Angie has a Doctorate of Chiropractic degree and a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, she has advanced extensive training in areas of brain injury, neurodevelopmental disorders, and pediatrics. She is an Adverse Childhood Experiences Trainer and the Board Chairman of the Montana Governor’s Traumatic Brain Injury Advisory Council. She is also a part of the educational component of “Save the Brain”. Save the Brain helps educate families and professionals to safely return children to play and school after a brain injury.
As a mother of three children ages 11-17, her family fuels her passion and commitment to foster a healthy environment and connect families. Her daughter has many diagnoses; a traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder (school bullying), and other health impairments (Orthopedic, Vision). Angie doesn’t let her daughter’s diagnoses define her. “ We must support and believe in the spirit of every child.”
Vice President- Stephanie Leuhr - Kalispell, MT
Stephanie Leuhr was a senior Advocate and Trainer for Parents Let’s Unite for Kids (PLUK), the former Parent information Center for the State of Montana for 17 years. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Human Services from the University of Providence with over 950 hours of postgraduate study in Childhood Disabilities, Children’s Mental Health, and Special Education Law. Her personal experience in mental health and learning disabilities, started with her own diagnosis of ADD, Depression, Anxiety, and Excessive Compulsive Disorder. She’s the mother of 5 grown children with diagnoses of Auditory Sensory Disorder, ADHD, Depression, Anxiety, and Intermittent Explosive Disorder. She is also a Grandmother of 12 ranging in age from one month to 14 years, with some of their diagnoses of ADHD, Autism, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, and Excessive Compulsive Disorder. She has over 33 years professional and personal experience with special education programs and advocating not only for her children, but for other parents and families as well. She also has volunteered her time for Boy Scouts of America for over 32 years. Her passion to help kids and families moved her to be the Chair for 13 years for The State System of Care Committee, and 4 years as the first board Vice Chair for CHAD.
“As a mother of 5, and a grandmother of 13, I have seen first hand the need for educating, and supporting, parents about their child’s disabilities. Having a PTI in Montana is an essential resource for families who are raising children with disabilities. I am committed to helping establish Montana Empowerment Center as a healthy, positive resource for families”. Stephanie
Secretary - Becky Fewlass - Kalispell, MT
Becky Fewlass is an ADD Coach, mentor, mom of one child with ADD, and her second child with Sensory Processing Disorder, Dysgraphia, slow visual processing speed, and Anxiety. She brings two perspectives to Montana Empowerment Center. The first, being herself, a child in the public school setting and having ADD and Anxiety, but not having resources and help during her early years and being an adult with ADD and Anxiety. The second perspective is being a parent of children with special needs, current ages are 19 and 10. When she became a parent and found herself raising children with disabilities, she found it amazing how there was still so little done to help these kids and parents through the daily struggles they have in school, home, and beyond. It gave her the passion and drive to get educated and surround herself with a team of fellow passionate people to help support, advocate, and teach.
”I decided I needed to help create a community of Montanans that are there to help one another with that support, education, and advocacy that families desperately need.”
Treasurer - Jennifer Johnson - Kalispell, MT
Jennifer has a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting from the University of WA. She currently works part-time as an Accounting Manager, homeschools her youngest son and is the co-director of the Miracle League of Northwest Montana, which runs baseball and soccer programs for special needs children and adults.
She has been in financial management and leadership roles for multiple local non-profit organizations, such as Montana Equestrian Events, CASA, Kalispell Montessori School, Flathead Association of Catholic Education, Glacier Symphony Foundation, for over twenty-five years.
She is a Mom of seven children ages 13-25, including four who were adopted internationally. Jennifer’s children have diagnoses including autism, anxiety, attention deficits, learning disabilities, English as a second language, brain damage, kidney abnormalities, and other health impairments. This has given her compassion and understanding that all children have different needs and education is not a one size fits all program.
“I intend to advocate and strive to assist parents to likewise get the best possible outcomes for their children”.
Jennifer Banna - Missoula, MT
Jennifer Morris Banna
Jennifer Morris Banna, B.S. is the Center Coordinator for the Montana Family to Family Health Information Center. With degrees in Child Development and Elementary Education from Montana State University, she has worked on a variety of grant-funded programs while raising five children. She is pleased to use her experience raising her children with special health care needs ages 13-25 years, with a variety of diagnoses such as Pitt Hopkins Syndrome, Anxiety, Auditory Processing Disorder, and Sensory Integration Disorder,
to assist other families on their journey. She is very interested in genetics and policy changes at the local, state, and national level. She is on the Montana CYSHCN Board, Rural Dynamics Board, and Mountain States Regional Genetics Network State Team.
When she isn’t watching her children do activities or snuggling her grandson, she can be found baking, reading, kayaking, or camping. The Montana Bison Range Complex is one of her happy places.
“I grew up in a family that taught me that everyone should have the opportunity to participate in their communities. In my adult life, my goal has been to assist families and professionals to coordinate advocacy efforts to improve communities for individuals with special health care and educational needs through research, training and application of evidence-based practices”.
Meghan Ascheman - Billing, MT
Meghan Ascheman is a parent advocate. She is a parent to three beautiful and independent little girls? Mrs. Ascheman has a strong belief that all children can learn with the proper education and by nurturing their strengths. Her oldest daughter has a Specific Learning Disability in Reading, Dyslexia, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Sensory Processing Disorder. Meghan is active in Decoding Dyslexia Montana. Her degree is in Elementary Education from Montana State University. She currently works as a Special Needs Assistant in the Billings Public Schools. Her previous experience was as a preschool teacher at Head Start in Billings.
“Have faith in your child and they will have faith in themselves.” – Justine Blakeny
Jenny Reeves - Great Falls, MT
Jenny Reeves is the special education director for Northcentral Learning Resource Center (NCLRC) in Great Falls – special education cooperative serving Cascade County’s rural schools. She is married to Cory Reeves and mother to four beautiful children ages 12-21. Jenny has been employed with NCLRC for sixteen years, first as a school psychologist and now as director. Additionally, for the past 21 years, she has manned a domestic violence crisis hotline that covers seven MT counties. In 2000, Jenny’s second daughter, Hannah, was born with an unknown syndrome, resulting in hypotonic cerebral palsy, motor and language delays, medical challenges, and significant cognitive impairments. To be the best advocate she could be for her daughter, Jenny changed her educational focus in graduate school from counseling to school psychology. Leading special education services for member districts while also parenting a child with special needs gives Jenny the ability to connect and build greater trust with parents.
“Living the daily challenges of parenting a child with a disability enhances trust and connection with other parents, thus increasing the opportunity to support and advocate. It’s just one more way my daughter, Hannah, has blessed not only my life but the lives of others.”
Mary Caferro - Helena, MT
Mary Caferro has first-hand knowledge of the challenges families face. She raised four children on her own and is now raising her three foster grandchildren. Mary sent her children to Helena public schools and credits our hard-working teachers with helping her children succeed.
She is currently the director of The Arc Montana. The Arc promotes and protects the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and actively supports their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes. Mary was Director of WEEL, (Working for Equality and Economic Liberation), a grassroots social and economic justice organization made up of people who are low-income. Mary has decades of experience in human services. She has served Helena for nearly 14 years as a state legislator, on the human services budget and policy committees. Mary understands the state budget and how to craft policies to help those in need.
Kiera Kirschner - Bozeman, MT
Kiera Kirschner lives in Bozeman. She has a son that is two years old that has bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, and he wears hearing aids. He was also born with congenital hypothyroidism. She is a preschool teacher and is passionate about early intervention, and believes that it can change the course of a child’s life. She was a high school teacher prior to teaching preschool, and a special education para-professional prior to that. She has experience working in both Part C and Part B and is a part of Montana Hands and Voices. She has been advocating for children with special needs for 15+ years, 12+ years of continuing education, and 10+ years experience with various non profits.
“I believe that parent training centers are essential for helping parents understand their resources and gain the knowledge they need to successfully, and happily raise a child with a disability.”
Advisory Member - Theresa Baldry - Miles City, MT
Theresa is the Project Coordinator for the Montana Deaf-Blind Project, based in Miles City, Montana. She has worked as an assistive technology consultant for MonTECH and Project Coordinator for the Pre-Employment Transition Services Technical Assistance Center at the Rural Institute. She is a parent of six children, including a son with a disability. She began her work in the disability field due to her need to understand information and systems that would directly impact her son who is now a young adult. His need for assistive technology including systems for communication created opportunities to learn and share. Transition was a particularly impacting period of time and has remained an area of focused interest. Theresa’s belief that “knowledge is power” has directed her areas of employment in the disability field. Over the last 25 years, she has worked to impact and develop relationships with the program and services which support individuals with a disability throughout their lives. She has worked for PLUK, Parents Let’s Unite for Kids, and was a member of the Leadership Team. She is currently the President for the Disability Rights of Montana Board of Directors. Theresa has been a member of the Rural Institute Consumer Advisory Council since 2010 and has presented at numerous conferences and webinars as a Council member.