MEET OUR STAFF
- Missy AlexanderParent Educator
Missy is a Parent Educator working with families in Southern Maryland. She facilitates workshops and study groups on a variety of topics. Missy is active on many regional, state, and national councils and boards focusing on children with special needs. She has also been a guest lecturer at Towson University, Johns Hopkins University, and The College of Southern Maryland on parenting a child with autism. Missy is on the Board of Directors for the Learning Disabilities Association of Maryland. She is an active member, and former Chair, of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA). Missy is the parent of a daughter on the autism spectrum.
- Pattie ArchuletaFamily-to-Family Coordinator
Pattie coordinates the Family-to-Family Health Information Center serving families throughout the state of Maryland. She is active on a variety of initiatives to improve services for children with special health care needs and increase parent professional collaboration, including a gubernatorial appointment to the Maryland State Autism Workgroup. Pattie sits on the Baltimore County Special Education Community Advisory Committee (SECAC) and the offers peer support for families on the ketogenic diet at the Johns Hopkins Pediatric Epilepsy Center. She is experienced in behavior intervention program development and implementation and is the parent of a young man with an autism spectrum disorder and a history of epilepsy.
- Charvette BarfieldParent Educator
Charvette is a Parent Educator working with families in Baltimore City. She previously worked as a Family Navigator assisting families with complex needs access services. Charvette also served as a Plaintiff’s Representative working with parents, the Maryland Disability Law Center (MDLC), and other agencies to protect the rights of students with disabilities. She serves on a numerous city, state, and national committees and boards working to improve outcomes for children with special education and healthcare needs. Charvette is a parent of four children, two with disabilities, and her oldest son passed away as the result of sickle cell disease.
- Zayli BocanegraLatino Outreach Coordinator
Zayli coordinates Latino Outreach serving families throughout the state of Maryland. She hosts an annual Padre tu Puedes Conference, trains our Spanish LEADers, and offers Latino family support services. Zayli has worked with families who have children with special needs, as well as those who are homeless, for over a decade. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and has pursued graduate level studies in counseling. Zayli has been with PPMD since 2008. Originally from Puerto Rico, she has lived in Maryland since 1999 with her husband and three young boys.
- Debbie DiPaoloParent Educator
Debbie is a Parent Educator working families in Western Maryland, covering Allegany, Garrett, and Washington county. She hosts a regional “Around the World of Special Education” conference. Debbie has been with The Parents’ Place of Maryland since 2001 and holds a bachelor’s of science degree in elementary education from Towson University. She is the parent of a young adult born with Down syndrome.
- Cheri DowlingParent Connections Coordinator
Cheri works with parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing by providing emotional support and information through the Parent Connections Program. She was the parent representative on the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Council of Maryland for 6 years, and is currently the parent representative and chair of the Maryland Advisory Council for the Maryland Governor’s Office for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Cheri also serves on the Board of the Described and Captioned Media Program. Cheri lives in Woodbine, MD with her husband and their two children.
- Val EnglertCommunications Coordinator
Val is responsible for organizing Parents’ Place of Maryland events, fundraisers, and conferences. As the communication coordinator, she also handles public relations, social media, and website management. In 2010, she planned and executed PPMD’s 20th Anniversary Gala: An Evening of Chocolate. She spearheads PPMD’s Anti-Bullying campaign including their annual Run, Walk, Roll Against Bullying 5K event. Val holds a bachelor’s of science degree in hospitality management with a concentration in special events. She has years of experience working with multiple non-profit organizations volunteering and producing their fundraisers and events.
- Bonnie LarrimoreParent Educator
Bonnie is a Parent Educator working with families on the Eastern Shore. She is a graduate of the National Leadership Institute on Developmental Disabilities and has served as a Maryland Partner for Policy Making. Bonnie is a trained mediator and a graduate of the Johns Hopkins Psychological Disaster Training focusing on the special needs population. She has also worked as a Natural Resource Police Reserve Officer incorporating outreach to children with special needs. Bonnie is a Reiki Master and the parent of a child with multiple disabilities.
- Heather LukeParent Educator
Heather is a Parent Educator working with families in Central Maryland. Heather is fluent in American Sign Language as her youngest child is Deaf. She is also the parent of a child on the Autism Spectrum and a child who is Gifted. She previously worked for the Anne Arundel County Infants and Toddlers Program as the Family Support Coordinator. Heather has a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work and holds a Master’s degree from the University of Notre Dame of Maryland. Her husband has been in the Navy for over 20 years. Heather advocates nationally to raise awareness about the use of Restraint and Seclusion in public schools. She has been featured in Propublica, NPR, Associated Press, and the Washington Post about the issue.
- Kelly MeissnerSpecial Projects Coordinator
Kelly coordinates special projects serving families throughout the state of Maryland, including the Community of Care Consortium (COC). She sits on the executive committees of the Special Education State Advisory Committee (SESAC) and the Howard County Special Education Community Advisory Committee (SECAC), and is a member of the Education Advocacy Committee (EAC). Kelly is a former special education teacher and the parent of one child with multiple disabilities as well as three other children with special healthcare needs.
- Suzie ShannonDirector of Operations
Suzie is a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Parents’ Place of Maryland and has been involved in managing PPMD since 1991. She has served on the board and chaired various committees for the ARC locally, regionally and nationally, and is a current member of Glen Burnie CIVITANS and the Soroptimist International. Suzie is the parent of an adult daughter with Rett Syndrome.
- Stacy TaylorEpilepsy Project Coordinator
Stacy coordinates one of two systems change grants on which Parents’ Place is working with numerous partners. Stacy sits on the advisory committees of the Maryland Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Program and Connections Beyond Sight and Sound. She is a Commissioner with the Baltimore County Commission on Disabilities and is a member of the Baltimore County Special Education Citizens’ Advisory Committee (SECAC). Stacy is also a Parent Mentor with Parent Connections. Stacy is the parent of four children, two of whom have multiple disabilities.
- Josie ThomasExecutive Director
Josie is a co-founder of the Parents’ Place of Maryland and has served as Executive Director since 1997. During her tenure she has designed and directed multiple programs to improve services for children with special health care needs, increase parent professional collaboration at all levels of care, and build family leaderships skills. Josie maintains active participation in local, state, and national initiatives, including a gubernatorial appointment to the Maryland State Rehabilitation Council of which she is vice chair. She is the author of a variety of publications on topics related to parent professional partnerships and family-centered care, including, Essential Allies: Families as Advisors. Josie is the parent of a young man with deafness and intellectual disabilities.
- Yvette Young-DeCostaParent Educator
Yvette is a Parent Educator working with families in Central Maryland. She coordinates the Special Education LEADers Program of Prince Georges’ County. Yvette has been a founding member of The Special Education Coalition of Prince Georges’ County. She is also adjunct faculty at Prince George’s Community College coordinating the parent education class of the Children’s Developmental Clinic. Yvette has been with PPMD since 2010 and is the parent of three children, two with ADHD.