How did you discover your passion for what you do, and what opportunities have helped shape your career?

I have always enjoyed serving my community and volunteering where I can. That was something I was exposed to in the first grade when I joined Girl Scouts. Several years later, when my figure skating club asked for volunteers for an event for individuals with autism, I raised my hand. I didn’t really know much about autism, nor what to expect, but I knew that skating combined with volunteering would be fun. That day I was paired up with a boy who was unable to speak to me, had some mobility challenges and seemed fearful of the entire experience. For a long while, we stood at the boards while he watched the others skate. Eventually I asked if he wanted to try and held out a hand. He took my hand, then my other and very slowly we started to glide. He was shaky, terrified, and I thought maybe this was a bad idea. But soon enough he gifted me with a lopsided smile and in that moment, I felt compelled to learn and do more for individuals like him.

When it came time to work on my Girl Scout gold award, it was an easy decision to plan and organize a skate-a-thon to raise awareness for individuals with autism. I had learned so much from that first event, yet still had so much to learn. By the time I hosted the next skate-a-thon, I fully understood the expression that “if you know one person with autism, you know one person with autism.”

Through another aspect of my life, pageantry, I met a like-minded person with the same passion. Her brother has special needs, and she was doing her utmost best to eradicate the isolation and exclusion experienced by individuals with special needs. We realized that by joining forces, we could do more.

Fast forward six+ years later to this point where we have a well-established 501c3. Over the years, I have researched and written papers about autism, studied it from a scientific and social perspective and intend to apply this and further knowledge in my pursuit of a medical degree.


Who has been an invaluable mentor for your professional career? What did you learn from them?

There are a few actually. I learned a lot about community involvement and service early on from my two Girl Scout leaders who took us from 1st grade to high school. Our leader in high school provided tremendous training and guidance through leadership journeys and was instrumental in completion of the silver and gold awards.

So much of what I have learned about individuals with autism and the road to eradicating ableism comes from the mother of our foundation’s inspiration, Michael. She has helped me understand the isolation, exclusion, bullying and social aspects of the life of an individual and their family as they live with autism. Further, she has mentored me in the world of fundraising, generosity, engaging donors and staying true to the mission of providing direct support to our community.

My Big in DZ has supported my fundraising events as a tireless worker and, further, helped grow my online boutique. She is an extraordinary sounding board and keeps me grounded.

And there are also the doctors I have shadowed and worked with. I have observed as they work with individuals who have difficulty expressing their medical needs and seen the compassionate care that they provide.


How do you make sure you stay connected with your professional network?

I value the people I have met along the way and find opportunities to stay connected through social networks. Through LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram, I have remained connected to like-minded individuals, who I have gone on to collaborate with on events that support individuals on the autism spectrum. Through social media, I can promote my philanthropic efforts or simply support others in theirs.


How have friendships helped you professionally? Is there a friend (or Delta Zeta sister) that has been behind you every step of the way on your career journey?

Everything I have accomplished and hope to accomplish has been with the support of friends and family. My DZ Big, Edith, has remained a close friend, confidant and supporter. She always encourages me to keep moving in a positive direction. We, and other DZ sisters, have celebrated birthdays, homecomings and even vacationed together post-college. That is the beauty of Greek life. You become part of a family that endures far beyond college life.