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PEATC, Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center
Assisting families of children with special needs since 1978
Little boy on the beach

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

Suzanne Bowers

, Executive Director


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

Nichole Drummond

, Deputy Director


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 and Juvenile Justice Initiative's which provides school districts and PTA’s with practical partnership strategies that bolster student learning. Using research-based materials from Solid Foundations and the Harvard Family Research Project, 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 also serves on the Virginia Department of the Blind and Visually Impaired State Rehabilitation Council. She also volunteers at her church and for the Historic James Lee Community Center in Falls Church, VA. Nichole studied Early Childhood Education at Salisbury University and is continuing her studies in Human Services and Non-Profit Management. Nichole is the proud momma of three beautiful children, two with learning disabilities. A trained chef and event planner, Nichole also finds time to cater small parties (she considers 50 people small!) and conducts culinary classes for adults.

Heather Arbeen

Heather Arbeen

, Training Specialist


Areas of Expertise: External Training Coordination and Information Dissemination

Heather Arbeen is a life-long Northern Virginia native, born and raised in Annandale, Virginia. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Art History from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Masters of Science in Library Science from The Catholic University of America. She has over 15 years of experience, in both the public and private sectors, in education, information technology, acquisition management, and library settings. She brings her passion for research and information dissemination to PEATC to assist families navigating the Special Education process. She and her husband, Mark, have two beautiful children, one of whom is on the Autism spectrum. Outside of PEATC, she keeps extremely busy volunteering in her son’s Special Needs religious education class and participating with her family in a variety of organizations and activities such as KEEN Greater DC, Dreams for Kids DC, Special Olympics, and Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services.

Leslie Edwards

Leslie Edwards

, Family Support Specialist


Areas of Expertise: Special Education and Content Development

Leslie earned her bachelor’s degree in Family Studies at Lamar University. She has life long experience volunteering and working with nonprofit organizations. Some of her other expertise include education and outreach of families and working with parents of children with special needs. She most recently served as an Early Childhood Intervention Specialist and Case Manager at her local birth to three program. Leslie is thrilled to be a part of PEATC, an organization whose mission and philosophy she feels very strongly about. In her personal time, Leslie enjoys spending time with her husband, Joseph and cocker spaniel, Luke.

Courtney Pugh

Courtney Pugh

, Early Childhood Family Support Specialist


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.

Tina Norris

Tina Norris

, Family Engagement Specialist


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.

Lakeshia Yancey

Lakeshia Yancey

, Family Support Specialist


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.

Arianna Sweeney

Arianna Sweeney

, Bilingual Family Support Specialist


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.

Kristin Kane

Kristin Kane

, Family Support Specialist


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.

Lizzett Uria

Lizzett Uria

, Bilingual Family Support Specialist


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.

Lisa Wakeman

Lisa Wakeman

, Military Family Support Specialist


Area of Expertise: Military Outreach

Lisa Wakeman brings not only a wealth of knowledge on military lifestyle and culture, but also a diverse background in psychology, education, training and advocacy. A proud military wife and mother of three, she obtained her Master’s degree in Psychology one month prior to her youngest child’s birth. Lisa is currently the Command Ombudsman for the USS Enterprise and her work history includes a residential treatment facility for children with significant mental health needs, domestic violence educator and most recently she found her heart and soul working with special needs military families in the Navy’s EFMP program. Lisa is eager to blend her passion for education with her adoration for military families with special needs and is committed to building community partnerships with civilian and military alike.

Summer Sage

Summer Sage

, Rural Community and Capacity Building Specialist


Area of Expertise: Rural Outreach and Education

Summer Sage serves PEATC through concentrating on PEATC’s rural outreach initiatives, working remotely from VDOE's Region 5. She received her Bachelor of Science in Theatre from Skidmore College and a Master in Communication and the Arts from Regent University. Her background includes work as a family trainee in the Virginia Leadership in Education and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities post baccalaureate program at VCU; as a Rural Outreach Coordinator with VCU’s UCEDD; The Partnership for People with Disabilities, Center for Family Involvement, and the Family-to-Family Network, a Partner in Policymaking graduate and currently serves on the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities. Most of all she is mother to Nicholas Sage which she considers her greatest success and most exciting journey.



8003 Forbes Place, Suite 310
Springfield, VA 22151
703-923-0010 (phone)
800-869-6782 (toll free)

Copyright © 2017 PEATC - Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center. All rights reserved.

Content on this site was produced, in part, with grant funds from the U.S. Department of Education, under CFDA # 84.328M, #84.310A, and #84.235F. The content herein does not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Education, any other agency of the U.S. government, or any other source.

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 partners@peatc.org.

Celebrating 30 Years of Building Better Futures for Virginia's Children

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