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Abigail Shaw, Mentor Coordinator and Production Coordinator

Education: BS in Music Industry Studies from Appalachian State University; currently pursuing a MSW at Fordham University

Abigail Shaw was raised in North Carolina but now lives in Brooklyn, New York. She strives to educate the public on persons with disabilities through her hobbies and work.

At Learning Ally, Abigail serves as the College Success Program's Mentorship Coordinator for college students who are blind, and contributes her skills with audio and recording to the production process of Learning Ally's audiobooks.

As a long-distance runner, Abigail is a member and co-captain of the New York City chapter of Achilles International, an organization promoting mainstream athletics for people with disabilities. She has competed in several national half and whole marathons and triathlons. Since June of 2019, she has been on the Advisory Committee on Transit Accessibility for New York City Transit, and currently acts as the co-chair. Whether traveling by plane, train, or automobile - Abigail's preferred method of transportation is with her yellow lab guide dog from Guiding Eyes for the Blind by her side.

Amanda Baker

Education: BA in History and BS in Mathematics from Binghamton University; MLS in Information Science and Digital Data Curation from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Amanda works as a young adult librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library. While in college and graduate school, Amanda has served in several leadership roles including Vice President of Academic Affairs of her student association at Binghamton and president of the Special Libraries Association at UNC. Outside of school, Amanda loves to cook, read, and especially go horseback riding and rock climbing. Although blindness is a large component of her life, she has always strived not to make it the most memorable part of her identity but rather thinks of it as a unique way to perceive the world.

Anthony Butler

Education: BFA from the New School; MSW from New York University

Anthony was born in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. He lived with both of his parents and always found himself in trouble as an adolescent. He attended 5 high schools in the greater nyc area before dropping out at the age of 17 and getting his GED. Growing up, Anthony knew the value of hard work. The day after his 8th grade graduation, he began working in McDonald's with his father on the weekends and always held on to a job throughout high school and beyond. In the summer of 2008, he was the victim of a shooting that resulted in the loss of his vision. After problems with his family and nowhere else to turn, Anthony moved into a homeless shelter. While residing in the shelter, Anthony was introduced to his mentor. He credits this relationship with changing the entire trajectory of his life.

Since graduating from his social work program, Anthony has held a number of positions in the workforce such as the social worker for young men of color at the Kings' County District Attorneys' Office in Brooklyn, New York from 2016 to 2018 and a Recovery Specialist with Community Access from 2019 to 2020. After leaving Community Access, Anthony relocated to Minneapolis, Minnesota with his girlfriend where he works as a therapist for offenders of sex crimes. When Anthony is not working, he often participates in multi-sport endurance competitions which has afforded him the opportunity to travel to over 6 countries and half of the United States. As a social worker, Anthony strives to be an advocate for the underserved and help people navigate the many hardships they may endure on a daily basis.


Brianna Murray

Education: BA in Psychology and English from Winthrop University; MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Winthrop University

Although she grew up in South Carolina, Brianna relocated to New Jersey in 2019 to pursue her passion of working with students with disabilities. Along with working as a mentor for several years, Brianna works as a program coordinator for the EDGE Program, a pre-employment program for blind or visually impaired high school students in New Jersey. She has experience varying degrees of vision from birth due to LCA (Lieber's Congenital Amaurosis).

In her spare time, Brianna enjoys reading, writing, playing with her retired guide dog, Hopps, and her working seeing eye dog, Belle. She also enjoys helping others. She utilizes her life experiences, both positive and negative, to improve the educational opportunities for current students with visual impairments.


Brilynn Rakes

Education: BFA in Dance and a BA in Communications and Media Studies from Fordham University; Currently pursuing a graduate certificate in Business Administration from Foothill College

Brilynn grew up in the small town of Visalia, California and found her passion for dance performance when she was eight. For fourteen years, Brilynn trained and performed in various dance styles including classical ballet, pointe, pas de deux, Horton, Graham, Limon, contemporary, and jazz. Brilynn was also the AT&T spotlight performer on ABC's Dancing with the Stars; she performed alongside Emmy nominated dancer and choreographer, Derek Hough.

After completing her undergraduate degrees, Brilynn relocated to Palo Alto, California where she is interning with Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired and pursuing a certificate in Business Administration from Foothill College. In her spare time, Brilynn enjoys pilates, yoga, and long walks outside with her fiance, Albee.


Bryan Duarte

Education: BS in Software Engineering from Arizona State University; MS in Computer Science from Arizona State University; currently pursuing a PhD in Software Engineering from Arizona State University

Bryan is a native of the warm state of Arizona. He became blind at the age of 18 as the result of a motorcycle accident. Bryan received training at the Colorado Center for the blind where he gained the skills necessary for living a life of confidence and independence. Following his training, he returned to Arizona and spent the next 3 years as a stay at home father of 3 children: his daughter, Chloe Luvlynn, and his twin boys, Xander and Seth.

Bryan currently works as a research student in the Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing (CUbiC) and is a part of the ASU IGERT Program, Alliance for Person-Centered Accessible Technologies (APAcT). Bryan's research interests span the following areas: sensory substitution/augmentation, human-computer interaction, haptics, and assistive technologies. His current research is in the use of haptics and how they can be used to augment the way non-visual travelers access details of their immediate surroundings through the sense of touch.

For Learning Ally, in addition to mentoring students, Bryan co-facilitates one of the mentor small groups as well as the weekly meet ups. You can also hear him as a co-host on our podcast, College Knowledge.

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Caitlin Mongillo

Education: BA in English and Secondary Education from Manhattanville College; MSW from Stony Brook University.

Caitlin is a social worker and program director at an unemployment agency in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Currently, she works with people with disabilities and homeless families to assist them in accessing training, resources and education in order to help them to attain steady employment.

Caitlin spends her free time reading, writing, and hanging out with family and friends. She loves to travel and learn new things. She is excited to share her educational journey with the next generation of blind students and hopes that her experiences, both good and bad, will be able to help other students as they progress through higher education.

For Learning Ally, in addition to mentoring students, Caitlin facilitates one of the mentor small groups.


Dezman Jackson

Education: BA in Psychology from Auburn University; MA in Industrial/Organizational Psychology with a concentration in Orientation & Mobility from Louisiana Tech University

Blind from an early age due to cataracts and glaucoma, Dezman grew up in a small town near Mobile, Alabama. As a youngster, Dezman knew that he would have to overcome obstacles in life mainly imposed by those who held low expectations about blindness. He would eventually have an opportunity to raise expectations and inspire independence after gaining certification in orientation and mobility. He now teaches O&M along with other skills at blind industries and services of Maryland in Baltimore. He also enjoys the power of technology and access to information and is a part of a team of digital accessibility testers at the nonprofit, My Blind Spot. He especially has a passion for empowering young people.

In his spare time, Dezman enjoys reading, podcasts and playing the saxophone and is active in his church. He has also become conscious of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and has a long-term goal of becoming a wellness coach.


Dora Lopez

Education: BA in Psychology and a MA in Vocational Rehabilitation from the University of Northern California

Dora currently works for the Orientation Center for the Blind in California. She became blind in 2010 due to retinal detachments and glaucoma. She is grateful, because her blindness has given her numerous life-enriching opportunities. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her family and being of service to others.


Emily Vasile

Education: BA in Elementary Education and Psychology and a MAT in Special Education from the College of New Jersey; MS in Vision Rehabilitation from Salus University

Emily is a faculty member of the department of blindness and low vision studies at Salus University and the program coordinator of the national leadership consortium in sensory disabilities at Salus University. Emily is certified in elementary education and special education in the state of New Jersey as well as a certified teacher of students with visual impairments in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania. She is also a certified low vision therapist through the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation & Education Professionals (ACVREP). Her areas of expertise include low vision rehabilitation and education of students with visual impairments. Born with a cataract in her left eye and later on diagnosed with glaucoma, Emily never let her visual impairment define her ability to succeed. In her free time, Emily enjoys hiking, yoga and mindfulness, exploring, reading, singing and performing, and making art.


Glenn Dausch

Education: BA in Psychology from Dowling College

Glenn works as a web accessibility coordinator and lives in New York. While he doesn't see blindness as a barrier, he recognizes that no two people experience life the same way.

In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his family, reading and playing the guitar. He is looking forward to sharing his experiences, both as a student and as a university administrator, with the College Success Program.

For Learning Ally, in addition to mentoring his own students, Glenn facilitates one of the mentor small groups as well as the weekly meet ups.

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James Boehm

Education: BA in Psychology from Middle Tennessee State University; MS in Mental Health Counseling from Vanderbilt University

James is a passionate leader and advocate who values collaboration and empowering others to their fullest potential. Through time and experience, he learned that his disability provided him the ability to serve and engage in so many opportunities that he would have never imagined! He entered college after fourteen years out of high school. He has served as an intern at the Tennessee Rehabilitation Center; at the center, he worked with the blind, clients with traumatic brain injuries, and individuals with other disabilities. James started his own practice, Alliance Counseling, and now volunteers at The Refuge Center, a nonprofit counseling center.

James is quite active in many organizations, initiatives, and collaborations, including: The Nashville Mayoral Council for People with Disabilities, American Foundation for the Blind, Vision Aware, National Federation of the Blind, National Alliance of Mental Health and many others. He also founded the Kustom Cane Initiative, which customizes canes for the blind and donates canes to blind people around the world who can't afford them.

James feels that with the proper tools, education, and supports, all individuals can live the life that they were created for. In order to unwind from his busy schedule and initiatives, James enjoys time with his family, music, sports, and cooking.


Katherine Barba

Education: BA in Sociology from Manhattanville College

Katherine is currently working with people with disabilities and lower income families to apply for health insurance at a health advocacy organization in Yonkers, New York.

During her free time, Katherine likes to watch movies, go on walks, and spend time with family and friends. She has a passion for helping people with their life journey. She is a good listener and is happy to assist college students succeed in their higher education and social life goals.

Kinzey Lynch

Education: BS in Business Administration from Drexel University

Kinzey lives his life with the mindset that his lack of vision should never hinder his personal or professionals growth. In college, while thriving in the classroom, Kinzey undertook 3 paid internships, spanning market research, communications, and enterprise marketing. He also served as President of Drexel's Rotary Interact Club, focusing on civic engagement throughout Philadelphia. Kinzey is currently a client relations associate at Vanguard Investment Group.

In his free time, Kinzey enjoys long distance running with Achilles International, an organization that provides guides for athletes with disabilities. He also enjoys pulling for any Philadelphia sports team, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.


Kristen Witucki, Curriculum and Content Editor

Education: BA in English with a Minor in German and Certification in Secondary Education from Vassar College; MA in giftedness from Teachers College/ Columbia University; MFA in Creative Writing/Fiction from Sarah Lawrence College; ED.M in Teaching Students who are Blind or Visually Impaired from Dominican College

Kristen has been totally blind since birth due to microphthalmia. In addition to curating resources that she hopes students will enjoy or find useful, Kristen assists in the recruitment and training of mentors and co-facilitates one of the mentor small groups. Outside of her work with Learning Ally, Kristen mentors for New Jersey's EDGE Program and the association of writers and writing programs and teaches braille for vistas education partners. She is the author of The Transcriber, a book for adolescent emerging readers, Outside Myself, a young adult novel, and several shorter nonfiction articles. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, James, her sons, Langston and Noor, and her daughter Karuna.

Liliya Asadullina, aka Lily from Philly

Education: BS in Integrative Health Care from Metropolitan State University of Denver, LMT Academy of Massage Therapy and Bodyworks

Lily was born in a small town in Russia. She was diagnosed with a rare eye cancer called retina blastoma at age two. She and her mother immigrated to the United States so that she could receive better medical treatment. She currently lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and works as a massage therapist. She enjoys being a resource for mentees and loves to see each student grow into a well-rounded beautiful individual. Some of her hobbies include swimming, reading, meeting new people and listening to country music.


Maureen Hayden, aka Maureen the Marine Biologist

Education: BS in Marine Biology from University of Rhode Island; MS in Biology from Walawala University; currently pursuing a PhD in Marine Biology from Texas A&M University

Maureen's doctorate research focuses on learning more about the impacts of plastic pollution on Texas beaches and marine life. Maureen was born with retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) and has no vision in her right eye and is legally blind in her left eye.

In her free time, Maureen enjoys playing her trombone in both symphonic band and orchestra ensembles, going scuba diving on the weekends, and spending time with family and friends. She is excited to share her experiences with blind students in higher education and to empower the next generation of blind persons pursuing stem careers.


Meagan McComic

Education: BSW from the University of Texas at Austin

Meagan works as the assistant program coordinator for an 18 to 22 year old transition program for blind and visually impaired adults. Meagan is a mentor both for Learning Ally and in the AFB Blind Leadership Mentoring program. In her free time she likes to read, hike, camp, and spend time with friends and family.

Meagan likes to think of herself as a woman who just happens to be blind, not just a blind woman. Blindness has been a part of her life since she was 16, but she believes it is a very small part of who she is and works hard not to let it get in her way or stop her from accomplishing all her goals in life. She lives with her black lab, Rayven, and a roommate in Austin, Texas. One of her missions in life is to pass along valuable knowledge about living life in a sighted world as a happy, fulfilled member of society.

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Megan Dausch

Education: BA in English, Spanish and French from Manhattanville College; MA in Language and Literacy from the City College of New York

Megan is an advocate, a perpetual learner, teacher, cook and technology enthusiast who loves to read and write. She currently teaches adaptive technology. College is often a time of challenge, transition and joyful exploration. Megan enjoys being a part of the college success program and supporting students through their journeys in higher education.

For Learning Ally, in addition to mentoring students, Megan co-facilitates one of the mentor small groups.


Miso Kwak

Education: BA in Psychology, Education Studies and Disability Studies from UCLA; Ed.M in Education Policy and Management from Harvard University

Miso's work in mentoring students and advocating for disability policy is driven by her passion for equity and inclusion. Currently, her primary work is at the human services research institute, where she supports the efforts to improve disability and aging policy across the United States. She is an aspiring education and researcher, so she is thrilled to walk alongside blind college students through her work for Learning Ally. When she is not sitting in front of the computer screen, she can be found playing the flute, running, or going to various performing arts events.


Preston Radtke

Education: BA in Public Relations and Creative Writing from Ball State University; MA in Emerging Media Design and Development from Ball State University

Preston is a Web Accessibility Specialist at Rutgers University and a part-time lecturer in Rutgers's School of Communication & Information. Advocacy and equity are the driving passions behind his life and work. In his spare time, Preston enjoys traveling, listening to records, and playing with his seeing eye dog, Burton.


Rachel Grider

Education: BM in vocal performance and composition from CSU Stanislaus; MM in music performance and theory pedagogy from Peabody Conservatory

Rachel is from Modesto, California. She is currently teaching music at the Modesto Academy of Music and Design and Gottschalk Music Center, as well as performing freelance. Rachel is a member of Sigma Alpha Iota and Py Kappa Lambda. For Learning Ally, in addition to mentoring students, Rachel co-hosts our podcast, College Knowledge.

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Rashad Jones

Education: BM in music education (choral/voice) from Columbus State University

Rashad Jones is a native of Columbus, Georgia (where he currently resides), and is the 2nd oldest of 4 siblings. As a self-proclaimed people person, Rashad can often be found enjoying a nice conversation with close friends and family members, while relaxing in the comfort of his home. He enjoys attending church where he serves as minister of music, traveling, interacting with people, and helping others whenever possible! For Learning Ally, in addition to mentoring students, Rashad co-hosts our podcast, College Knowledge.


Sam Van der Swaagh

Education: BA in unique and interdisciplinary studies from City University of New York

Sam grew up in NYC in the West Village with his large family of 2 sisters and 3 brothers. He was homeschooled through high school along with his siblings by his outstanding parents. Sam has experience in tutoring college freshmen and sophomore level courses such as stats, biology and chemistry.

Although Sam's major during college was applied psychology and neuroscience, he is currently pursuing a career in textile design. His interests were radically changed! If Sam is not "in the studio" weaving carpets and fine fabrics, he spends his free time swing dancing, training for long distance runs with friends or experimenting with origami. Sam's artistic passions are certainly bolstered by his visual impairment that drives him toward tactile forms of expression and affords him a unique perception of the world. Sam's visual condition consists of albinism, nystagmus and astigmatism. He is a large print reader yet often prefers listening to audiobooks or utilizing speech-to-text options. Sam also enjoys talking about the latest science and technology.


Stephanie Zundel

Education: BS in Child Studies with Minors in Special Education and Psychology and an MS in Human Development Counseling from Vanderbilt University

Stephanie grew up in New Jersey and is the oldest of four siblings. Her passion is working with children and animals. She lives in Colorado with her seeing eye dog, Marley, where she works as an elementary school counselor. She absolutely loves to exercise! She recently tandem cycled for world championships in Milton, Canada, where she and her pilot represented the U.S. and won a bronze medal in the sprints. She also enjoys running and ran the New York City and Boston marathons with Achilles International Nashville. She has her junior and senior black belts in white tiger kempo and she has been boxing since the age of ten. She believes that education and advocacy are the key ingredients for a successful college experience.

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Tabitha Brecke

Education: BA in Humanities and Fine Arts from the University of Wyoming; MA in Counseling with emphasis in rehabilitation from the University of Arkansas; PhD in adult education from Auburn University

Tabitha currently works as an accommodation specialist in the Office of Accessibility at Auburn. Prior to returning to school, she worked in the rehabilitation field as a rehabilitation teacher, counselor and supervisor. the achievement of goals by students or clients that they previously thought impossible is the aspect of her career that she enjoys the most.

Tabitha has many hobbies including reading, knitting, weaving, playing harp and singing. She is a member of the American Association of Blind teachers, an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind, and is the secretary of that organization.

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Zachary Mason

Education: BS in Animal Science from Cornell University; MS in Animal and Dairy Sciences from Mississippi State University

Zachary grew up on a dairy farm in northern New Hampshire. He lost almost all of his vision due to a brain tumor. His involvement in county and state 4-h livestock extension programs at Cornell. He was involved in many groups such as the Cornell Dairy Science, Cheese, and Food Science clubs and became a member of the Alpha Zeta honors agricultural fraternity. He also belongs to the Cornell Dairy Fellows Program; a curriculum within the animal science department, which is well-known for training the future leaders of the dairy industry. Zachary has a passion for problem solving, farm families and agriculture as a whole. He believes ingenuity and flexibility are the keys to success for the exemplary blind people he knows.