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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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Graciano Petersen

Senior Director for Training, Culture, and Leadership Development

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Wally Tablit

Senior Director of Policy and Workforce Development

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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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Joy St. Juste

Director of Marketing and Communications

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Eric Ascher

Communications Associate

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Jimmy Fremgen

Manager of State Policy

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Rostom Dadian

Policy Associate

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Matan A. Koch

Senior Policy Advisor

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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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Phillip Saldana

Operations Manager

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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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Adina Karten, Policy Apprentice

Adina Faye Karten has been working in inclusion, health advocacy, and the development spheres for more than 6 years. She holds a M.A. in Poverty and Development and a B.A. in Anthropology and Sociology. [click to continue…]

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Arianna Montaño, Nonprofit Management Apprentice

Arianna Montaño graduated with honors from the University of California, San Diego, where she earned her B.A in Sociology. Her senior thesis project discussed college students with hearing loss and their experiences in school. [click to continue…]

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Ashley Melanie Castillo, Communications Apprentice

Ashley Merlanie Castillo is a disabled Latina/Hispanic journalist with cerebral palsy. In college, she won a speech and debate competition award for a persuasive speech on disability and bullying in school environments. [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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Emily Tironi, Communications Apprentice

Emily Tironi majored in Media Arts at SUNY Adirondack, learning graphic design. Wanting to learn more about disability advocacy, she went on to earn her bachelors in disability studies from The CUNY School of Professional Studies. [click to continue…]

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Erica Mones, Entertainment and News Media Apprentice

Erica Mones is a writer, YouTuber, and disability advocate who is currently pursuing her Masters in Disability Studies from the CUNY School of Professional Studies. She hopes to pave the way for disabled people through screenwriting. [click to continue…]

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Gabriella Helkowski, Faith Inclusion and Belonging Apprentice

Helkowski recently graduated with her Bachelor of the Arts degree from Mercyhurst University. When not working, she likes to spend time with her friends and family, photography, cooking and traveling. [click to continue…]

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Gabrielle Zwi, Policy Apprentice

Gabrielle Zwi is a community organizer, educator, and musician based in Rockville, Maryland. In October, they will graduate from Columbia University with a Bachelor of Arts in Human Rights. [click to continue…]

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Hiram Helfman, Policy Apprentice

Hiram Helfman has a Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs and a Master of Arts in Diplomacy. He has spoken at disability awareness events as part of the University of Central Florida’s Center for Autism and Related Disabilities. [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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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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McKenzie Stribich, Faith Inclusion and Belonging Apprentice

McKenzie Stribich holds a BFA in photography from California State University, Long Beach. She’s rediscovering her dormant love of reading (often a struggle because of her ADHD), and is a lover of music and swimming. [click to continue…]

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Nicona MacDonald, Nonprofit Management Apprentice

Nicona MacDonald has a Bachelor’s degree in Community Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz and more than a decade of experience in the nonprofit and higher education fields. In her free time, she would rather be outdoors than indoors. [click to continue…]

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Reagan Martin, Entertainment and News Media Apprentice

Reagan Martin is a proud disabled and chronically ill actor, advocate, and graduate student based in North Texas. Her love for the acting and the entertainment industry previously led her to work at the Walt Disney World Resort. [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…]

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Shira Leeder, Leadership Apprentice

Shira Leeder is currently working toward her Master’s in Public Administration with an emphasis in Nonprofit Management at San Francisco State University. She won the Ms. Wheelchair California Pageant in 2012. [click to continue…]

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