Presenter Bios

Alejandra Acuña, PhD, LCSW, PPSC

Alejandra Acuña is an Assistant Professor in the social work department at Cal State Northridge. Dr. Acuña earned her PhD in Social Welfare from UCLA and her MSW from UC Berkeley. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and holds a Pupil Personnel Services Credential (PPSC) in Child Welfare and Attendance and School Social Work. In 30 years of work in health and human services, she has experience in macro- to micro-level social work practice primarily with low-income ethnic minority urban youth and families in various settings (primarily public schools). She provides consultation and training, presents at conferences locally and nationally, and is the lead author of several peer-reviewed journal articles on topics that include school-based interventions, parenting & family communication, PTSD & resilience, Latin American immigrants, and minority male college student success. Her research interests include urban youth and families, trauma- and resilience-informed and responsive systems, and cultural/traditional approaches to mental health treatment. 

Rosemary Alamo, LCSW, PPSC

Rosemary Alamo is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and an Associate Professor with USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. She has over 25 years of experience in social work serving children, youth and families in diverse settings to include schools, community-based organizations, public child welfare and health care. Her career has focused on promoting the well-being, health, and mental health of vulnerable populations along with building appropriate infrastructures that will support them. She serves as the Director for Region I for NASW-CA Chapter. Rosemary currently co-leads a new innovative initiative that brings together law enforcement and social work professionals to create meaningful change in regard to how these two fields collaborate to support communities in need. She serves on the board for the Hollenbeck Police Activities League. Rosemary will be graduating with her Doctorate in Behavioral Health from Arizona State University in May 2020.

Marina Badillo, LCSW, DSW Candidate

I am currently a doctoral student at New York University’s Silver School of Social Work. I graduated with a Master of Science in Social Work in 2011 and obtained my social work clinical licensure from New York State in February 2015. My current position is a school counseling director at AIM I Charter Transfer High School in Brooklyn, New York. I am in a school leadership position focusing on developing and supervising youth development services for students’ ages 15 to 21 years of age. Prior to this position, I was school social worker and a clinical supervisor overseeing the social work department for grades K through 8 at Harlem Village Academy East Middle and Elementary Schools. I provided direct clinical services for students ages 5 to 14 and their respective families. I also have acquired clinical social work experience in community mental health in Harlem for the past 8 years. I have expertise in providing treatment across the developmental life span including mothers & babies, families, youth, adolescents, and adults. I also have knowledge and experience working with children with disabilities both in community family services and within the school system for public and charter schools. I have special clinical and research interests in social work ethics, organization structure and leadership, and clinical supervision in schools.

Jahanna Bailey, DSW, LCSW-BACS

Jahanna Bailey, DSW, LCSW-BACS, serves as an Assistant Professor of Professional Practice in the School Social Work, where she teaches research and practice courses, as well as electives in the area of at-risk youth. Originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, she earned a Doctorate in Social Work from Tulane University. For over 13 years Dr. Bailey served as a clinician and supervisor at Capital Area Human Services District’s School Based Therapy Program before coming to Louisiana State University. Her practice experience includes extensive work with children, youth and families, particularly in the school setting.

Dr. Bailey believes that the field of social work is an instrumental avenue for facilitating and empowering individuals to become active agents in social change. Her research area focuses on children and youth, with specific emphasis on childhood trauma. She has facilitated numerous workshops across the state on empirically based interventions with at risk youth and families. Throughout her social work career, she has been dedicated to serving and advocating for the welfare of children, youth and their families.   

Timmesha Butler, LCSW

Ms. Butler is currently an assistant professor at Ramapo College of New Jersey, and licensed clinical social worker in the state of New Jersey. Ms. Butler has three years of experience teaching courses in social work education. Additionally, she has six years of direct care experience working with individuals, children, and families, with special interest in working with children and young adults. Her experience includes an extensive history working with various mental health and developmental disorders such as: ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), emotional behavior disturbance, intellectual disability, anxiety, and depression. She has previously operated as a social worker in the field of child and family services, where she worked with children in foster care homes providing home based therapeutic care. She then transitioned to the District of Columbia Public school system, where she provided a host of services to students with and without disabilities. Her experience includes assessments, intervention, family engagement, service coordination, program planning, and student advocacy.

Jandel Crutchfield, PhD, LCSW

Jandel Crutchfield is an assistant professor in the School of Social Work at UTA who earned her PhD in Social Work at Louisiana State University. Dr. Crutchfield’s work is designed to understand underlying contributions to the stagnation in racial disparity gaps for vulnerable people of color in all sectors of society. Her main foci include the following 1) examining cases that describe the lived experiences of discrimination that vulnerable people of color experience and which contributes to disparities, 2) identifying institutional, societal, and individual level racial and skin color bias that contributes to such disparities, 3a) demonstrating the need for better training in cultural engagement for professionals working in any system with vulnerable people of color and 3b) identifying tools for better training in cultural engagement for these professionals.  Jandel is secretary to the Board of ACSSW.

Amandla Daniels, MSW, SSW

Amandla Daniels received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Helen Bader School of Social Welfare.

Amandla has experience working with youth in several settings. She completed her undergraduate field placement at St. Charles Youth and Family Services' Focus Program, a residential treatment center for adolescent boys. In addition, she completed a clinical field placement at Milwaukee Academy, a residential treatment center for adolescent females and in the Milwaukee Public Schools at the elementary and high school levels.

Amandla is now the first School Social Worker (SSW) at the Vel R. Phillips School located in Milwaukee County’s juvenile detention center. At Vel R. Phillips School, Amandla, with the help of her coworkers, developed trauma informed practices and is providing on-going training for the educational program to best meet the needs of students and staff at Vel R. Phillips. She is also a member of the Wauwatosa School District’s Mental Health Content Team.

Cristina Dobon Claveau, LCSW, PPS

With over 14 years as a School Social Worker in both Minnesota and California, Cristina has made her work her passion. Cristina was a School Social Worker for 8 years in Minnesota, serving students K-12. Since moving to California, Cristina has taken on leadership roles around Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports and provided direct service to students as an Educationally Related Mental Health Services counselor. Cristina is currently a Wellness & Prevention Coordinator for the Roseville Joint Union High School District, in the Sacramento area, and is responsible for Coordinating whole-child Wellness Services within a Multi-Tiered System of Support Framework. She is an instructor at California State University-Sacramento teaching the Pupil Personnel Services Credential course for School Social Work and a Board Member of the California School Social Workers Association.

Kimberly Finney, PsyD, ABPP, ABMP

Kimberly Finney is a board certified clinical psychologist and clinical associate professor of social work at the University of Southern California. She is a retired military psychologist and is medically trained in psychopharmacology. Dr. Finney regularly lectures on the neurobiology of racism and serves as a consultant and analyst on race-related issues in working with African Americans. Dr. Finney holds a M.S. in organizational development, a M.S. in medical clinical psychopharmacaology and doctorate degree in clinical psychology from Wright State University.     

Terence Dwight Fitzgerald, PhD, MEd, MSW

Terence Fitzgerald is a clinical associate professor of social work at the University of Southern California, a race scholar, and a policy analyst. He previously worked at the elementary, middle, and high school levels as a school social worker in racially and economically diverse settings in Illinois. Dr. Fitzgerald holds a Ph.D. in educational policy from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Umeka Franklin, MSW

Umeka Franklin began her career as an adjunct field faculty lecturer teaching integrative seminars as well as courses in military clinical experience and Virtual Field Practicum. She also served as a field liaison at the Virtual Academic Center. She is currently a clinical assistant professor in field education in the Department of Children, Youth and Families.

A licensed clinical social worker, she has worked across the lifespan providing services to various populations. She served in a leadership role as a social work coordinator working with military veterans for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. After earning a Veterans Health Administration Mentor Certification, Franklin mentored and supported employees and staff at the VA. She has also worked as a psychiatric social worker for the Los Angeles Unified School District, providing direct clinical services to individuals, families and groups. In addition, she has expertise as a medical social worker with an emphasis on nephrology, as well as working with children and families who have experienced traumatic events.

Franklin received a bachelor’s degree in social work and a gerontology certificate from California State University, Los Angeles. She received her master’s degree in social work and a Pupil Personnel Services credential from USC. She is currently pursuing her Doctor of Education at the USC Rossier School of Education.

Evelyn Garcia, LCSW, PPSC, MSW

Evelyn Garcia is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a Pupil Personnel School Credential. Ms. Garcia holds a bachelor’s degree from Cal Poly Pomona and a Master of Social Work with specialized training in mental health from San Diego State University. Ms. Garcia proudly serves as a School Site Social Worker and Field Instructor at Will Rogers Middle School which is part of the Lawndale Elementary School District (LESD). LESD is a Teaching Institute for MSW and Counseling interns, and MFT trainees which means she provides high quality training and instruction to cohorts of eight to eleven interns and trainees every school year. Ms. Garcia works to ensure student access to mental health services, suicide and bullying prevention, increase mental health awareness, supports parent engagement, attendance, family linkage to community resources, PBIS implementation and provides staff professional development training. Ms. Garcia is driven by the ideal that every child has the right to an equitable educational experience. In 2018 Ms. Garcia was recognized for her innovative and outstanding service in the field of social work earning the Heart of Social Work Award by the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.  

Stacy Gherardi, PhD, LCSW, MSW

Stacy A. Gherardi PhD, LCSW is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at New Mexico State University. Her experiences as a classroom teacher and a school social worker inform her work which focuses broadly on the intersections between social and educational policy. Her past work has explored models for school social work and interprofessional practice in schools, and the community school movement. Her current work is largely focused on understanding and evaluating efforts to implement social justice-oriented trauma-sensitive practices in culturally diverse schools.  Stacy is a Director on the Board of ACSSW.

Craig Gibbs, LCSW, PPSC

Serving children and families through a systems framework while working at all levels has been 23 years in the making. Craig has experience providing clinical services through private practice, IEP’s, school mental health programs and the juvenile court. Early in his career Craig investigated Suspected Child Abuse Reports and provided ongoing case management for court ordered family maintenance cases. While in Southern California Craig provided Educationally Related Mental Health Service to student K-12 and collaborated with county and community partners to develop a juvenile drug court program. Upon returning to Northern California, Craig worked with the Placer County Office of Education coordinating and supporting school districts foster and homeless services programs, provided Eliminating Barriers Learning training to multiple counties and school districts throughout California and initiated a school social work position at the court and community school. Most recently Craig has joined a team within the Roseville Joint Union High School District to develop and implement Wellness Centers in seven high schools. Craig has experience providing the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) and is an adjunct instructor with CSU, Sacramento where he teaches the Pupil Personnel Services Credential court to post graduate social workers. 

Julian Goodwin, BA, MSW in progress

Julian Goodwin is a special education teacher in Albuquerque Public Schools and an MSW intern with the American Council for School Social Work. He is currently completing his MSW at New Mexico State University.

Mandy Goodwin, MSW, LCSW

Mandy Goodwin is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker for Cobb County School District. Mandy is also Program Director for Paint Love, an Atlanta-Based Non-Profit Organization that provides extra-ordinary arts programming to youth who have experienced poverty or trauma. Mandy uses art as a tool in her practice to support the community, school, and student. She is a graduate of the University of Georgia School of Social Work and is currently a finalist for School Social Work Association of Georgia's School Social Worker of the Year.

Bianca Harper, DSW

Bianca Harper received her Doctorate in Social Work at the University of Pennsylvania.  She earned her Masters of Social Work degree from Arizona State University and a Bachelor’s degree in Special Education from the University of Arizona. Bianca is a licensed clinical social worker and provides individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy for children and adolescents who have been sexually abused. Additionally, Bianca has direct practice experience in child forensic interviewing, victim advocacy, crisis counseling, school social work, and early childhood development. Bianca’s primary research interests include child maltreatment, child welfare, interpersonal violence, traumatic stress, and trauma informed treatment. For her dissertation, Bianca examined family reunification experiences after sibling sexual abuse.

Tamir D. Harper, BA in process

At 20 years old, Tamir is a non-profit executive, an outspoken advocate for public education, and a student.  Tamir D. Harper is a proud product of the School District of Philadelphia and is now a junior at the American University in Washington, DC.  At American, Tamir is part of the award-winning Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars Program while studying strategic communications with a minor in education. 

Tamir is a speaker, advocate, reformer, and a proud education nerd.  Harper's work has granted him the opportunity to meet forever First Lady, Michelle Obama, to sit on a panel for the US Department of Education concerning teacher diversity, and to represent students that attend underserved and underfunded schools across the country.  His advocacy has been included in the Washington Post, TIME magazine, and Newsy.  Tamir is the proud Co-founder and Executive Director of UrbEd, Inc, a student-led, student-oriented nonprofit that advocates for a quality and efficient urban education.           

Susan Hess, MSW, LCSW-IL

Susan Hess, MSW, LCSW-IL, is a Clinical Assistant Professor at USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. Hess is an advocate, consultant and relational organizer in the areas of trauma informed approaches and the intersections of intimate partner violence. Hess is the Co-Founder of Trauma Informed LA whose mission is to foster resilient communities that promote healing and well-being through collaboration, education, and community engagement. In recognition of her dedication, Hess was presented with the distinguished Dr. Marjorie Braude Award by the City of Los Angeles Domestic Violence City Task Force in October 2013 for innovative collaboration in serving victims of domestic violence.

Maria Hu Hydon, DSW, LCSW

Maria C. Hydon is a Clinical Associate Professor of Field Education. She has spent most of her career as a Psychiatric Social Worker for the Los Angeles Unified School District and a USC faculty member. She has taught graduate-level classes and served as a field liaison to many MSW students.

As an LAUSD psychiatric social worker, Hydon has provided individual, family and group counseling, as well as crisis intervention and home visits for at-risk students. Hydon helped coordinate LAUSD’s School Mental Health Field Instruction Program, one of the largest field placement agencies in California. As an intern trainer of the Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) Program, she focused her efforts on implementation and dissemination of CBITS, crisis/threat response and intervention, suicide prevention, trauma recovery and resiliency. She is now a certified trainer for the newer version of CBITS 2.0 and has trained a number of clinicians in Spanish.

In addition, Hydon is worked as a consultant to the U.S. Department of Education as an educator on resilience strategies for educators and on school behavior threat assessments. She has also trained school officials on Psychological First Aid/Listen, Protect, Connect (PFA/LPC) – which is an evidence-informed universal prevention intervention for educators and school staffs to utilize after crises or disasters. In the year 2016, Hydon was the first who helped developed a mental health initiative with the Consulate of El Salvador in Los Angeles. For the two consecutive years, the initiative has had MSW students who are under the supervision of a licensed practitioner offering short-term counseling services for free regardless of immigration status.  Maria is the incoming Treasurer of ACSSW.

Kelley Hubbell, MSW, LCSW

Kelley Hubbell, LCSW is a school social worker and an education consultant. Kelley was on the founding team of Collegiate Academies, a group of charter schools in New Orleans, LA, where she spearheaded the development of the school based mental health program. Currently, Kelley lives in Asheville, NC and works at the YWCA of Asheville as the Women's Empowerment Director. She is also the founder of the Red Crayon Practice, an consulting and counseling practice that consults with schools on mental health and SEL programming, coaches parents, and empowers youth through therapeutic intervention. In her free time, you can find Kelley on a long hike in the mountains or trying out the most recent baking recipe.

Stephen Hydon, EdD, MSW

Stephen P. Hydon is a Clinical Professor at the University of Southern California, Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. He also chairs the School Social Work Program, one of the largest in the country, with over 200 students each year earning credentials to practice school social work in public school settings.  Dr. Hydon’s interests lie in social work practice in schools, child welfare, and secondary traumatic stress.  He has trained nationwide on secondary traumatic stress, compassion fatigue, educator resilience and the Psychological First Aid - Listen, Protect, Connect, Model, and Teach curriculum for school personnel. He is a member of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and the Trauma and Services Adaptation Center for Resiliency, Hope and Wellness in Schools.  Recently, Dr. Hydon was funded to co-lead a team of experts in the fields of education and secondary trauma to create a one-of-a-kind online learning platform for educators experiencing secondary traumatic stress entitled Support for Teachers Affected by Trauma (STAT):  He is married to his wife Maria, who is also a professor at USC and a current ACSSW board member.  In his spare time, Dr. Hydon loves to cook, watch sports, and spend time with their three children. Steve is the current president of ACSSW.

Ashley Ice, LCSW

Ashley (she/her/hers) is a Licensed Social Worker and a current Doctor of Social Work candidate at Aurora University. Ashley has experience working with children, adolescents, and adults in various levels of care: inpatient, outpatient, and partial hospitalization programs, residential treatment centers, DCFS and child welfare, non-profit agencies, and diagnostic treatment centers. She received professional training, supervision, and consultation in: Attachment, Regulation, and Competency (ARC), Trauma-Focused CBT (TF-CBT), and Advanced Psychodynamic Training through three year-long didactic fellowships. In therapy, Ashley integrates psychodynamic theory, play therapy, expressive arts, and body-based mindfulness practices (meditation, hypnosis, yoga, breath work & emotion focused tapping). Her clinical interests and specialties include complex trauma/PTSD, eating disorders, self-injury, family systems, and LGBTQIA+ friendly. Ashley believes in helping clients develop a safe space to strengthen their inner guidance and self-compassion, foster positive relationships, and embrace the resiliency of their trauma narrative to discover their true self.

Brandi Lamana Conrad, DSW, LCSW-BACS

Brandi Lamana Conrad, DSW, LCSW-BACS, is an Assistant Professor of Professional Practice at Louisiana State University’s School of Social Work. Dr. Conrad has practiced as a social worker since 2004, working in the Family Services Department for the St. Tammany Parish Department of Children and Family Services, as a school-based therapist and supervisor for Capital Area Human Services, School Based Therapy Program, as well as treating children and adolescents in her private practice. She has been a Board Approved Clinical Supervisor providing clinical supervision to social workers seeking LCSW licensure since 2013.

Dr. Conrad has taught numerous courses focusing on research, policy, diagnoses, human behavior, and the Social Work in Schools elective. Additionally, she has presented at various conferences and workshops throughout her social work career. Dr. Conrad’s research focuses on children and adolescents, specifically in the area of school based social work and trauma.  Dr. Conrad is conference chair and newsletter editor for ACSSW.

Jennifer Lewis, PhD, LCSW

Jennifer Lewis joined the USC School of Social Work faculty in the Mental Health Concentration in 2012. She is a lead professor for Social Work Practice in Integrated Care Settings and Advanced Practice With Complex Social Work Cases. She has also developed and taught online courses in the School Virtual Academic Center. Her pedagogical interests include specialized neurobiologically informed education for students who have lived experience with trauma. She serves in leadership roles at the University Task Force on Interdisciplinary Communities, Chairing Curriculum Committee in the Adults Mental Health and Wellness Department and holds an elected position on Curriculum Council. Lewis also works with the Community Psychiatry Program overseeing fellows and residents at University of California San Diego. Most recently, Lewis was a Co-Investigator and Project Director at U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant for HIV-positive mothers who are abusing substances to prevent the abuse, neglect and abandonment of children. Previously she spent ten years in Integrated Primary Care and AIDS Service Organizations providing program development and implementation, administrative and clinical supervision and direct care. Her professional interests include HIV and women integrated care, suicide prevention, trauma, stress and resilience.

Joshua MacNeill, MEd

Josh began his Lakeside career as a teacher where he quickly began adapting trauma-informed strategies into his classroom. He realized how important this approach was and saw amazing improvements in his students. Because of Josh’s success both in his classroom and in communicating trauma-informed educational practices, he began to get many requests to consult and train others, which propelled him to become the Director of Lakeside’s NeuroLogic® Initiative.

In addition to earning his Masters in Multicultural Education, Josh has completed The Child Trauma Academy’s Neurosequential Model of Education training program. He has presented at regional, state, national and international conferences and now offers training and consultation for schools and individuals throughout the United States and abroad. Josh has written a book filled with activities for classroom teachers that help regulate each level of the brain.

Amy Nelson, MSSW, CAPSW

Amy Nelson, CAPSW, has been a school social worker in the Milwaukee area for nearly 15 years, working in both public and private schools. She is also a co-founder of the Urban School Professional Network, a nonprofit organization offering resources, consultation, and support for non-public mental health professionals. Amy is driven by her desire to break down barriers to learning and by her passion to empower students, parents, and families. Whether facilitating a parent workshop, partnering with teachers on potential interventions for students, or working one-on-one with youth, she fosters collaborative relationships to facilitate change. While never wavering from her desire to make a difference in the lives of others, Amy recognized she must also take better care of herself. This realization led her to explore, and experience, life coaching. Inspired by how coaching helped guide her own self-care journey, she enrolled in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Certified Professional Coach Program in fall 2019. Amy’s experiences have cemented her belief in the power of life coaching and its impact on wellness, not only for students and families, but also for the professionals who have dedicated their lives to helping others.

Rick Ornelas, Clinical Associate Professor     

Rick Ornelas has 21 years of law enforcement experience.  He is a Clinical Associate Professor with USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.   He has 21 years of law enforcement experience. He works with an array of populations to include law enforcement, individuals, couples, families, groups, and work organizations.  Rick is a facilitator for the CA Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, Sherman Block Supervisory Leadership Institute. He also teaches first responders communication strategies to effectively interact and de-escalate consumers with mental illness.  In addition, Rick's long-term focus is Integrated Behavioral Health for Law Enforcement and First Responders. Rick is pursuing a Doctorate of Behavioral Health from Arizona State University.

Holly Priebe Sotelo, MSW, PPSC

Experienced Clinical Associate Professor, Field Education with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education, K-12 public education, and child welfare industries. Skilled in Nonprofit Organizations, Community Outreach, Curriculum Development, Public Speaking, and Program Development. Strong child welfare services professional and a Doctoral Candidate at Sol Price School of Public Policy of Planning and Development from the University of Southern California. Areas of expertise and interest include the micro-mezzo-macro practices of the prevention and intervention of human trafficking, interpersonal and intergroup conflicts and violence, school bullying, school crisis response, child abuse, and family violence.

Yehudah Pryce, BA, MSW in process

Yehudah Pryce was arrested in 2002 at the age of 19 and sentenced to 24-years in prison for a non-violent robbery. He is currently on parole after being released from prison early in October of 2018. Since his time of release, he has earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and is in the last semester of his MSW program at the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.

Yehudah is currently the Chair of the USC student interest group, Unchained Scholars; a psychotherapist intern at the Beit T’Shuvah residential addiction treatment center; and an ICMS program manager providing services for community members in South Los Angeles who are experiencing chronic homelessness and high-acuity mental health challenges. He completed an Orthodox Jewish conversion program and considers faith an integral part of his social work.

Maria Ruelas, EdD, MSW, PPSC

For the past eight years, Dr. Maria Ruelas has served as the District Social Worker for the Lawndale Elementary School District (LESD). She has become a leader in the field of social work and education by redefining her role in school settings. With the support of the Director of Student Support Services, Dr. Ruelas has changed the infrastructure of the LESD's schools by working alongside eight school social workers and partnering with more than ten community mental health agencies, organizations, and universities to address the social and emotional needs of the Lawndale community.

Dr. Ruelas has also enabled LESD to become a Teaching Institute for the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work by hosting and supervising more than 60 master-level social work interns every year. Interns and students at LESD are provided with the latest evidenced-based, data-driven frameworks to reduce disciplinary incidents, increase schools' sense of safety and support in turn, resulting in improved academic outcomes for students. Therein, these opportunities have also provided graduate-level interns and trainees across disciplines and universities to receive high quality field education experiences.

Dr. Ruelas’ creativity, hard work, and dedication for program development and strategic planning has led LESD to receive numerous invitations to present at state and national conferences. In addition, it has led the district to receive acknowledgements and distinctions, such as the Agency of the Year Award by the Field Education department at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. Dr. Ruelas is recognized for the work she has done to influence, build capacity, and opportunities for social workers in school settings not only in the Lawndale community but across districts in Los Angeles County and across the state being named Social Worker of the Year by the California Association of School Social Workers.

Dr. Ruelas returned to her alma mater, University of Southern California (USC) and recently earned her Ed.D. in Educational Leadership concentrating on Educational Psychology. Prior to entering the doctoral program, Dr. Ruelas earned her master’s degree, Child Welfare and Attendance (CWA) and Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) credentials at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.

Dr. Ruelas research interests include school mental health, behavioral health, PBIS, bullying, trauma, school safety, equity, and gendered trends in elementary and postsecondary learning environments. She is an avid traveler and has visited close to 20 countries since she began traveling at the age of 18. Dr. Ruelas and her dog, Romeo enjoy the outdoors and spending quality time with family and friends.

Paola Santana, BA, MS

Paola Santana works at Parents Reaching Out since 2018 as a bilingual family liaison. She is originally from Ecuador and she has been living in the United States for 19 years, and happily married to her best friend for 35 years, they have a twelve-year-old daughter who is gifted with sensory issues. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Currently, she is also a consultant for Telehealth (HIAI Touch). She lived in California for four years where she started helping bilingual students at school. She moved to New Mexico with her husband and she has been working in the community helping families who have children with special needs for 15 years. Her goal is to empower families to advocate for their children and learn about their educational rights by giving them the information through trainings and materials that are relevant for achieving their main goal as a parent. 

Michele Sela-Amit, PhD

Dr. Michal Sela-Amit is a Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. Dr. Sela-Amit specializes in working with children, youth, and families. She teaches clinical practice courses with youth and young adults as well as courses on diversity, social justice, and working with systems serving children and families including juvenile justice and child welfare. Dr. Sela-Amit is a recognized expert on the use of expressive practices in the social work profession. She advocates the use of theory, research, and clinical practice with the expressive arts as tools to heal trauma and to promote the empowerment and growth of clients, groups, and communities. She has researched and written on the role of the expressive arts in promoting resilience of children, adolescents, and their families. Dr. Sela-Amit is on the advisory board of non-profit organizations that work with at-risk youth in schools and in the juvenile justice system. She also works with the Council on Social Work Education to promote the integration of expressive practices into the profession.

Martika Tucker, ACSW, PPSC

Martika Tucker earned her master’s degree, Child Welfare and Attendance, and Pupil Personnel Services credentials at USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. Ms. Tucker has provided services and support to the families of the Lawndale Elementary School District (LESD) as an intern and School Site Social Worker. Throughout Ms. Tucker’s profession as a School Site Social Worker at Mark Twain Elementary School, she has cultivated a positive school climate as a product of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), providing a wide range of mental health services, supervising and training graduate level interns, and providing professional development to staff.

Prior to working for LESD, Ms. Tucker worked at a residential mental health clinic in Orefield, Pennsylvania. Ms. Tucker has extensive experience in providing a wide range of mental health services to diverse populations including, but not limited to, children and families. Her research interests include trauma, restorative justice, PBIS, social emotional learning, and school mental health.

Martika is a New Jersey native who came to California to pursue her passion of helping children and families in school settings. Her interests outside of serving others includes traveling, hiking, taking road trips, spending time with family and friends, and exploring this new state that she is proud to call home!

Kathy Van Horn, MEd, LP, Licensed Psychologist

Kathy Van Horn, Med, has been working in the field of education for 35 years as a teacher, counselor, and administrator and has been consulting and training school personnel for the past 20 years. She currently is Executive Vice President of Lakeside and works part time as a professor in Eastern University’s graduate school counseling department.

Kathy is a key developer of Lakeside’s four trauma-informed schools. She has presented in regional, state, national and international conferences and is the author of a trauma-informed curriculum for students which is being used in schools throughout the United States and abroad. Kathy is passionate about helping schools to become trauma-informed and has been steadfast in her efforts to ensure that NeuroLogic® training provides practical applications that people can implement immediately into their work.

Ms. Van Horn has been trained by the ChildTrauma Academy in the Neurosequential Model of both Therapeutics and Education. She has presented in regional, state, national, and international conferences. Ms. Van Horn has recently published a curriculum for teaching trauma informed principles to students.  

Sabrina Vella, LCSW, PPSC

Sabrina has been working in the mental health and wellness field for over 12 years. She has a passion for working in schools, promoting trauma informed school communities, and integrating restorative practices into the work at all levels. For 10 years she worked in a non-profit setting in the bay area of California that collaborated with school districts to provide care to the most vulnerable and at-risk youth in California. She supported various programs including residential and day treatment, county suicide crisis assessment center, counseling enriched classrooms for students with emotional disturbance, ERMHS, and coordinated newly designed mental health referral systems while providing psychotherapy. After her tenure in the nonprofit world, she moved out to work with the Roseville Joint Union High School District to assist with implementing the systems, structures, and day-to-day functioning of Wellness Centers in our eight high schools.

Vivien Villaverde, MSSW, LCSW, PPSC

Vivien Villaverde, PPSC, LCSW, is a Clinical Associate Professor in the Field Education Department of the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology & Human Behavior with a minor in Criminology, Law, & Society from UC, Irvine. She also graduated from Columbia University School of Social Work with a Master of Science degree in Social Work. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the state of California and has a California Pupil Personnel Services Credential. She formerly worked as a Psychiatric Social Worker within the Los Angeles Unified School District and specialized in collaborative program partnerships (Department of Probation, Department of Mental Health and the Department of Children and Family Services), coordination and development serving students in the foster care and the delinquency system within the education system. She was affiliated with LAUSD for more than nine years where she gained significant subject matter experience in coordinated collaboration, program development and capacity building to address student wellness and needs.

Vivien Villaverde is the Teaching Institution (TI) Coordinator responsible for developing large scale community partnerships. As the Coordinator, she assists organizations and agencies in developing or improving the quality of the MSW training program. The goal of the partnerships is to elevate the quality of MSW training in the field and support community partners on their capacity building projects and endeavors. She also supports Teaching Institutions in their innovative program development and access to cutting edge knowledge. Majority of these consultations are with educational organizations and settings such as Pasadena USD, Lawndale Elementary School Districts, ABC USD, and many more. Prof. Villaverde collaborations resulted in strategic MSW job development at different school districts and ice capacity building for mental services and supportive in schools. In addition, Prof. Villaverde is a Trauma-Informed School Support Specialist for the Treatment Services and Adaptation Center for Resiliency, Hope and Wellness in Schools (TSA). TSA is a SAHMSA funded center supporting schools’ trauma-informed strategic transformation and program development to provide evidence-based prevention and early intervention services. She provides consultation and supports for Trauma-Responsive School Transformation and capacity building training in Trauma-Informed Skills for Educators (TISE), Psychological First Aid (PFA), Services to Students Exposed to Trauma (SSET), Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS), Core Concepts of Child and Adolescent Trauma, Disaster Response, Planning and Management, Crisis Response and Management, Motivational Interviewing, Problem Solving Therapy and others. She collaborates and trains nationally and internationally with many schools and districts (ABC USD, PUSD...).

Pamela Vona, MA, MPH   

Pamela Vona, MA, MPH, is currently the Program Manager for the Treatment and Services Adaptation Center for Resilience, Hope and Wellness in Schools. Her interests include understanding how to support the implementation of trauma practices in the school setting. Specifically, her work has focused on how web-based platforms can support training in and implementation of evidence-based practices in schools. Ms. Vona served as a lead developer of the Trauma Responsive School Implementation Assessment—an online assessment designed to help schools improve their trauma-responsiveness.  She is also leading the development of the Trauma Informed Skills for Developers (TISE) curriculum designed to enhance educators’ trauma knowledge and skills. Ms. Vona serves on the School Committee Workgroup for the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) and previously was a member of the NCTSN Policy Task Force.

Erica Warshawer, MSW, LCSW

For the past ten years, Erica was the Director of Social Work for a network of schools in the Mid-Atlantic region, a role which supports the overall performance and professional development of school based social workers who collectively serve nearly 12,000 students across CT, RI and NY. Erica owns and operates a private therapy and consulting practice in Philadelphia. She serves middle and high school students as well as adults, provides individual and group clinical supervision to individuals seeking clinical State licensure in NY and PA, and consults with schools and school leaders to enhance social-emotional program development and trauma-informed interventions. Additionally, she provides coaching to help teachers and school leaders develop adaptive leadership skills and emotional intelligence. Erica has taught at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Social Work and is currently a Board Member with the American Council of School Social Work, a national organization which supports school social workers in their service to students, schools, and families.   Erica is the current Vice-president of ACSSW.

Stuart Warshawer, MEd, BA

Stuart earned certification as a Principal in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  He was a Fisher Fellow, KIPP Schools, in 2019-2020.  In January 2020, he received the School District of Philadelphia Progress Award, and was a Neubauer Fellow in 2018 in the School District of Philadelphia.  Mr. Warshawer is the founding principal of KIPP:  Cooper Norcross High School in Camden, NJ. 

American Council for School Social Work

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