People of SNSC
Our Parent Educational Support & Advocacy Volunteers
My name is Ruth Cassedy. I have a 16 year old son on the autism spectrum. I am a teacher, working as a para with kids on the spectrum in the classroom setting, which I love, a certified autism advocate and I host a Facebook page, Upper Valley Autism Resource Exchange, to coalesce and share information among families. You can send me a request if you’d like to join the group. I am always happy to share and learn through mutual experiences.
Laura Perez, Executive Director
Laura (she/her) joyfully leads a team of people who are fiercely dedicated to the delivery of transformative programs and amplifying the voices of the community they serve. She is dedicated to people-powered advocacy and organizing. Her passion is to be with her community, listen to what people want and need, and work to make those visions of a reality. She brings over fifteen years of community organization experience to SNSC, having dedicated her career to creating a safer, happier, and healthier place for us all to live, play, and work.
Her baccalaureate education focused on the politics of poverty and community education as a force for social change. She also holds a Master’s in Business Administration with a focus on strategic organizational leadership. In her spare time Laura finds her greatest delight in working side by side with her husband at their small family farm and playing with her children.
Cortney Nichols, Volunteer & Development Coordinator
Cortney (she/her) is a lifelong Upper Valley resident and active community member. She is passionate about helping people who are historically underserved and loves how SNSC is addressing issues in our community. She is excited about growing the SNSC volunteer program and building our capacity to serve more of our community through fundraising and outreach.
Cortney has been working with nonprofits across the country for over 10 years. She lives in Claremont, NH with her husband and daughter and loves spending time outside and with her family.
Carmen Lachle, Adult Services Program Coordinator
In 2018 I was referred to SNSC for Parent Educational Support and Advocacy. I can remember it like yesterday, as it was such a challenging time for my husband Nolan and I. We have 3 daughters (Lillian, Madalyn, and Sophia) diagnosed with Autism, and I found myself lost with all the IEP and Evaluation meetings. Also, I found myself seeking conversations with other parents who understood my challenges and fears related to raising children with a disabilities. I was told as a young child that knowledge is power, and as a mother I wanted to be sure I was doing everything possible for all my children. I’m so fortunate that I found SNSC because developing strong relationships is the foundation of everything I do professionally and personally. I have been empowered by knowledge and skills from the wonderful staff, participants, and volunteers within the SNSC community. In my free time I love spending time with my family, friends, cats, and guinea pig. My favorite thing is hearing my children giggle and I really love making tie-dye shirts together as a family
Emma Woloshin, Youth Program Services Coordinator
Emma (she/her) is passionate about working with people with disabilities and creating equity for all. She was an active member of Unified Sports in high school and discovered her determination for making spaces accessible to everyone, including creating a Unified Prom. She graduated the University of Vermont with a degree in special education and has been working in schools to support students with disabilities. She has a background in Applied Behavioral Analysis and is currently working towards her graduate degree in special education. Outside of work, Emma loves spending time with her family and her dog.
Candace Crosby-Rogers, Advocacy Program Coordinator
Candace (she/her) has been working with people with various differences and needs for over 40 years. As a parent, teacher, and advocate, she is passionate about supporting families and individuals in order for them to gain access to equity in their education and in their lives. Helping to develop programs, supports, and resources to enhance one’s life is a passion of hers, and one that she is able to use in her interactions as an advocacy coordinator.
She has worked in schools in Massachusetts and now lives in Vermont, where she was a special education teacher and an early childhood special education coordinator. Candace has a B.A in Psychology from the University of Massachusetts, and a Masters in Special Education from Framingham University.
She enjoys making pottery and traveling to visit her children and grandchildren.
Jo-Anne Unruh, Ph.D., Director Emeritus
Retired Special Education Director and Executive Director, Vermont Council of Special Education Administrators
Jo-Anne has been working with children who have disabilities and their families since 1969. The inspiration from these children and their families has been central to her work as a special education administrator in Vermont. Most recently she worked as executive director of the Vermont Council of Special Education Administrators. She has been on the board of SNSC since 2009.
In addition to being a licensed special educator and special education administrator in Vermont, her Bachelors’ Degree was in Psychology, her Doctorate is in Education and she is a certified mediator through Woodbury College.
Her other interests include hiking, cross country skiing, biking, kayaking, knitting, singing and maintaining contact with family and friends. She is married to Ken Kramberg, a former special education teacher and program director; he currently serves as a consultant specializing in school program support and development for children with emotional and behavioral challenges. Their son, Joseph and his wife, Beata, live in San Francisco and Hawaii; both work in the technology field.
Alexis Alston, Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee, President
Alexis is a venture capitalist who specializes in investing in historically underserved communities and underrepresented founders. She serves on the Diversity Equity and Inclusion committee of SNSC. She resides wherever the sun is shining.
Rachel DiStefano, Treasurer
Rachel was born and raised in Randolph, Vermont. She attended Bates College for her undergraduate degree, majoring in Psychology. She later received a Master’s Degree in Food Systems from the University of Vermont, followed by a Health Policy Fellowship at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice. There she worked on a regional health improvement initiative called ReThink Health: Upper Connecticut River Valley, doing data analysis, community engagement, and project coordination. For the past five years, Rachel has worked at Gifford Health Care, the hospital where she was born. As Quality Program Manager, she tracks and analyzes a variety of quality metrics across the organization, leads quality improvement teams, and manages a large federal grant under the Federally Qualified Health Center program. She lives in Randolph with her partner, Paul, and their dog, Zucchini. When she’s not working, she’s volunteering at the Randolph Area Food Shelf, going for walks and sharing meals with friends and family, and trying out new outdoor activities like golf and stand-up paddleboarding.
Meg Seely, Secretary
Retired Special Educator
Meg has served on many boards primarily in the Woodstock, Vermont area and at Dartmouth Hitchcock Hospital (D-H). Additionally, she is into her 7th year at the Vermont Community Foundation Board where she just recently stepped down as the Board Chair. She joined the Let’s Grow Kids Board in late 2020. Let’s Grow Kids is a movement which will achieve quality, affordable childcare for ALL Vermont children ages birth on up by the year 2025.
Meg holds a Masters in Developmental Therapy and a Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education. From 1975 to 2001 she served as a therapist and eventually Director of the Woodstock Learning Clinic and later Chair of the Board of the Woodstock Learning Trust. Subsequently she served in many capacities at the Woodstock and Reading Elementary Schools, including interim principal at both.
For the last twenty years, after launching her three children into independence, Meg has served as a Patient Family Advisor at D-H. She has spoken locally, nationally, and internationally about the importance of Patient Family Centered Care. She and her husband Bruce live in Bridgewater, Vermont. They have four granddaughters who are the light of Meg’s life.
Kathy Aldriedge, Program Advisory Committee
Kathy is the mother of two, grandmother of two, step-mother of two, and aunt of many. She became interested in helping children with special needs while raising her son who was diagnosed with ODD. Kathy has a special interest in helping the parents of special needs children. She has made her career in business, real estate and the legal field. Kathy is a 2020 graduate of Norwich University with a Masters in Public Administration with a concentration in non-profit organizations. She is working toward a second career with a goal of helping parents of special needs children navigate the education and mental health systems.
Paula Fernandes, Fundraising Committee
Paula is the owner and founder of My Brigadeiro in Hanover, NH. Paula joined the SNSC Board in 2019 and shares her chocolates generously to the benefit of SNSC. She has opened her shop in countless ways to broaden the understanding and acceptance of the mission of SNSC. As the family member of a person with autism, Paula has experienced that a little help goes a long way. As a member of this community, she enjoys being part of the SNSC Board because of the opportunity to learn and help. Her greatest joy in her role is to work towards changing people’s attitudes towards those with disabilities.
Sue Hagerman, Fundraising Committee
Sue comes to SNSC from over 30 years working with children and families in community mental health and special education. Her passion is helping people become and learn to the best of their abilities. When students understand their learning strengths and challenges, they can become informed self-advocates, and participate actively in their learning. When their adults understand how they learn, they can collaborate actively to build optimal individualized plans for learning.
Sue concentrated in psychology and political science at Brown University, and went on to a graduate degree in clinical psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a clinical psychology internship at Dartmouth Medical School. Following internship, she worked for several years at West Central Behavioral Health, developed and co-implemented the Parents in Distress Program, and, for the last 25 years in education in both New Hampshire and Vermont, served as a school therapist, case manager, director of a mainstreamed program for emotionally and behaviorally disordered middle and high school students, and school psychologist consulting with parents, teachers, and students on how their students learn best.
Director of Aerospace, Timkin Bearings, and parent of child with special needs
Vince is Director, Aerospace Bearings, Americas at The Timken Company. Vince has been with Timken since 2006. Prior to joining Timken, he served in various leadership roles with Motorola and Flextronics.
Vince holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Florida Atlantic University and a master’s degree in business administration from Florida International University.
Vince has a child with special needs and supports SNSC as current Board Member and former Chair of SNSC’s annual giving campaign. Vince enjoys sharing his experiences with the SNSC community as a way of giving back.
Ayla Priestley, Fundraising Committee
Ayla Priestley his a Family Nurse Practitioner at Little Rivers Health Care in Bradford, VT. She graduated with a Masters in Science of Nursing from Rivier University and is currently enrolled in a doctoral program. She works part time as a clinical professor at Rivier University. She is involved with several international organizations that provide free medical care throughout the world.
She grew up in the Upper Valley and continues to live in Bradford, VT. She is an active member of the community and serves through a variety of boards and organizations.