Meet Our Team!
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. Watch for Haifa at our Weekend Enrichment programs!
Elizabeth Fagan has gained extensive experience working with people of varying disabilities through her employment with Montgomery County Public Schools as a Special Education Para-Educator. Beth is the parent of two young adults with different learning challenges. Watch for Beth at the Weekend Enrichment program and helping us behind the scenes.
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. Suzy enjoys the 1:1 Intensive WORKS program.
Kathy Clarke has 20 years of experience working as a special education teacher in Montgomery County, Maryland where she helped preschool children achieve developmental milestones through creative and sensory-based education. She also served as a Parent Educator for the families of her students. She supported the families by taking them on community outings and developing behavioral supports. As a UCR WORKS Program Manager, Kathy is excited to help empower young adults with developmental differences by building self-confidence through hands-on work experiences. Prior to teaching, Kathy worked as the Managing Editor of a journal for deaf educators. She has a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education and a Bachelor’s degree in Humanistic Studies. In her free time, Kathy enjoys visiting her children and grandchildren in Boston, San Francisco, and downtown DC, taking walks with neighbors, and playing Pickleball.
Kyle Mulcahy travels to us from Frederick County. He is an employee of MCPS as a para-educator in the Extensions program at Quince Orchard High School, has extensive behavior experience and is a recent college graduate himself. We are excited to bring an experienced, charismatic and thoughtful partner to our Men's Night Out Program.
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, and 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 worked for MCPS as a paraeducator.
Michael Favin earned his Masters degrees in Latin American history (Indiana University) and Public Health (University of Texas at Houston). We are so lucky to have him as one of our most reliable volunteers. Look for him at our Weekend Enrichment programs and WORKS Programs. He has been with UCR for several years and was the Volunteer of the Year in 2020.
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. She was Volunteer of the Year in 2019.
Melika Al-Kawas is the mother of 3 daughters, and a grandmother of two children. After raising her children, she went back to school and earned her degree from the University of Maryland. She has been with The Arc, Montgomery County for nearly a decade, focusing on Vocational and Day Services. Ms. Al-Kawas has a heart for volunteerism and believes deeply in giving back to the community. She was a Girl Scout Leader for 8 years, held every position on the PTA, including President of the elementary and middle school PTA’s. She also has been involved with SAWA, the Syrian American Women’s Charitable Association, since 1995, holding seats as Vice President and President for several years.
UCR's Current Contractors
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 owns his own recording and therapeutic music center, Groovetoday where he provides customized arts and movement services of all types to all ages!
Zach considers the student's unique needs and skill level then figures out how they learn the skills best. 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.