantage. Currently, she is also a Public Policy and State Fair Intern at the Minnesota Council on Disability and has been an intern since March of this year and will continue into next year. This academic year she is also part of Class 40 of Partners in Policymaking which is an extreme blessing as only a select number of people get chosen to participate. All of these opportunities have made her realize her continued passion for advocating for individuals with disabilities and she wishes learn as much as she can about the various ways to advocate and press for equitable policies and practices in all aspects of life for all individuals with disabilities.


Der Thao

Der Thao

Der Thao is a first-generation Hmong daughter of refugee parents. She is a dual MSW and MPH student. Having just finished her first year in the MSW program, she is eager to start her first year in the MPH program. Her long-term career goals are to contribute research with historically marginalized communities and work in program development or evaluation related to CSA, primarily using community-based participatory approaches. As a CSA survivor, she strives to understand how to approach solutions with the communities she hopes to work with so that prevention or intervention programs not only center on their cultural needs but the needs of their children.
 
Through the MNLEND fellowship, Der hopes to expand her knowledge to improve the lives of children with IDD/NDD, their families, and their communities. She also wishes to gain more insight from other professionals of different disciplines and better understand the disability community to become a better ally and advocate.


Mary Troullier

Mary Troullier

Mary Troullier is in her second year of graduate school at the University of Minnesota. She is earning a MEd in Physical Activity and Health, with a certificate in Disability Policy and Services, and a certificate in Integrative Health and Well-Being Coaching. During her undergraduate degree, she worked for the campus’s Disability Resource Center, and has since been passionate about improving access to care for people with disabilities, specifically within health care. Mary’s focus is on using the physical body and physical activities as a gateway towards an overall interest in improving one’s health, and increasing the amount of physical activity services that are available for people with disabilities. Currently, she teaches adaptive yoga for kids and adults with a variety of intellectual and neurodevelopmental disabilities. These interests connected her to the Integrative Health and Well-Being Coaching program which is the education and profession that Mary’s fellowship will be directed towards. As a pre-doctoral fellow, Mary hopes to educate other health professionals about the role that health coaching can play in improving health equity and learning independent life skills for people with disabilities and their caregivers. She is interested in health care policy, and is looking forward to learning more about disability healthcare policy work and during her fellowship.


Ellen Wiederhoeft

Ellen Wiederhoeft

Ellen Wiederhoeft is a devoted home-based Direct Support Professional who has worked directly with youth and adults with IDD for over 7 years. Ellen graduated from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in 2016 with a Bachelor’s degree in Ecology, Evolution & Behavior, and shortly thereafter, she recognized her passion for direct support. Ellen is currently pursuing a graduate certificate at UMN in Disability Policy and Services and will be joining MNLEND as a community fellow.

In her time as a Direct Support Professional, Ellen recognized the extreme lack of funding for and recognition of home care workers and their clients. Through the MNLEND program, Ellen hopes to learn more about disability policy and its effects on the disability community and direct support workforce. Ellen ultimately aims to use the knowledge and resources gained through LEND to pursue research and legislative priorities that strengthen Minnesota’s field of Direct Support Professionals.


Emma Worthley

Emma Worthley

Emma Worthley is a third-year Ph.D. student in Special Education at the University of Minnesota. She received her Master’s in Special Education from the University of Minnesota in 2020. Emma has worked to support individuals with autism and their families through a myriad of support roles for over a decade, ranging from in-home support to school and center support. She is interested in early intervention and has focused her graduate research on the early development of autism. As a LEND fellow, Emma is looking forward to facilitating research to improve systems and policies to enhance the quality of life outcomes for individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities (NDD) and their families.


Bruktawit Zewdie

Bruktawit Zewdie

Bruktawit is a graduate of the University of Minnesota with a major in health and wellness, and this fall will begin her second year of her doctorate in occupational therapy on the Twin Cities campus. Currently, she works as a Psychiatry Assistant at Fairview Hospital. There, she works with clients who have struggled with mental health and/or have experienced drug dependence and overcoming alcohol or drug addictions that severely affect neuronal connections in the brain. She has also worked with adults and children who have autism and neurological disorders.

As a LEND Fellow, she would like to develop her leadership skills through the various training and opportunities the fellowship provides. She would like to work with diverse fellows from different disciplines and learn from them. She hopes to gain clinical experience that will help her educate others about the various cultural differences that exist in society and use a relationship-oriented approach. She would like to gain skills that will help expand her current knowledge of OT practice so that she can use it in her future practice.

Medium-Term Trainees


Rachel Gallagher

Rachel Gallagher

Rachel is a 4th year medical student at the University of Minnesota. She received her undergraduate degree in Sociology/Anthropology from Carleton College in 2018. She has worked in the world of neurodevelopmental disability for many years in a variety of roles, including direct support professional, PCA, job coach, and overnight camp counselor for neurodiverse teenagers. At the medical school, she co-created and leads a course for 3rd and 4th year students on ableism and intellectual disability in medicine. She is excited to be pursuing a career in family medicine, where she hopes she can care for individuals with NDD and their families across the lifespan. In her free time, she loves walking her two rescue dogs, baking desserts that are overloaded with chocolate, and adventuring with her spouse.

 


Anna Gilbertson

Anna Gilbertson

Anna Gilbertson joins this year’s cohort of MTT fellows with the desire to continue to create safe and inclusive spaces for youth in non-formal & out of school time youth development settings. Gilbertson received her M.Ed. in Youth Development Leadership from the University of Minnesota in 2015 and a bachelors degree in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Wisconsin – Stout in 2003.  Anna is a 19 year youth development professional with the University of Minnesota Extension 4-H Youth Development program. A pillar of Gilbertson’s work has been ensuring all youth have access to quality youth development experiences & caring adult mentors within the 4-H program. As a participant in the LEND program, Anna is eager to explore the wide variety of training topics & engage with professionals from a variety of disciplines to better serve youth and families.  Anna enjoys hand embroidery, gardening and spending time with her family.