Symposium Speaker Information
(speakers listed alphabetically)
Daniel Angelis -
Daniel Angelis is a long term HIV survivor and has lived with severe anxiety disorders including PTSD, Social Anxiety, and Severe Depression as a result of lived trauma over the course of his life. Daniel is an experienced IT technician who has almost completed a degree in Clinical Psychology to both understand his own conditions and advocate changing the current model of psychiatric care. Daniel has also experienced stigma and discrimination in employment and in and out of the LGBTQIA+ community as a result of HIV and mental health conditions.
Kaela Blanks - Aramark
Kaela’s (she / her / hers) core belief is to make an impact by empowering people to thrive. Fortunately, as a leader on Aramark’s Global Diversity and Inclusion team, she’s able to put that core belief into action every day. She works daily to empower the organization’s 10 employee resource groups and amplify the diverse stories within the organization. Kaela ensures people feel Seen & Heard, Included & Involved, while Connected & Supported. She passionately cares about people and is grateful to channel that passion through her work with Aramark and serving on the board for both Professional Women’s Roundtable and the Philadelphia Chapter of Society for Human Resources Management.nTrue to her passion, Kaela loves to travel to new cities and explore new foods. She also geeks out on sci-fi and space travel and easily gets lost in a good book or movie. Check out her LinkedIn to get to know her better. https://www.linkedin.com/in/kaelablanks/.
Charlotte Brickhouse, PhD - School District of Philadelphia
Dr. Charlotte Brickhouse is a Director of Special Education in the School District of Philadelphia.She has worked with administrators, school teams, and external stakeholders to improve special education programs and services for students with disabilities. She has also served in leadership roles as Special Education Case Manager, Special Education Discipline Coordinator and a Special Education Liaison for a number of years where she established a co-teaching program, and a semiannual transition workshop for parents, to assist families in post-secondary planning. She has led large initiatives in her district including extended school year, designing the new Special Education Framework and spearheading a specialized full-time emotional support program. Charlotte has taught and served students with special needs for nearly two decades, and has worked to support and prepare aspiring educators where she taught student teachers at Lincoln University.
Shari Brightful - Philadelphia Office of Vocational Rehabilitation - OVR
Shari is a native of the Philadelphia area and mother to three children (two of whom have disabilities), She believes in Employment 1st—the first and the only option. She began her career with Philadelphia BVRS as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Intern and has served as the District Administrator since July of 2015. Her passion for working with individuals with disabilities began as she watched her mother who worked as a Peer Counselor at Norristown State Hospital and later a Director with COMHAR. Shari recognized that the needs of people with severe disabilities were often unmet and viable work opportunities were few. She served as a liaison to large community resource providers such as SpARC, facilitated projects such as PAS (Promoting Academic Success), Project Success, and the Marriott Bridges School to Work Program, and has worked closely with the Philadelphia Transition Coordinating Council, Employment 1st Initiative, Transition Planning Project, and the Charter School Forum on Transition. With the implementation of the WIOA, Shari is excited about the opportunities that will be created for youth with disabilities throughout the Philadelphia area.
Meghan Casey - SPIN, Inc.
Meghan Casey, currently an Employment Specialist for SPIN, holds a Bachelor's Degree in Therapeutic Recreation from Temple University. She has completed ACRE training in Supported Employment, an holds certifications both as a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist and a Certified Employment Support Professional. She began her career as an intern at spin Community Fitness Center as a Recreational Therapist, facilitating a class for individuals with disabilities to discuss employment opportunities and what motivated individuals to work. She was inspired by the passion and purpose that employment brought to their lives. Employment was not solely about income, but about having pride in their work and a place in their community. After completing her internship, Meghan began working as an Employment Specialist for SPIN. She knew that assisting individuals at work and helping them to find jobs would offer her the same pride that was so often expressed in her class. Meghan's background in Recreational Therapy aids her in finding creative employment opportunities and goals for the individuals she supports. She continuously strives to break down the barriers that people with disabilities face when searching for meaningful employment. She is grateful to work with such a hardworking team and loves seeing the people she supports flourish as employees and members of society.
Joe Cipolla - JEVS, Inc.
Joe Cipolla, (he / him / his) JEVS Director of Industry Partnerships, has spent over 35 years connecting job seekers with local companies. In that pursuit he has assumed the role of nonprofit executive, manager, career counselor, employment professional and retention specialist. Joe has worked almost exclusively in the metro Philadelphia labor market. He holds a Master degree in counseling from West Chester University and numerous certifications related to workforce development.
Laura Cipriani - PA Office of Developmental Programs (PA ODP)
Desmond Coates - SPIN, Inc.
Desmond Coates has over 20 years of experience supporting people with disabilities to achieve their dreams, and has been with SPIN for 18 years! He fell in love with the job because of the people he has supported over the years who have taught him so much about life and learning because of their determination and outlook on life. You are never too old to learn something new and anyone can be your teacher. After spending 14 years as a Direct Support Professional in a residential home, Wanting to get out of his comfort zone, Desmond took part in SPIN’s Leadership Pathway, enrolling in their 12-week professional development course. He knew that he had to be a role model and challenge himself if he wanted to inspire others, especially the gentlemen he supported. Leadership Pathway helped Desmond open up and become a better public speaker. After completing the course, he took a position as a Job Coach with the SPIN Employment Services team. For the past 4 years, Desmond has appreciated the opportunity to help people achieve their employment goals and be accepted in their community. He loves the flexibility of his job, the closeness of the Employment Services team, and the inclusion of everyone. Desmond completed ACRE training in 2018 and earned a National Certificate of Achievement in Employment Services. In the future, Desmond would like to go back to school to study mental health and further his career.
Andrea Cosigny - SPIN, Inc.
Andrea Consigny is the Division Director of Employment Services and Community Participation Supports at SPIN serving the Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley regions. Andrea holds a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Arcadia University, CESP and ACRE Certification. She is an active board member of PA APSE and enjoys the opportunity to connect with other professionals, share strategies, and implement practices for advancing the mission of Employment 1st. SPIN has a successful record of providing transition, employment, and habilitation supports to adolescents and adults with a variety of intellectual, developmental, and autism spectrum disabilities. Andrea currently leads a highly effective and dynamic team to support over 500 individuals as they achieve their personal goals, develop meaningful relationships, obtain employment, and enjoy a life of possibilities.
Jim Donovan - Sun King Warriors
Jim Donovan, Leader of the band Sun King Warriors, Assistant Professor at Saint Francis University, and inspirational performer and educator believes in the power of music to bring people together. Donovan, who writes and records with his roots-rock band Sun King Warriors, brings his motivating brand of open-hearted, big-energy to every event he leads - whether a conference keynote, corporate team building, educational training or wellness retreat. Starting as a founding member of the 3-time platinum 90's band Rusted Root, he co-wrote and performed “Send Me on My Way,” a song whose unforgettable whistle has been featured in both Matilda and Ice Age. While touring with Rusted Root, he shared arena stages with rock legends such as Carlos Santana, The Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin and Sting, among others. He is the author of the book “Drum Circle Leadership” and offers training to organizations that teach people how to lead group music-making as a way to support wellness and social connection, including evidence-based programs for people who work with individuals with disabilities such as Autism, and with those who work in recovery. We encourage you to check out Jim Donovan's website (https://www.DonovanHealth.com), and his social media - Jim Donovan Sound Health (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.)
Judy Dotzman - SPIN, Inc.
Judy Dotzman is Executive Director of SPIN, a nonprofit organization nationally and regionally recognized as a premier provider of human services, and a top workplace for over 10 years. She holds a Master’s of Education from Temple University, and has been supporting the growth and development of people with intellectual, developmental disabilities and autism for over 35 years. Judy, employed at SPIN since 1986, has dedicated her career to providing and ensuring quality, best practice services and supports while achieving nationally recognized success in the area of professional workforce development at all levels of the organization. Her commitment to innovative, inclusive community services, development and collaboration has been a hallmark. Judy is President of The Alliance of Community Service Providers, and sits on many local and state Advisory Boards. She lectures in many college classrooms and has presented on the topics of innovative program development, leadership and workforce development at local, state and national conferences. Judy believes in the power of possibility and that partnering and investing in people can provide unique opportunities for everyone to reach their fullest potential and share their strengths with others.
Ed Drago - PA CareerLink® Suburban Station
Ed Drago (he / him / his) is an experienced workforce case manager, motivational leader and storyteller. Driven by a passion for people and community, he takes pride in providing a mindfulness-based approach in connecting job seekers to resources that empower and inspire them to follow their passion toward a more meaningful career. As a W.I.O.A Workforce Advisor at the PA CareerLink®, his goals are to create a space where all participants can be afforded an opportunity to be welcomed, seen and heard through mindful listening, storytelling and skill building. He empowers individuals to engage in their own lives to build self-esteem and self-efficacy, opening the door to both personal and professional possibilities never thought possible. Edward currently holds a graduate-level certification in MBCT-Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy intervention from Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.
Suzanne Erb - Networks for Training and Development, Inc.
Suzanne Erb (she / her / hers) has always believed in bringing together people of all abilities in order to create a more livable and usable world for everyone. With a Master's Degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Counseling Psychology, she brings over 35 years of experience in direct service, case management supervision, and training in the disabilities field. Currently, at Networks for Training and Development, Inc., she provides training for groups, including direct service staff, administrators, and the general public regarding disability awareness topics. She is a member of the ADA Leadership Network, and chairs the Board of Directors of Disability Rights Pennsylvania.
Amy Federer - National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
Amy Federer (she / her / hers) was born in South Carolina and raised in Philadelphia. She is in recovery of substance abuse, multiple mental illnesses and has been to prison. Having seen her, you would never think this were the case. That's because mental illness and addiction can happen to any one of us. Amy has worked at The Consumer Satisfaction Team, Inc. as a Behavioral Health Specialist and at Verizon in the corporate world. But the mental health field kept calling to her, so she is currently working at NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) in Philadelphia. There, Amy assists with the CIT (Crisis Intervention Training) with the Philadelphia Police and Philadelphia Prisons, facilitates support groups, sits on various committees, coordinates Signature Programing, as well as many other advocacy and community efforts. She is trained in ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) and Adult & Youth Mental Health First Aid. She believes it is her destiny to have gone through all that she has been through in order to give her the life lessons, and have the ability needed, to help the next person who is suffering.
Kathy Fogel - Philadelphia Office of Vocational Rehabilitation - BVRS (OVR-BVRS)
Kathy Fogel is the Assistant District Manager for Philadelphia BVRS. Kathy started at OVR in 2008 as a vocational rehabilitation counselor focusing on all persons with a disability and liaison counselor for JEVS. As a supervisor at OVR, she supervised the placement unit and involved in the development of the Business Services Team. Kathy's current management responsibilities include oversight of the Business Services Team, the ID/ODP Team and Pre-Employment Transition Services/Early Reach Program.
Mary Anderson Hartley - 446 Bridges
Mary Hartley is a disability systems-change and program consultant. Along with United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, lead the #IWantToWork Campaign and the effort to develop policy and support the passage of two pieces of Pennsylvania legislation that increase employment for people with disabilities -- Act 26: Work Experience for High School Students with Disabilities and Act 36: Employment First PA. She assisted in developing current legislation increasing the income cap for Pennsylvanians with disabilities in the Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities (MAWD) program. Along with United Way and Allegheny County leadership, Mary initiated and launched a successful new model of business employment collaboration, the Career Transition Project (now operating in 9 businesses). She is currently a Consultant with The Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council, is the Project Director for the Western Pennsylvania Disability History and Action Consortium, and serves as Chair of Pennsylvania's Employment First Oversight Commission.
Sandy Ho -
Stephen Hunt - Briggs Associates
Jeanne Goldberg - U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Jeanne Goldberg is an attorney in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) headquarters in Washington, D.C. She advises the Commission on the interpretation and application of the statutes it enforces, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. She has delivered hundreds of training presentations throughout the country for private and public sector attorneys, managers, employees, and human resources staff on a wide range of EEO issues, and is a frequent speaker at national conferences.
James Harris - PA CareerLink® Philadelphia
James Harris (he / him / his) serves as the PA CareerLink® Philadelphia Business Services Manager. He has worked within the PA CareerLink® for 9 years in effort to connect candidates in career transition with the business community. These involve On-the-Job Training, Recruitment Events, Job Fairs, Labor Market Intelligence and a host of other supportive measures.
Liz Humphrey - Advocate
Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Humphrey (she / her / hers) is an inspirational speaker and advocate for all people with disabilities. She is a Merakey Ambassador and an active member of Merakey’s: Diversity and Inclusion Council, Consumer Advocacy Group, Human Rights Committee, and Junior Board. Liz is involved with the Self Advocacy Power Network for All (SAPNA); is a trainee with Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND); and participated in the Competence and Confidence: Partners in Policymaking (C2P2). She has attended rallies in Harrisburg and met with legislators to advocate for Direct Support Professionals and an end to the DSP workforce crisis. Liz has an inspirational Facebook page, I Can’t Be Put Down, and aspires to advocate for the rights of others with disabilities.
Theresia Kody - Networks for Training and Development, Inc.
Theresia Kody, CESP (she/her) joined Networks for Training and Development, Inc in July 2019 as the Employment First Director. With an innate sense of curiosity, Theresia considers herself a student of life which leads her asking “Why?” as she seeks to understand the world and perspectives around her. Ms. Kody brings a wealth of various experiences and knowledge from her time working in multiple roles within providers as well as business services in workforce development. Ms. Kody received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Saint Joseph’s University in 2011. In 2012, she earned her ACRE certificate and in 2017 obtained her Certified Employment Support Professional credential, which she continues to maintain. Ms. Kody is actively involved in social justice and service outside of work. From her childhood experiences to present, Ms. Kody finds her purpose in bridging abilities to opportunities and seeks to support people in overcoming barriers to unlocking their potential.
Leah Lamb - Transformational Storyteller
Leah Lamb, MSW, experiences story as a tool for personal transformation and social change, and views the artform as a mystical expression of the connection between earth, people, and all life forms. Her storytelling lives in several mediums. She has authored short stories, documentaries, and award-winning PSA’s about the environment. Her articles about culture and the environment have been featured in Fast Company, Spirituality & Health Magazine, National Geographic News Watch, and Huffington Post. She produced and hosted The Green Channel on the Emmy-award-winning television network, Current TV.
Tracy Lapreziosa - Networks for Training and Development, Inc.
Tracy Lapreziosa, M.A, BS OTR/L is the “Adaptations for Living” Team Lead for Networks for Training and Development Inc. She joined Networks in 2017 after a 25 year career in Private Practice providing OT services to children ages 5-21. Tracy has worked with High school students in Transition to work programs assisting supporting teams with adaptations to help make work experiences comfortable and successful. At POTA conference, she presented a model of intervention stressing collaboration of teams supporting students with Autism addressing various life skill domains. Tracy has a special interest in the exploration of sensory processing differences and low tech adaptations to make everyone comfortable and productive in their home and work environments.
Chelsea Lutts - SPIN, Inc.
Chelsea Lutts (she / her / hers) is the Director of Employment Services at SPIN located in Philadelphia, Bucks, Montgomery and Lehigh counties. Chelsea holds a Master’s Degree in Education with a concentration in Special Education from Arcadia University. Chelsea is a Certified Employment Support Professional and has received her ACRE Certification in Customized Employment. Chelsea manages a team of 26 Employment Specialists and Job Coaches who support people with intellectual, developmental and autism spectrum disabilities to meet their employment outcomes. She currently leads a highly effective team providing supported employment, customized employment and self-employment services with evidence based results. Chelsea’s team has successfully support over 200 people to achieve their employment goals and a life of possibilities!
LaQuenta Montañez - School District of Philadelphia
LaQuenta Montañez, a Secondary Transition Coordinator for The School District of Philadelphia (SDP), supports students with disabilities, 14- 21 years of age, in transitioning to their desired post-school outcomes, whether postsecondary education/training, and/or competitive employment. Utilizing high leverages practices (HLPs) and research-based instructional and work based learning experiences, it is the goal of the SDP to ensure that students with disabilities are college and career ready upon graduating from high school. As an individual with a disability, LaQuenta has experienced having a successful transition plan. Through that, she achieved her goals of obtaining a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Special Education and Educational Administration from Cheyney University of PA and Edinboro University of PA. It is her passion to ensure that all students with disabilities are provided with transition services and activities in order to reap success, and lead productive lives in today's society.
Emily Myers - Briggs Associates
A. J. Nanayakkara - Johns Hopkins Health System (JHHS)
A.J. Nanayakkara is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Accessibility Program Manager for the Johns Hopkins Health System (JHHS). AJ develops policies to ensure compliance with federal and state laws regarding individuals with disabilities, and he produces training to reinforce policies. Prior to joining JHHS, AJ served as an Accessibility Consultant and the Executive Director of a nonprofit organization. In these roles, he provided expertise in program development, accessibility accommodations, disability policy, adaptive recreation, and education. AJ also conducted needs assessments, program evaluations, and policy analyses to facilitate quality improvement of programs and services for persons with disabilities.
Natasha Nunez - SPIN, Inc.
Natasha Nunexz's passion for working with people with disabilities came from her natural desire to put people first, and support people with disabilities to accomplish their goals. Natasha had a heart to help. She has worked in pre-school, elementary, and high schools, assisting students with disabilities, including helping to create a work readiness program for high school students with autism. Natasha learned that many adults with disabilities struggle to feel included in their communities after graduation. This served to deepen her passion, and led her to SPIN, where for 6-1/2 years she has been a part of their Employment Services Team. Natasha has completed her ACRE training and gained her CESP certification, which has allowed her to improve the quality of supports she provides through SPIN’s employment services. As an Employment Specialist she feels as though she were helping people with disAbilities find their pathway and fulfill a life of possibilities, one application at a time, one job at a time, and one support at a time.
Laura Owens, PhD - TransCen Inc.
Laura, the President of TransCen, has over 30 years of experience, with a strong background as a national leader in the disability employment field. Laura is currently a Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the Exceptional Education Department where she teaches courses focusing on high school inclusion and transition from school to work. She is also the founder and President of Creative Employment Opportunities, Inc. (CEO), in Milwaukee, which she founded in 1991. Prior to joining TransCen, Laura served as the Executive Director of APSE (the Association of People Supporting Employment First), a national organization focusing on the advancement of integrated employment for citizens with disabilities. She is an internationally known speaker having presented to businesses, organizations, schools, and at conferences in Israel, Ireland, Croatia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Chile, and Portugal. A woman with seemingly limitless energy, Laura is passionate about her work and loves helping individuals with disabilities obtain and maintain employment. Working with individuals with disabilities is what she enjoys the most – and then she’s eager to support others in learning how to help individuals with disabilities pursue their dreams – from teachers to employment consultants to employers.
Ed Rogers - U.S Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP)
Joshua Shusterman -PA CareerLink® Suburban Station
Joshua Shusterman (he / him / his) is the Disability Navigator for PA CareerLink® in Philadelphia. In this role, Josh helps people with disabilities find employment including locating jobs from job developers, assistance with resume and application completion, and interview techniques. Josh is a 2013 graduate of Beacon College with a Bachelor of Arts in Human Services and an AA in Web and Digital Media. Josh used his initial position as a volunteer in 2016 as a springboard to his current position and was hired as the first Disability Navigator in 2018.
Allison Smale - KenCrest Services, Inc.
Alli Smale is a graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and has worked for KenCrest for 20 years helping youth and adults attain their career goals in the community and supporting them to develop self-advocacy and leadership skills. Currently, she is the Director of Employment and Community Participation. Alli enjoys developing new strategies for assisting people to build social capital and full participation in their communities. She has recently presented on transition topics and social capital building at the National APSE conference, the International Project SEARCH conference, the PA Conference on Transition, and the Alliance DSP conference. She is a graduate of the National Leadership Consortium at the University of Delaware and is a Certified Employment Support Professional. Alli recently completed her Masters in Community Based Education & Leadership at Stevenson University and has developed a regional time back supporting Southeastern PA called Good Neighbors Time Bank.
Tieshka Smith - Photographer / Commentator
Tieshka (pronounced Tish-Ka) Smith is a Philadelphia-based photographer and commentator. Smith’s overall body of work explores identity formation, how memories and values are shaped, and the impact that marginalization of people and ideas has on neighborhoods in transition. It is her goal as an artist and cultural worker to facilitate dialogue and radical action around a range of socio-economic issues that impact urban communities. She seeks to use as many tools at her disposal to challenge and disrupt the status quo. In addition to being widely published, her photographic work has been exhibited on the East Coast and in the Midwest. A Chicago native, Smith is a graduate of Northwestern University and Keller Graduate School of Management.
Shadiqua Smith-Spann - Advocate
Shadiqua's (she / her / hers) passion for mental health began with her own struggles. Growing up in an environment where mental health discussions were rejected, she didn't have any support to guide her in the process of healing. However, a series of traumatic events and numerous suicide attempts gave birth to a strong desire to improve the conditions of Shadiqua's life. As for many others, the process of seeking support became more and more discouraging. The countless obstacles as well as not knowing where to start triggered a severe mental breakdown. During her recovery, Shadiqua discovered where and how to begin her journey. Shadiqua's own path was revealed to her and many of the doors that were once closed, opened. Her experiences gave her the necessary resources and insight to enrich her community. Shadiqua is now certified as a Certified Peer Specialist and Community Health Worker. She used both her training and experience to started her own nonprofit Uponyaji, which means healing in Swahili. Shadiqua's nonprofit is based in Philadelphia, Pa and it aims to provide mental health resources and spread awareness within the black community. Her goal is to share her stories, experience, and knowledge with her community through her nonprofit.
William Toms - REC Philly
Will Toms (he / him / his) is the Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of REC Philly, part creative incubator and part creative agency. As the visionary behind the company’s endeavors, this Germantown-born, Philadelphia native has quickly made a name for himself in the region's startup community. In just a few years he has grown his organization to nearly 20 employees and raised a $3.5 million dollar seed round to scale his socially-driven model from a warehouse in North Philadelphia to a state-of-the-art facility in Center City. Outside of REC, Will is an active member of several non-profit boards, including HopeWorks, Urban Creators and the Arts + Business Council.
Andrew Vizuete - Networks for Training and Development, Inc.
Koert Wehberg, Esq. - Philadelphia Mayor's Commission on People with Disabilities
Koert Wehberg (he / him / his) is the Executive Director of the Mayor’s Commission on People with Disabilities in Philadelphia, bringing to this position over a decade of litigation and legal advocacy experience. Prior to his current position, he worked at Disability Rights PA, first as a staff attorney and then becoming a project director in 2017. In his short time with the city, Koert has been able to begin making a positive impact on Philadelphia residents, collaborating with other city agencies and nonprofits to develop a program to deliver food to residents with disabilities who are unable to leave their homes during the Covid-19 crisis. Koert has conducted numerous trainings and is asked to speak regularly for large and small audiences on disability rights matters. He has been a faculty instructor on CLE’s on special education and students with autism. He is a member of the Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Council and the Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council. He received his B.A. in English in 2004 from Hamilton College and his J.D. from the Syracuse University College of Law in 2008, with a certificate in Disability Law and Policy. He is admitted to practice law in New York and Pennsylvania state and federal courts.
Alec Weinstein - SPIN, Inc.
Alec Weinstein is a Supervisor of Employment Services at SPIN, in Philadelphia. He holds a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Rehabilitative and Human Services from East Stroudsburg University, is a Certified Employment Support Professional, and has completed ACRE training in Employment Services. Alec interned at SPIN during his final semester at ESU in the Employment Services Department, where he assisted the team with piloting Pre-Employment Transition Services (P.E.T.S.) to high school students, and was given the opportunity to shadow Employment Specialists in the field to actually see what providing Employment Services entailed. Shortly thereafter, he had begun as an Employment Specialist which brought about many meaningful opportunities. Apart from providing Development and Coaching Services, he was one of the instructors for P.E.T.S. Group Services as well as provided many of the P.E.T.S. Individual Services. After hearing about SPIN’s Leadership Pathway Program, Alec had applied and was given the opportunity to learn about meaningful leadership skills over a 12-week professional development period. After three years of working as an Employment Specialist, Alec transitioned into the Supervisor role where he now oversees the services provided by the skilled Employment Specialists and Job Coaches. Alec and the team continue to strive for their best to assist the individuals we support with achieving their employment goals and with living a life of possibilities!
Colwin Williams - Cure Violence Philadelphia
Colwin Williams first began getting in trouble in school, fighting in order to appear tough. As he got older, the trouble continued. He got caught up in drugs and by his early 20s, Colwin had spent years in and out of county jail for armed robberies — a result, he said, of trying to support his addiction. Then in 1993, just two months after his 25th birthday, he was sentenced to almost 20 years in prison. Colwin recounts rough times — and a close call — during his incarceration at SCI Greene in western Pennsylvania. This served as the catalyst for him to turn his life around. “I didn’t want to live like this,” Colwin said. “I ain’t want to leave my family and I ain’t want to leave this earth not having accomplished nothing.” Today, Colwin, 52, is a spokesman and Street Supervisor for Cure Violence Philadelphia an anti-violence nonprofit that takes a public health approach to combating gun violence throughout the city. “I do it to heal, I do it for self, I do it to make amends to my family, to make my children proud,” he said of his work. “I feel like I’ve got to that point that enough is enough, and I must be enough. My actions must show enough… It’s about me, my existence being a part of the process of what’s necessary to change circumstance.” Colwin now spends his time working to change the circumstances of communities affected by gun violence. He also mentors a group of about 15 young adults ages 15 to 25 who are “at risk” for violent behavior. He meets with each of them three times every month and also checks in via phone call five times per month. Colwin is the father of two young girls - Aisha, 5 years old and Asha, 2. “I don’t know why God got me here,” he said. “But I know it’s for a reason, and I’m still trying to figure it out. I’m in the process of figuring it out. I know that it’s mandatory that I embrace each day.”
Jennifer Williams - Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. (YAP)
Jenny Williams is a behavior consultant in the central Pennsylvania region. Driven by a strong sense of collaboration, her work has centered around advocacy and community development through the impact of systems. Jenny's experience includes: child protection, youth involved with the justice system, families with mental health needs, autism, disability, managed care, professional development, and more. One of the projects Jenny is currently involved with is in providing PETS to incarcerated youth. This project aims to utilize the teaching of practical skills combined with a holistic approach specific to this population's needs.