Haifa Aridi brings nearly 20 years of experience to UCR and is excellent with behavior management. She has grown to love and understand both children and adults with disabilities. She holds a degree in Elementary School Education from Montgomery College and is currently a para-educator with MCPS.
Meghan Pennington McDougal was born and raised in Montgomery County. Meghan is excited to join Upcounty Community Resources and be part of a team making this county a great place for everyone to live and thrive. After graduating with a degree in Psychology from University of Maryland Baltimore County, Meghan studied special education at American University and taught children and adults on the autism spectrum, ages 3 through 21, for several years. She is currently focused on helping individuals access language through the use of Rapid Prompting Method. Working on a team of families and service providers is a great pleasure and she looks forward to meeting new people and having fun at UCR programs and events. In her free time, Meghan enjoys starting knitting projects, and is currently planning a wedding with her wonderful fiancé.
We are thrilled to have Meghan running Walking Workout Club, Monday Night Jam13, Girls on the Town and ZamDance!
Patty Sullivan's experience with the special needs population spans nearly 3 decades. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Frostburg State University and her Master’s Degree in Special Education from Johns Hopkins University. She began her career working eight years in the early intervention field. This was followed by a 15year career with Montgomery County Public Schools, where she taught in special education at the elementary (Autism Program), middle school (School Community Based) and high school (Learning For Independence) levels. Patty is currently working as a family trainer and service provider for clients on the Autism Waiver and adult clients receiving self-directed DDA services. Patty takes great pride in her ability to connect with her clients on the autism spectrum and enjoys being a part of their progress. Patty has been working with the owners of Oasis farm since the beginning and looks forward to managing our Weekend Enrichment / Respite Program.
When Patty is not busy working she enjoys spending time with her husband and two sons. She also enjoys visiting her brother’s family, especially her niece and three nephews.
Suzy Haug earned her Bachelor's Degree in Family Studies from the University of Maryland. She has worked as a Special Education Para educator for 28 years with MCPS. Her experience includes working with the Infant and Toddlers Program ,E.S. Autism Program, Carl Sandburg Learning Center, Pilot High School class for the School Community Based Program and The Transition Class for high school students. She is so thankful for the students and their families who have shaped her into the Educator she is today. We look forward to Suzy helping our Weekend Enrichment program.
Javi Requejo joins UCR as a program coordinator. He will be overseeing and interacting with the Walking Workout Club! He lives in Bethesda, Maryland. He moved here from Argentina when he was 11. Javi loves music, cars, movies and sports. He has been a Special Olympics athlete for 20+ years and has received many gold medals in swimming and basketball! As a result, he loves meeting and motivating people.
Donna Dangle worked in the for-profit arena of finance and accounting before bringing those skills to our non-profit world. She has a passion for those with developmental differences, and is the Grand Aunt of a child with special needs. She currently works as a para-educator for MCPS. Additionally, she owns her own business -- Body & Soul Shepherd -- where she provides holistic healing as a Reiki Master and Certified Hypnotist. Donna manages the books for for UCR!
Chitra Vijayakumar is passionate about yoga and has more than 12 years studying techniques. Ms. Vijayakumar discovered Yoga to be helpful and wondered if someone could teach yoga to her son, who has autism. She was inspired by a Yoga instructor who was teaching to our population and signed up to become a certified yoga instructor herself.
In 2018 she became certified (200 RYT) through The Mindfulness Center in Bethesda and licensed through Yoga Alliance. She has been teaching Yoga to family, coworkers, as well as individuals with special needs. By breaking asanas into simple steps and making yoga fun and accessible appreciates every sincere effort all special yogis make. You can experience her class as part of Weekend Enrichment Expressions!
Ms. Vijayakumar has also works for MCPS as a paraeducator.
Donna Dangle, Bookkeeper
Meghan McDougal, Monday Night Jam
Patty Sullivan, Weekend Enrichment & Respite Program Manager
Suzanne Haug, Weekend Enrichment LIFE Prog. Manager
Josh Carpenter, Weekend Enrichment Expressions Program Manager, LIFE & OASIS Staff,
Emily Carpenter, Weekend Enrichment Expressions Staff
Haifa Aridi, Weekend Enrichment OASIS Staff
Chitra Vijay, Weekend Enrichment Expressions Adapted Yoga
Javier Requejo, Walking Club Program coordinator
Justin Roman, Guys Night Out
Zach Lasko, Monday Night Jam
Michele Chais, Therapeutic Art
Emily Bruestle, Therapeutic Music
Marianne Green, Volunteer Program Coordinator, Therapeutic art/music, WE assistant
Ellen Stuhlmann, Registrar & Assistant to Executive Director
ArtStream & Spirit Club (various staff)
Certified Therapeutic Teachers
Michele Chais' passion for art began in early childhood. She shares that enthusiasm and inspires UCR members through her work as an art therapist. Michele has a bachelor's degree in art education and psychology from the University of Maryland and a master's degree in art therapy from George Washington University. Michele worked as an art teacher at all levels for Montgomery County Public Schools for almost twenty years. More recently over the past decade, Michele has worked with individuals with special needs through Upcounty Community Resources, Potomac Community Resources, Community Support Services, VisArts, Holton-Arms School, The Kennedy Institute, and the Izaak Walton League.
During her leisure time Michele loves visiting her three grandchildren. In addition, she does hot yoga several times a week. Michele also enjoys thrift store shopping and creating art installations for her home.
Steve Waxman is a volunteer assisting Michele Chais with her art therapy work at UCR. Steven works with Michele to instill a sense of joy, pride, and empowerment in members through the various media of fine arts and crafts.
Steven studied fine arts at American University, The Corcoran, A.Salon, and The Washington Studio School. He also worked for a time at The Smithsonian American Art Museum back when it was called The National Collection of Fine Arts.
His specialties are painting and drawing. Steven has worked with individuals with special needs for the past six years through Upcounty Community Resources, Potomac Community Resources, Community Support Services, The Kennedy Institute, and the Izaak Walton League.
When he is not assisting Michele, Steven is an offset and digital printing broker and consultant. He also writes articles for the Internet on current trends in the field of offset and digital printing and integrated media. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-six years, working as a graphic designer, art director, production manager, photographer, writer, and editor.
Steve and Michele team up to lead our Finding the Artist Within
Josh Carpenter's teaching career began as a TEFL certified instructor for underprivileged children in Costa Rica, followed by paraprofessional work at a K-12 school for children with disabilities in San Diego, California. His experience grew when he taught middle school students with various disabilities at Darnall Charter school, a Title 1 school servicing students in kindergarten through eighth grade in California. While focusing on inclusion at Darnall, he completed his masters thesis on Vibroacoustic Therapy. His experience in Maryland includes Carl Sandburg Learning Center, a public elementary school for students with behavioral disabilities. He currently holds both a mild to moderate, and a moderate to severe Education Specialist credential in California, an Advanced Professional Certificate in Maryland and completed my Master of Special Education degree in 2016.
Justin Roman is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has worked in school, community mental health, and treatment foster care settings. Justin received his Master's in Social Work from The Catholic University of America and is currently enrolled in a post graduate course with the Washington School of Psychiatry. Justin has clinical experience working with populations affected by developmental and emotional challenges. In his free time he enjoys spending time with his wife and two children.
Justin is heading up our Guys Night Out program!
Emily Bruestle received her M.M. in Music Therapy from Florida State University and her B.M. in Violin Performance from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In addition to being a Board Certified Music Therapist (MT-BC), she completed a six-month clinical music therapy internship at HealthSouth Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama where she worked with patients recovering from brain injuries.
She is also certified in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Music Therapy. In addition to her violin studies, Emily has training in guitar, voice, and piano. Emily joined the music therapy department at Levine Music in August of 2015 where she leads individual and group music therapy sessions. Through Levine she also contracts to multiple community locations in the Washington metropolitan area. When she isn't providing music therapy services Emily enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading, hiking, and traveling.
Emily leads our Rhythm, Blues and Beyond class.
Zachary Lasko, After playing and teaching music professionally for over a decade, Zach now offers his creative talents to the team at MOCO Movement Center, a White Flint based center that integrates therapy with fun extra-curricular activities for children. Though these days he mostly works with children and teens, in the past Zach has enjoyed opportunities to contribute to adult based music and education projects as well. He is excited to partner with Upcounty Community Resources to provide the full rock band experience for all, bringing local professionals together with teen and adult music players and appreciators of all types, for an immersive and inclusive musical experience!
Zack leads Monday Night Jam13, NeuroDiversity Jam band.
Marianne Green comes to us as a volunteer! We're thrilled to have her in our therapeutic classes. She has extensive experience working with people with special needs and is very attentive and intuitive to the needs of our UCR adult members! We're excited Marianne will join our Weekend Enrichment / Respite Program.
Ellen Stuhlmann is our newest addition. She has decades of experience in the private sector and is sharing her vast knowledge with us! Ellen serves as an assistant to the Executive Director as well as a floating volunteer on an as needed basis. She comes to us from the Ignatian Volunteer Corp.