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Meet our Staff

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Ariel Simms

President and CEO

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Lauren Appelbaum

Senior Vice President, Communications and Entertainment & News Media

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Matan A. Koch

Senior Vice President for Strategic Change

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Graciano Petersen

Senior Director for Training, Culture, and Leadership Development

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Wally Tablit

Senior Director of Workforce and Policy

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Shelly Christensen

Senior Director of Faith Inclusion

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Tonya Koslo

Senior Director of Finance and Administration

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Franklin Anderson

Senior Director of Inclusive Philanthropy and Development

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Ben Spangenberg

National Leadership Program Director

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Philip Kahn-Pauli

Director of Federal Policy

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Nelly Nieblas

State and Federal Policy Associate

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Joy St. Juste

Director of Marketing and Communications

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Eric Ascher

Communications Associate

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Vanni Le

Entertainment Outreach Program Manager

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Lesley Hennen

Entertainment and News Media Associate

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Jacquill Moss

Entertainment Media Program Coordinator

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Theresa Soares

Media Business Development Associate

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Ian Cherutich

Development Associate

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Molly McConville

Development Associate

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Donjeta Sahiti

Special Assistant to the President

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Jake Stimell

Speakers’ Bureau Associate

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Nasreen Alkhateeb

Senior Production Advisor

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Leah Romond

Senior Production Advisor

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Donna R. Walton

Senior Advisor

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Nicole Homerin

Education Consultant

Meet Our Apprentices

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Abigail Shaw, Civic Engagement Apprentice

Abigail Shaw strives to educate the public on access and inclusion for people with disabilities through her work and hobbies. She earned a master’s degree in social work from Fordham University. [click to continue…]

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Alejandra Tristan, Philanthropy Apprentice

Alejandra Tristan is currently a student online at Arizona State University and pursuing her master’s in Public Nonprofit Administration. Her true passion is one day to no longer limit change to just the US but make a worldwide impact. [click to continue…]

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Alex Hilke, Policy Apprentice

Alex Hilke was appointed to the Montebello, California Traffic and Safety Committee where he will improve street and sidewalk conditions for people with disabilities. He is currently completing a Master’s degree in Public Administration. [click to continue…]

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Andrew Reid, Entertainment and News Media Apprentice

Andrew Reid is a DGA Award winning director and 2022 NAACP Image Awards nominee. His award-winning projects have screened at Slamdance, CAA Moebius, Paramount Pictures, HollyShorts, LA Shorts and over 50 other film festivals worldwide. [click to continue…]

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Ari Katz, Philanthropy Apprentice

Ari Katz is currently working toward her MA in Disability Studies online at the CUNY School of Professional Studies and expects to graduate in May 2023. When she has to be indoors, she watches a lot of TV. [click to continue…]

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Becca Block, Jewish Inclusion Apprentice

Block graduated cum laude from the University of South Carolina School of Journalism & Mass Communications. She also works at Temple Beth Ami in Maryland as an accessible educator in the religious school. [click to continue…]

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Christina Lisk, Philanthropy Apprentice

Christina Lisk is a writer committed to disability advocacy in the nonprofit sector and the arts. She wants to design programs where people with disabilities may use creative writing to find empowerment in an ableist world. [click to continue…]

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Corey Evans, Entertainment and News Media Apprentice

Corey Evans previously worked for KATV in Little Rock (ABC Affilliate) and WSVN in Miami (FOX Affiliate) as a news editor. His career goal is to seek employment as a DEI (Diversity Equity and Inclusion) coordinator. [click to continue…]

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Daniel Martinez, Civic Engagement Apprentice

Daniel Martinez identifies as a blind Chicano advocate, educator, and mentor of people with disabilities. He has a Masters of Education in Special Education from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. [click to continue…]

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Dennis Tran, Entertainment and News Media Apprentice

Dennis Tran is a diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) advocate and storytellers. His diverse background spans a variety of sectors, including digital media, entertainment, technology, and philanthropy. [click to continue…]

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Elizabeth Pezone, Policy Apprentice

Elizabeth Pezone recently graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation Services from California State University Los Angeles. She wants to help others with disabilities, giving them support like she received over the years. [click to continue…]

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Ellynne Davis, Nonprofit Management Apprentice

Ellynne Davis received a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and Psychology from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in May 2018. She wants to work on advancing opportunities for people with disabilities in the event planning industry. [click to continue…]

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Georgia Carr, Philanthropy Apprentice

Georgia Carr will earn her Master of Public Administration with a concentration in nonprofit management from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2022. She has a special interest in improving the lives of queer youth. [click to continue…]

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Isabella Vargas, Entertainment and News Media Apprentice

Isabella Vargas is a filmmaker and community organizer who grew up chronically ill in South Florida. Her goals are to be a disability advocate in the media space and to craft compelling stories about people who identify as disabled and as BIPOC. [click to continue…]

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Kim Chua, Communications Apprentice

Kim Chua is a graphic designer who is fighting to reconstruct societal perceptions to prevent others from struggling in their own depths alone. With the support of RespectAbility staff, she will strive to champion accessible design. [click to continue…]

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Leah Ilana Craig, Jewish Nonprofit Management Apprentice

Leah Ilana Craig, as an autistic individual with POTS Syndrome, believes passionately in making the working world more accessible for people with disabilities so that they can live their dreams. She is in her final year at Lindenwood University’s MFA program. [click to continue…]

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Madison Essig, Communications Apprentice

Madison Essig hopes to report on disability issues or to have a job on Capitol Hill where she can advocate for disability issues. She was the first person with Down syndrome to graduate with a full diploma from the District of Columbia Public School system. [click to continue…]

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Riccardo Ricciardi, Jewish Nonprofit Management Apprentice

Riccardo Ricciardi had the opportunity to witness and experience the impact of disabilities on people around the world firsthand through his work in the United States Air Force and as a flight attendant. He is a bona fide computer nerd. [click to continue…]

Rostom Dadian smiling headshot

Rostom Dadian, Civic Engagement Apprentice

Rostom Dadian has been involved in local politics and plans to continue to participate in the future. He is currently completing a master’s degree at CSULA in business administration with an option in finance. [click to continue…]

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Roy Payan, Policy and Civic Engagement Apprentice

Roy Payan graduated from Cal State Los Angeles with a double major in Rehabilitation Services. He is currently working on his Masters in Public Policy for Nonprofits at the University of Southern California (USC). [click to continue…]

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Shereen Ali, Policy Apprentice

Shereen Ali’s goal is to approach disability advocacy with a business mindset. In her free time, she likes horseback riding, listening to Jazz music, traveling, and learning about other cultures. [click to continue…]

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Tammie Stevens, Policy Apprentice

Tammie Stevens worked for eight years at a nonprofit organization that provided instruction to those who were newly experiencing blindness. She hopes to normalize and remove the mystery of disabilities in the workplace. [click to continue…]

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