Who's Who at PEATC
PEATC is staffed by a talented and diverse group of parents and professionals committed to building better futures for children with disabilities by working collaboratively with families, schools and professionals who serve them, to improve opportunities for excellence in education and success in school and community life.
Suzanne Bowers brings a wealth of expertise to the role of Executive Director. She taught elementary school for five years before becoming an Educational Advocate for military and civilian families, as well as her own children. She changed her career path in order to dedicate her talents to helping families of children with special needs. She brings a rich background in education, administration, management, training, and advocacy. Suzanne is the proud mother of four children, two of whom have special needs. She served on the Virginia State Special Education Advisory Committee for four years as the Vice Chair and the as the Chair of the Policy and Regulations committee. Suzanne serves on the Virginia State Rehabilitation Council an is very active in her community as a volunteer in the schools.
Nichole Drummond, a senior PEATC staff member, brings both executive managerial expertise and program development skills to the organization. With great proficiency, she serves as PEATC Deputy Director. In her management role, Nichole carries to completion program, office and staff management with an indispensable sense of humor. Nichole also directs PEATC’s Family Engagement, Court Involved Youth and Anti-Poverty initiatives which provides school districts and PTA’s with practical partnership strategies that bolster student learning and success through life. Using research-based materials, Nichole facilitates the development of engagement plans that increase families’ involvement in their children’s academic efforts through home and school activities at the decision-making level. Throughout Virginia, Nichole spreads the word that families are not needy – they are needed. Nichole serves on both the Virginia Department of the Blind and Visually Impaired and the Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services State Rehabilitation Council. She also serves at her church and volunteers at the Occoquan Woodbridge Lorton Volunteer Fire Department in Woodbridge, VA. Nichole has a Bachelor's of Science in Human Services and and is continuing her graduate studies in Education. Nichole is the proud momma of three beautiful children, two with learning disabilities. A trained chef and event planner, Nichole somehow finds time to cater small parties (she considers 50 people small!) and conducts culinary classes for adults.
Area of Expertise: Specific Learning Disabilities
Kristin Kane is the mother of three and has a BS in Psychology from Kutztown University. She is an active advocate for children with dyslexia and other learning disabilities in the Virginia public schools and the Washington DC area. Kristin helped found the Decoding Dyslexia Virginia movement and collaborates with other parents, educators, school administrators and organizations such as the National Center for Learning Disabilities and the International Dyslexia Association on parent outreach and education efforts. Kristin is a local Loudon County, VA Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) representative for two schools and has participated as a parent with the VA State SEAC. She was a presenter at the Decoding Dyslexia Social Media Conference sponsored by Learning Ally and made possible by a grant from the Tremaine Foundation where she trained parents from across the country on how to use social media for grassroots advocacy and has served on a panel with Pete Wright to help raise Dyslexia awareness in Richmond, VA. Upon being certified as a Parent Collaborative leader through the Virginia Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center (PEATC) in June of 2014, she knew that the philosophy and mission of the VA state parent center was a place she could help make a positive difference in the lives of VA’s families with special needs.
Alexis Richardson provides support to the PEATC team as the Administrative Coordinator. She received her Associates degree in Mass Communications with a minor in Marketing and Business from Syracuse University. She has an extensive background of 6 plus years in Administration and Marketing fields. With a Military background, Alexis has traveled the world and embraces her outgoing and bubbly personality. She enjoys hiking and going to national parks with her husband and their son, Declan. Her and her family reside in Falls Church, Virginia.
Area of Expertise: Family Engagement
Tina Norris brings years of experience working with children, adolescents and families to her position at PEATC. Tina is responsible for developing and managing the family engagement initiative and is passionate about empowering families through education and advocacy. Tina is a skilled trainer in bullying prevention, puberty and family engagement. As a parent who has guided her own children through the elaborate education system she believes that family engagement is essential for the success of all children. Her expertise and practical approach allows her to establish collaborative relationships with schools, communities and advocacy organizations as an avenue to strengthen family engagement within our communities and schools. She is a Certified Bullying Prevention Specialist and a member of the Family Engagement Network, National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement, International Bullying Prevention Association and the American School Counselors Association.
Area of Expertise: Early Childhood Intervention and Education
Courtney Pugh is a lifelong resident of Salem, Virginia where she is serving in PEATC’s Roanoke satellite office. She is a graduate of Emory & Henry College with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management & Administration. She has worked in a variety of companies and fields while pursuing her passion of advocating for students with disabilities. Courtney is a graduate of the Parents as Collaborative Leaders and has attended many conferences, workshops, and seminars in her quest for more knowledge and understanding of regulations and how to collaborate for more efficient IEP collaboration. Courtney and her husband, Chris, are parents of two extra special children with a variety of disabilities who provide them with the strength and inspiration that everyone can live their lives to the fullest. All are active members of the Boy Scouts where she advocates for full inclusion of boys with special needs.
Keri founded MASC, the first Tricare approved, not-for-profit applied behavior analysis and family support provider, in 2005 to serve the Hampton Roads area of southeast Virginia. She assisted the center’s clients by providing in-home parent training and advocacy during IEP meetings while managing the business. Her 18 year- old daughter with severe autism inspired Keri to address the needs of children with autism in her community. Keri has had the opportunity to meet with senior military leadership, members of Congress, and health care industry leaders to address autism and the impact it has on military readiness. The Peko family has lived all over the United States but has been in Chesapeake for 15 years. Keri’s husband currently serves our country in the U.S. Navy and has for 27 years.
Area of Expertise: Latino Outreach
Arianna Sweeney provides outreach to Latino community in her position at PEATC. She earned a Bachelors degree in Humanity and Science from Virginia Commonwealth University where she studied Foreign Languages with a concentration in Spanish. Arianna has previous experience working as a certified translator and interpreter at VCU Medical center and NVFS. While working at the Office on Latino Affairs (OLA) in DC, she learned the importance of intercultural communication and enjoys working with the local Hispanic community in the DC/Northern VA regions. She volunteers at different institutions and organizations, such as the El Poder de Ser Mujer (Empowerment group for women) in support of all women but with a special focus on the local Hispanic women in the DMV area. Arianna's connection to PEATC and Special Education is based upon having supported her parents advocating for her little sister that has ADHD and dyslexia. Arianna looks forward in providing a service that specifically supports the Hispanic communities throughout Virginia with the special focus on special education resources.
Area of Expertise: Bilingual Information Dissemination
Lizzett Uria supports PEATC by providing bilingual information to Virginia's Latino community. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University along with a minor in International Social Justice. She is also a Certified Medical Assistant and Limited Radiologist. She worked as a Counselor for the Center for Children and Family through Florida International University during which time, she had the opportunity to work and do research with children diagnosed with ADHD and Autism. As a counselor, her job was to reinforce positive behaviors such as academic, recreational, behavioral, and social skills that would prepare them for the next grade. Uria always knew I wanted to work with children with disabilities and so when she came back, she continued volunteering as an educator for the Special Ed class at St. Michael’s, and is currently training on becoming a Registered Behavioral Therapist. She has always been involved with the Latino Community and believe in the importance of providing information and educational resources to the parents of children with disabilities. She is an active volunteer for organizations such as National Council of La Raza, Latin American Youth Center, and many more. Uria loves volunteering for her community, but she also enjoys traveling, dancing, trying different foods, and spending time with family and friends.
Youth and Workshop Systematization
Lakeshia Yancey has extensive experience serving children and families from diverse backgrounds, particularly in the early childhood field as a preschool teacher for Head Start and in the private sector. She is very passionate about child development and effective classroom integration. She believes that if educators meet children where they are they will improve their educational outcomes. She is a native North Carolinian, but lives in Maryland with her husband and two beautiful daughters.
Jessie Valdez joins PEATC after working collaboratively for several years with doctors and schools to get the care and services needed for a daughter with both a rare disease and special educational needs. Jessie was raised in the Western U.S. where she previously worked in real estate management, Jessie moved to Northern Virginia in 2012. She has a passion for helping children with special needs reach their full potential in life and wants to share the knowledge she’s gained with families facing these challenges for the first time. Jessie earned her J.D. from the Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law at Arizona State University and currently serves as the Outreach and Diversity Chair for the Special Education PTA (SEPTA) in Fairfax County. She has two smart and beautiful daughters and enjoys travelling.
Judy Zegas brings years of teaching and advocacy experience to PEATC. After completing three Masters degrees, she finally targeted her career path with the degree in Special Ed/learning disabilities from American University. She worked as a reading teacher and learning resource teacher for over ten years in two private schools in Fairfax county. She also established my own tutoring and advocacy business and has spent the past five summers with Horizons, an organization that provides summer programs to low income children from inner city DC schools, as a reading specialist. Judy has two grown sons, living in southern New Jersey and Phoenix, Arizona.
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PEATC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit committed to building positive futures for Virginia's children by working collaboratively with families, schools and communities in order to improve opportunities for excellence in education and success in school and community life. Our special focus is children with disabilities. You can reach PEATC by calling 703-923-0010 (Voice/TTY), or sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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