Jill Caruso – IL Specialist – Monroe
Eleanor Chang – Information and Referral Specialist
Eleanor Chang is a licensed Master-level social worker whose role at Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living is as an Information and Assistance Specialist. She received her Master’s of Social Work degree from The University of Michigan School of Social Work. Eleanor considers her foray into the social work field to be quite accidental (she was a third-year medical student when she was in a serious car accident, and acquired multiple injuries).
When working with clients and with consumers, Eleanor sometimes draws on her science background and also on her natural empathy as a person with an acquired disability. She also has especial empathy for persons whose capacities and whose lives change in the blink of a moment (often because of an unintended and/or unplanned for event), and is deeply committed to the welfare of all informal caregivers of persons with disabilities.
Eleanor is a firm believer in self-advocacy but recognizes that sometimes there are barriers which impede goal attainment; such barriers may stem from one’s medical and/or mental health conditions, but may also arise from deficits in policy (which can be said to reflect attitudes). She is especially passionate in the education of health professionals and with other service providers who interact regularly with members of the disability community.
Shannon Clark – Information and Referral Specialist
Shannon Clark, LLMSW- Shannon is one of the Information and Referral Specialists in Ann Arbor. She is excited that within her role, she will have the opportunity to expand information and references to consumers in Livingston County. Shannon grew passionate for this particular line of work when she joined the “Best Buddies” club in her undergraduate career, which fosters one on one friendships between students and adults with disabilities. She saw the need for education and advocacy for individuals with disabilities and felt implored to use her voice to educate and advocate. She eventually held a title within her university’s chapter as the “Friendship Walk Correspondent”, acting as team captain and a main spearhead in fundraising for “The Friendship Walk”, Best Buddies’ largest fundraiser.
Shannon received her Bachelor of Social Work at Loyola University Chicago in 2016, where she mainly interned serving individuals facing homelessness and recently released from the prison system. Within these roles, she was giving information and referring clients to housing and employment opportunities, which is similar to her role as Information and Referral Specialist at AACIL. Upon graduation, Shannon immediately began her Master of Social Work program with a focus in clinical social work at Michigan State University and graduated in May 2017. During her program, she worked under the oncology social worker at the Wilson Cancer Resource Center at Troy Beaumont Hospital, where she was mainly seeing patients for supportive counseling and financial assistance appointments. As someone who has taken care of a family member who had physical and mental limitations, Shannon knows exactly how she wants her loved ones to be treated when facing an obstacle, so she strives to treat consumers exactly how she would want a family member to be treated: with dignity, respect, and compassion.
Anna Dusbiber-Gossage – IL Youth Program Manager and Peer Support Program Manager
Anna co-founded the Ann Arbor CIL’s Youth Services Program more than ten years ago. As program manager, Anna communicates with participants, recruits volunteers, and plans and implements events. The Youth Services Program offers workshops, social activities, individual assistance and advocacy to support youth as they navigate school and prepare to transition into adulthood. Anna has mentored many youth over the years and is a certified peer mentor of the Ann Arbor CIL. She often speaks at conferences and local events on behalf of the Ann Arbor CIL. Anna is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University (magna cum laude), earning a Bachelor’s of Science in Communication and Management. She is currently pursuing her Master of Social Work Degree, also from Eastern Michigan University.
Rhonda Elliott – IL Specialist-Monroe
Paula Finnegan – IL and Employment Specialist
Paula Finnegan is an Independent Living and Employment Specialist for the Ann Arbor CIL who works with individuals with disabilities of all ages whose goal is to attain employment. She most recently worked as a Resource Navigator for Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids, facilitating referrals within the eight organizations involved in the Heart of West Michigan United Way Employment Services Collaborative. She also has experience as a Pre-Employment Specialist at Goodwill, and has assisted many people in becoming job-ready. She believes in a holistic approach to the job search, assisting job seekers in securing basic need such as housing, healthcare, and financial planning services so that they can maintain employment long term.
She is a graduate of the University of Michigan Residential College, where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in History with a Minor in Philosophy, and proficiency in Spanish.
Alex Gossage – Associate Director
Alex Gossage is Associate Director at the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living (Ann Arbor CIL). He started in November of 2004 after working at the Center as an unpaid volunteer and then as an Americorps*VISTA volunteer until November of 2006. As the Americorps*VISTA Grants Team Associate he was responsible for actively researching and presenting grant opportunities, develop program ideas into grant proposals, and the preparation and curation of background and organization documentation. During his two years as an Americorps*VISTA, Mr. Gossage also facilitated group-based activities, developed marketing informational materials, and evaluated programs to gather both qualitative and quantitative data.
As Associate Director, Mr. Gossage works on a wide range of programs and responsibilities. Mr. Gossage helps to ensure program reporting and compliance for all CIL funding sources including Federal, State, and private funders. Mr. Gossage maintains a resource library and knowledge base of private and public funding sources and current grant-funded projects at the Ann Arbor CIL. In collaboration with staff, he coordinates scheduling of proposal development activities and assists staff with project development and proposal preparation activities including; researching, writing and editing proposals. Mr. Gossage fundraising responsibilities extend to assisting with resource development activities such as special events fundraising, volunteer recruitment including oversight of the AARP volunteer program, and assisting with the annual giving campaign. Other responsibilities include: coordinating new outreach efforts, taking on urgent projects, and more.
Mr. Gossage earned a Bachelor’s of Arts in Political Science and History at the University of California, Santa Barbara in the Spring of 2004. During his employment at the Ann Arbor CIL Mr. Gossage has participated in a variety of grant development trainings presented by: The Foundation Center, The Grant Institute, and The Grantsmanship Center.
Carolyn Grawi, MSW, LMSW, ACSW, ACAC– Executive Director and CEO
Carolyn’s work emphasizes the improvement of the quality of life of people with disabilities on a community-wide level. She also works to strengthen our local programs and increase opportunities for people with disabilities. She works to uphold and go beyond the Americans with Disabilities Act for access for all. She is also committed to working with the legislatures and communities on Transportation issues. She visits and meets with work sites, businesses, governmental bodies, and individuals’ residences to address accessibility and improve the experience of individuals with disabilities accessing these important aspects of life.
Some examples of organizations she has worked with include: the Cities of Ann Arbor, Monroe, and Ypsilanti related to Curb Ramp Accessibility; Ann Arbor Public Schools related to building, facility, and programming accessibility throughout the District; the State of Michigan DNR on design plans for State Park Access Improvements; and the University of Michigan in Design Reviews for both ADA and functional accessibility. Carolyn has conducted training programs regarding travel training, accessibility issues, disability awareness, disability awareness, disability rights, ADA Compliance, and Human Resource Hiring, Interviewing and Management Practices.
Prior to her work at the Ann Arbor CIL, Carolyn worked for 13 years as a Therapist and Clinical Services Supervisor at HelpSource (formerly Child and Family Services and Huron Services for Youth) and the Washtenaw County O’Brien Center. In these positions she became professionally associated with mental health agencies, court systems and residential/day programs as she advocated for equal rights for those who needed assistance or were experiencing injustice.
Carolyn earned her Master’s Degree in Social Work with emphasis in Administration and Interpersonal Practice at the University of Michigan. She also completed a Certificate of Graduate Studies in Labor Relations from the University of Michigan. Additionally, Carolyn has earned ADA Coordinator Certification from the University of Missouri.
As an individual with multiple disabilities, Carolyn is passionate about her work and about improving life for individuals with disabilities. Carolyn has diabetes and as a result began losing some of her sight due to diabetic retinopathy in 1987. Currently she is legally blind with no sight in her left eye and 20/200 visual acuity in her right eye. She describes herself as having “situationally functional vision.” She says this description describes her positive approach in working with people as people and recognizing their abilities instead of disabilities. Carolyn strongly believes that education is the key to independence on the part of individuals, and acceptance and competency on the part of the public.
Andrea Henry – Data Manager
Andrea Henry is the Data Manager at the Ann Arbor CIL. Within this program, Andrea oversees with researching data, information collection, and records management. She helps develop and maintain project records, meeting agendas and minutes, and all reports. Additionally, she will work to develop social networking sites, surveys, interviews and other components of the research investigation.
Prior to coming to the CIL, Andrea worked in both higher education and the nonprofit arenas. For almost 7 years she worked at Concordia University as Administrative Assistant to the Dean of the School of Education. Additionally, she served as Certification Officer and SB-CEU Coordinator. She also spent 3 years as Case Manager for the Domino’s Pizza Partners Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides financial assistance to Domino’s Pizza Team Members worldwide during times of undue hardship, such as on-the-job accidents, illness, fire or natural disasters, medical emergencies, serious illness, or the death of an immediate family member.
Andrea earned a BA in Sociology and Communication from Saginaw Valley State University in 1999. There she served as President of the Abler’s Club, the student-run disability organization, and facilitated an open forum to amplify the voices of students with disabilities. She also worked to incorporate a unit on disabilities into the Department of Sociology’s curriculum.
Born with Spina Bifida, Andrea has been an active part of the disability community, serving as a guest speaker for an Adapted Physical Education class and for a Concordia University Diversity Council event on Disability Issues. In 1995 she was the recipient of the John Weir Scholarship Internship at the Ann Arbor CIL. In 1981 she and her non-disabled twin sister were featured in the Washtenaw-Livingston County March of Dimes’ publicity campaign.
Rachel Kosla – Disability Awareness Workshop Coordinator
Rachel works alongside Karen Mients to organize Disability Awareness Workshops (DAW) within the Ann Arbor Public School District and the wider community. These workshops educate the public on the challenges people with disabilities face and how individuals strive to live independently. Rachel believes that the DAW’s interactive activities -such as using a wheelchair, trying on goggles that simulate visual impairments, and meeting people with disabilities – are most effective at instilling empathy and understanding towards people living with disability. Leading discussions on accessibility, she aims to encourage youth and adults to advocate for themselves and others. Rachel is a graduate of Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania and is currently a student at the University of Michigan working towards a Masters’ in Social Work.
Bev Mattinson – Accountant
Tennery McCutcheon – IL Specialist-Monroe
Tennery is an Employment Specialist in our Monroe Center for Independent Living (MonroeCIL) office since November 2017. Before coming to the MonroeCIL, Tennery was a Psychology Instructor at Monroe County Community College for 8 years, where she still teaches occasional classes. She was also a substitute teacher for Monroe Public Schools. Before that, Tennery had her own home day care, Tennery’s Treasures, for 10 years.
Tennery graduated from University of Michigan with her Masters of Science in Clinical Health Psychology in 2010. She has always been motivated toward helping others and uses her skill set in that regard to help people through the CIL. From working with Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS) to organizing workshops in local schools, Tennery finds many ways to assist others as they transition into independent living and greater autonomy.
Kelly Meadows – IL Specialist and Site Manager-Monroe
Kelly Meadows has been with the Ann Arbor CIL since February 2006. She currently works out of the Monroe office as the Site Manager and Independent Living Specialist. Kelly teaches independent living skills which include issues such as housing, budgeting, maintaining and retaining stability, job retention, and finding the necessary community supports.
Kelly serves as a member of the Transition Council at the Intermediate School District of Monroe County and takes part in the Agency Road Show, which travels to local high schools and informs students in transition about the agencies in the county and the variety of support services they offer. Kelly works closely with human service agencies in Monroe County to assure our customers receive maximum benefits and opportunities for successful independent living and employment. Before working at the CIL Kelly worked in management and customer service areas of business, and worked in senior retail management for 10 years.
Kelly Meadows received a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Siena Heights University in 2004. She has also participated in numerous workshops and educational seminars pertaining to Michigan Medicaid, Area Agency on Aging and general topics such as budgeting, social security disability, housing, job retention, career development and transition.
Karen Meints – Disability Awareness Workshop Coordinator
Lauren Opra – Pre-ETS Coordinator
Lauren is a Youth Services Specialist here at the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living. She works to foster youth autonomy and assist them in building confidence and independence as a foundation for personal and professional growth. She believes that success should be defined by each individual and looks forward to supporting that process for community members.
She most recently worked in the Ann Arbor Public Schools where she assisted students at various grade levels for the past ten years. She is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Special Education. She is currently continuing her education at Eastern Michigan University and anticipates graduating in December 2017 with a Master of Arts in Counseling.
Cheranissa Roach – Employment Program Specialist
As a Business Consultant for the Center’s MicroEnterprise Works program, Cheranissa works closely with individuals to help them at all stages of launching a small business. In this role, Cheranissa brings savvy business know-how and a compassion and interest in helping people achieve their dreams.
When an individual first comes to Cheranissa and MicroEnterprise Works (or MEW), the first thing Cheranissa does is help that individual explore whether the business idea is a viable one, and whether launching a business is the right decision for him or her. If going forward with launching a business is the right decision for an individual, Cheranissa and the rest of the MEW team assist individuals in developing business plans, financial plans, marketing plans, and more. She also helps clients find additional resources, collaborates with organizations such as Michigan Rehabilitation Services and the Veteran’s Administration, and helps individuals in the development of materials such as reports and marketing materials.
Cheranissa’s knowledge of business and professionalism is supported by working with corporations, non-profits and faith-based organizations for over 15 years. She has over 10 years in Human Relations and Customer Service and over 5 years in Operations management with the State Government. She has also participated in Leadership Teams and Training and Development of staff.
In addition to her work at the Ann Arbor CIL, Cheranissa is President and Chief Executive Officer of CDR Consulting, LLC. She conducts seminars and workshops for corporations and individuals on Diversity and Multiculturalism, Women’s Issues, and Women’s Journey to Wellness, Mind, Body, and Spirit. Cheranissa is a certified Diversity Trainer and a Certified Wellness Trainer with the Professional Woman Network.
Cheranissa earned her Master of Science Administration degree with specialization in Public Administration from Central Michigan University.
Cindy Wagner – IL Specialist-Monroe