Branley Acevedo is a 21-year-old Hispanic-American from the Inland Empire in southern California. He attends San Bernardino Valley College and is focused on becoming a case manager to help young adults fight negative self-talk and do all that is possible in their careers. After college, he aspires to become a grant writer so he can find funding for employment support programs. Mr. Acevedo is an outgoing student who likes to help in any way he can because he knows what it’s like to be a person in need of assistance and feel as though there is no support.
Ruth Allison is a research associate currently assigned to the National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT), which assists agencies in implementing evidence-based and promising practices ensuring that students with disabilities graduate prepared for postsecondary education and employment. Additionally, Ms. Allison works with the Rehabilitation Research Training Center (RRTC), which focuses on conducting vocational rehabilitation research and providing evidence-based technical assistance and training. Ms. Allison has also been employed as an administrative consultant for a state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agency, where she worked collaboratively to improve VR’s presence in secondary and postsecondary environments. Her work with partners resulted in implementation of a number of innovative transition practices that led to significant improvements in VR’s transition data. She has provided technical assistance throughout Arizona to diverse groups, which focused on improving employment preparation and outcomes for students with disabilities. Ms. Allison has served as a member of the Special Education Advisory Panel, the Governor’s Assessment Task Force, the State Autism Task Force, and the State Collaborative for Youth Development and currently serves on the National Advisory Board for RAISE.
Dr. Charlotte Alverson
Dr. Charlotte Alverson is a former research associate for the National Post-School Outcomes (NPSO) Center, and is currently a research associate assigned to the National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT), as well as the Secondary Special Education and Transition (SSET) Program’s research unit. She completed her PhD at the University of Oregon in special education in 2008. She has developed products and provided technical assistance activities for the NPSO and brings a wealth of practical experience as a former special education teacher and administrator. Her research and technical assistance interests include post-school outcomes, secondary special education programming for students with moderate and severe disabilities, and program evaluation.
Dr. Loujeania Williams Baker
Dr. Loujeania Baker is the former director of the National Dropout Prevention Center for Students with Disabilities (NDPC-SD) and is co-director of the National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT). She holds a PhD in special education from Pennsylvania State University and has an extensive background and experience working in state and local education agencies and in community programs. Dr. Baker has worked with students with disabilities and special education personnel in several states, including 13 years with the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Bureau of Special Education, where she served as both chief for compliance and chief of technical assistance and professional development. In addition, Dr. Baker has been a public school teacher, a program administrator for agencies serving adults and adolescents with mental retardation, a local special education coordinator, and a researcher.
Erin Callinan – Tuesday Opening Keynote Speaker
Erin Callinan is the owner of Peace of My Mind, LLC, through which she authored and published her book entitled, Beautifully Bipolar: An Inspiring Look Into Mental Illness. She serves on the board of directors for Mentally Ill Kids in Distress (MIKID), and has spent the last four years as a mentor for the New Pathways for Youth Program. Since 2011, Ms. Callinan has worked at the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence and serves as an advisory board member for End Violence Against Women International.
David Carson spent his first 25 years excelling in math and science and on the football field. However, he could not achieve the same success in the realm of English, reading, and spelling. Although he received a football scholarship to North Carolina State University, he struggled with anxiety caused by the transition from high school to college and failed in postsecondary education three separate times. Eventually, Mr. Carson learned that he was both gifted and had a learning disability, and with proper support, he soon found academic success and graduated from college. He remained committed to advocacy for learning disabled students, published his first book, The Survival Guide for College Bound LD Students, and became a public speaker. He reminds students, parents, and educators that having a learning disability does not prevent a student from succeeding, and his mission is to provide direction and hope to his audiences.
Nicole Drazin is an employment placement specialist for Operation MONEY, a Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act youth employment program at Colton-Redlands-Yucaipa Regional Occupational Program School, and the adult partner for the YouthACT SoCal POSSE. She is a graduate from the University of Redlands and has aspirations of becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist. Ms. Drazin has experience working in various transitional programs, but has particularly loved working with the homeless transitional-aged youth and the SoCal POSSE. She has been a part of YouthACT since 2015.
Dr. Marilyn Friend
Dr. Marilyn Friend has spent her career as a general education teacher, special education teacher, researcher, professor, administrator, teacher educator, and staff developer. She is professor emerita of education in the Department of Specialized Education Services at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and she is past president of the Council for Exceptional Children. Dr. Friend has consulted with school professionals nationally and internationally (more than 3,000 presentations and projects in the United States, Canada, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia) as they collaborate to educate their students, assisting them to create classroom partnerships through co-teaching, to form productive and efficient work teams, and to foster inclusive practices. She is the author or co-author of three widely used college textbooks on special education, and most recently, her work was recognized when she was named the 2016 recipient of the Teacher Education Division/Pearson Excellence in Special Education Teacher Education Award.
Dr. Amy Gaumer Erickson
Dr. Amy Gaumer Erickson focuses on comprehensive evaluation of educational initiatives that improve in-school and post-school outcomes for students. Her work centers on the implementation of instructional strategies within a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) that enable students with and without disabilities to become college and career ready. To support continuous educational improvement, she has developed instruments that provide a schoolwide perspective on educator implementation. She has also published books and articles that provide practical assessment and instructional strategies to support students’ cognitive, intrapersonal, and interpersonal skill development. Dr. Gaumer Erickson and her husband apply these strategies to support the college and career readiness of their three teenaged children.
Mindy Larson is a senior program associate at the Institute for Educational Leadership’s Center for Workforce Development (IEL/CWD) and project manager for the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth). NCWD/Youth is a national technical assistance center, supported by US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, which works to ensure that transition-aged youth are provided full access to high quality services in integrated settings to gain education, employment, and independent living. Ms. Larson’s work prior to joining IEL included managing a variety of national, state, and local youth employment and education initiatives.
Mike Marotta is a Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) certified assistive technology professional who has been providing direct services to individuals with all types of disabilities for over 25 years. He runs his own technology consulting firm, Inclusive Technology Solutions, LLC. As an evaluator, Mr. Marotta works collaboratively with teams in all environments (school, workplace, and community) to effectively match an individual’s needs to requisite technology supports. He is a nationally and internationally recognized presenter who was previously a trainer for California State University at Northridge (CSUN), providing practical and in-depth training to professionals interested in specializing in assistive technology. In addition, Mr. Marotta is an adjunct professor at Simmons College; California State University, Northridge; Ramapo College of New Jersey; and Felician College where he teaches courses for pre-service teachers and masters-level educators in assistive technology and universal design for learning. He is also a member of the faculty at the Center on Technology and Disabilities (http:// www.ctdinstitute.org/) and presents on an array of topics.
Clover Mow joined the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) in 2016. As a senior program associate for IEL’s Center for Workforce Development (CWD), she serves as the Vocational Rehabilitation Youth Technical Assistance Center technical assistance liaison as a direct contact for state vocational rehabilitation agencies seeking assistance to improve their service delivery to transition-aged youth. Ms. Mow has 15 years of program management and public workforce development experience, including work on a number of local, state, and federal systems change initiatives aimed at increasing the accessibility of workforce development services for youth and adults with disabilities, English language learners, and those impacted by either the juvenile/criminal justice system or homelessness. She was previously the director of programs for SE Works, an American Job Center and Youth Education and Career Development Center, where she was responsible for the implementation, management, supervision, and evaluation of the organization’s programs in the Youth, Reentry and Workforce Development Centers. Ms. Mow spent 14 years working for Worksystems, Inc., Portland, Oregon’s local workforce development board, managing a variety of the Workforce Investment Opportunity Act (WIOA) youth and adult projects and cross-systems collaborations. She is passionate about systems change, creative program design, and bringing together communities to assist youth transitioning to adulthood.
Fernando Olivarez IV
Fernando Olivarez IV was born and raised in San Bernardino, California. During his senior year of high school, he fell in love with a program called Transitional Partnership Project (TPP). This program helped him transition after high school by giving him resources for life, such as teaching him what to do and what not to do when on the job. It made a big impression on him and he was so thankful to have this program that he wanted to volunteer as a guest speaker for schools that have a TPP class. His mission did not end there: he was privileged to create a brochure of helpful resources for transitioning youth. His mission continues as he works to encourage high school students by discussing the benefits of the available transitional programs and the ins and outs of having a learning disability.
Dr. Amy Pleet-Odle
Dr. Amy Pleet-Odle has been in the field of education for four decades and brings her diverse experiences from those years to her workshops and coaching. She has been an English, drama, and special education teacher, department chair, and district transition coordinator. In 1997, she joined the Maryland State Department of Education as the transition specialist, leading state efforts to include transition requirements in school-based practices and in IEPs. In 2000, after completing her doctorate at George Washington University in special education systems change, she was hired by Towson University in Maryland to develop their graduate special education program, earning tenure and the rank of associate professor. From 2006 to 2013, she served as the secondary inclusion consultant at the University of Delaware, providing support to administrators and faculty in 30 schools in seven Delaware school systems. She uses professional coaching skills that were developed through 20 years of mentoring by Arthur Nierenberg, executive director of Breakthrough Disability, Inc. She is also a certified learning-focused solutions trainer. Dr. Pleet-Odle has a reputation nationally and abroad for her effective interactive professional development and for multiple publications on family engagement, secondary transition, and inclusive practices.
Danielle “DJ” Ralston is a senior program associate with the Institute for Educational Leadership. She started her career as a Workforce Investment Act (WIA) case manager and One-Stop Career Center staff member where she learned about workforce development system programs. These programs ranged from WIA Title One services and Wagner-Peyser services to programs such as vocational rehabilitation and food stamps. Ms. Ralston is a top of the millennial generation, perpetual glass-half-full person with passion and fire for creating systemic change and facilitating cross-system collaboration to help all youth attain their dreams.
Dr. Deborah Reed
Dr. Deborah K. Reed earned her doctorate in special education at the University of Texas at Austin. She spent the first 10 years of her career as an English language arts and reading teacher and pre-K–12 reading specialist. Since 2003, she has been active in the field as a researcher and technical assistance provider. Most recently, Dr. Reed served as an assistant professor at Florida State University and the Florida Center for Reading Research. She has developed numerous instructional materials and professional development programs on evidence-based literacy practices, particularly for middle and high school students. Dr. Reed was awarded the Council for Learning Disabilities’ 2010 Outstanding Researcher of the Year award, served as the chair of that organization’s research committee from 2012 to 2015, and is now the vice president. She has authored over 25 peer-reviewed journal articles and serves on the editorial boards of Learning Disability Quarterly, Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, and the Elementary School Journal. Her current research interests include appropriate uses of reading data in instructional decision making, addressing the literacy demands of science classes, and providing reading instruction in correctional settings.
David Richards, JD
David Richards is a partner in the Austin law firm, Richards, Lindsay & Martin, LLP, where his practice is focused on special education law in school districts and special education co-ops. He is the general counsel for the Council of Educators for Students with Disabilities and is a frequent presenter on Section 504 issues, the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and other school law topics at education service centers, school districts, and conferences in Texas and throughout the country. His analyses on education law issues frequently appear in LRP’s publications The Section 504 Compliance Advisor, The Special Educator, and Your School and the Law. He is a graduate of Texas Tech University and the University of Texas School of Law.
Roberto Rivera – Monday Opening Keynote Speaker
Roberto Rivera is an artist, educator, and change agent who specializes in applying best practices in engaging youth using practical and relevant methods. He is also the president and lead change agent of the Good Life Alliance, a public benefit organization that publishes multi-media educational tools and trains educators, youth workers, and parents in connecting positive youth development to community development. Mr. Rivera received his undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he created his own major entitled “Social Change, Youth Culture and the Arts.” He received his master’s degree at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) in youth development with a focus on social justice, urban education, and hip-hop. He is currently working toward the completion of his PhD in education psychology also at UIC. His experiences in working in the field of community-based popular education over the last decade have won him awards from former President Bill Clinton, US Senator Tammy Baldwin, and others. Despite these accolades, Mr. Rivera sees his work as giving back, since (being labeled “at-risk” and “disadvantaged” as a teen himself) his relationships with key educators and youth workers helped him to turn his life around. His presentations are unique in that they include both scientifically based research and pieces of his own story of transformation from a dope dealer to a hope dealer, while they also incorporate stories from his work with communities around the nation. His unique ability to code-switch from sharing research and data to stories and poems leaves audiences with enlightened minds and moved hearts. He is also a proud husband and father and sees being a good partner and dad as one of his lifelong goals.
Sean Roy is the co-director of the Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights (PACER) Center’s National Parent Center on Transition and Employment, housed within PACER in Minnesota. In this role, he works to improve the success of youth with disabilities who are transitioning from school to life in the community. Mr. Roy is an experienced curriculum developer, writer, trainer, and presenter, often speaking to professionals and families about issues of employment, accessing postsecondary education, and promoting family involvement in transition planning. Mr. Roy holds a master’s degree in human service planning and administration and draws from previous employment experience in education and juvenile corrections, as well as being a sibling of an adult with autism.
Sookyung Shin is a special education advocate who helps empower parents of children with special educational needs through information, training, and support in order for them to be informed collaborative partners on their child’s IEP team. Her work with Open Doors for Multicultural Families focuses on culturally and linguistically diverse families raising children with disabilities. Ms. Shin is also a mother of two, her youngest having profound intellectual and multiple disabilities and complex health care needs. She is presently pursing her PhD in special education at the University of Kansas and is a Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) fellow and graduate of Partners in Policymaking.
Dr. V. Scott Solberg
Dr. V. Scott Solberg is associate dean for research at Boston University’s School of Education and professor in the Department of Counseling and Human Development. His research focuses on designing learning systems that optimize youth development. For the past eight years, he has been principal investigator on a federally sponsored national study of individualized learning plans (ILPs) through a cooperative agreement grant awarded to the National Collaborative for Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth) from the US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. Internationally and nationally respected for his work with supporting the career and social emotional learning development of youth, Dr. Solberg is also author of Success Highways, a resiliency curriculum for middle and high school youth.
Dr. Jane Soukup
Dr. Jane Soukup is a research associate at the University of Kansas, Center for Research on Learning. Her responsibilities include facilitating the Arizona College and Career Competencies Team Training (CCCTT), formerly known as STMP/CCRTT, and the Secondary Vermont Multi-Tier System of Supports Academy (vtMTSS). The purpose of both projects is to support general education, special education, guidance counselors, administrators, and others as they work together to achieve college and career readiness for ALL high school students—especially those with disabilities. Dr. Soukup’s interests focus on the principal’s connection to special education services, the opportunity to access general education curriculum for students receiving special education services, and strategies to enhance the self- determination of youth. Her work is driven by her Teach for America corps experience and work as a classroom teacher/administrator in Texas and Kansas.
Jennifer Thomas is a youth development specialist with the Institute for Educational Leadership. She’s known for igniting youth voice and promoting youth choice to yield positive transition outcomes for youth. Ms. Thomas joined the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) in 2013 as a youth development specialist for the IEL-led National Collaborative for Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth). She is responsible for coordinating NCWD/Youth’s youth development and leadership efforts. Her primary focus is steering the Youth Action Council on Transition (YouthACT), a national project geared toward getting more youth with disabilities and their allies involved as leaders who partner with adults and organizations to improve opportunities for youth to succeed in life. Ms. Thomas provides support to these teams of youth leaders, adult partners, and sponsoring organizations who work together to improve transition outcomes for youth.