Developer of The Learning Program™ and Executive Director of Down Syndrome Foundation of Orange County
How did the idea for your job / business come about?
When Nick was born, it was difficult to obtain accurate information about Down syndrome and there was very little organized educational support for students with Down syndrome.
What is your backstory (how did you get to where you are today)?
After law school, I worked for ten years as a trial attorney and loved it! I enjoyed the process of discovering facts, learning the applicable laws and comparing them to determine how to best represent a client. After Nick was born and we started to investigate how to best teach him, I found those skills highly transferrable (looking at the available research, figuring out what resources were available to implement the recommended strategies and applying those when working with Nick).
What motivates you?
That is a tough question and depends on which aspect of DSF’s work we talk about. If we are talking about DSF’s After School Academy or Teen Time programs, I am motivated by the desire to guide Nick and his peers towards independence in school, recreation and life. If we are talking about our programs for younger students, I am motivated by the desire to help students access the general education curriculum and experience a rich and effective school experience.
Who is your supporting cast of characters that help you to be so darn crush worthy?
That is a tough question – there are so many people who support me in this journey! For my work at DSF, I would have to start with Nick, who inspires every facet of what I do. Next, there is my immediate family (and sister) who serve as the sounding board for ideas and put in serious hours supporting material development and our annual gala. And, of course, we came to this journey on the heels of leaders and self-advocates in the Down syndrome community who fought game-changing battles and whose work served as a springboard for what we do. Finally, none of my work would be possible without the talent and dedication of our staff, Learning Program team and Board of Directors.
What do you consider to be your theme or "pump-up" song?
Good question – it changes almost weekly, but this week I’ve been singing “Best Day of My Life” by American Authors.
What is the most difficult part about being self-employed / an entrepreneur?
For the most part, it is great! But I struggle with focusing my time to serve families, educators and students in the most impactful way possible.
Who do you have a crush on?
Do I have to limit it to one person? That isn’t fair! I guess if I have only one, I will name one of my first crushes, Carlene Mattson. Her words of encouragement had a profound impact on me when Nick was young and she has been a friend and steady source of guidance to me throughout his life. In fact, it is time for me to check in with her again. It has been too long!