As a veteran board member, parent and organizational leader, Mary Ann Dawedeit has been immersed in life skills programming for adults with disabilities. Mother to 30 year old Eli, Mary Ann has worked to implement and manage programs such as the award-winning "Positively Speaking" workshops, successful fundraisers with partners like the Germantown Chamber of Commerce, and community events including the Annual Dance. Mary Ann has been centrally involved in planning the Step Up Walk for the last three years as Committee Chair of the walk. Mary Ann brings value from her 35 years of professional experience in administrative management across business and nonprofits to furthering the network.
Keight is passionate about supporting mission-driven organizations through her work as a search consultant and knows the importance of strong leadership in strengthening civil society.
Professionally, Keight is a partner at executive search firm Isaacson, Miller which partners with nonprofits organizations and educational institutions in their recruitment of transformational leaders. Prior to her work as a search consultant, Keight worked in fundraising and as a strategy and organization development consultant for nonprofit and federal government clients. Keight holds a BA in chemistry from Emory University, a MA in philanthropic studies from Indiana University’s Lilly School of Philanthropy, and an EdD in human and organizational learning from The George Washington University.
In her personal life, Keight is a wife and mother. She and her husband Kenrick are the proud parents of their 2-year old daughter Korinne. Korinne was diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth. Keight is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, which provides opportunities to give back to her community in meaningful ways. Additionally, she serves on the board of the Down Syndrome Network of Montgomery County.
Shannon Thomas has been a member of DSNMC since 2016 where she was welcomed with open arms after the birth of her son, Ethan. She and her husband Will are the proud parents of two boys, 4 year old Ethan, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome after birth, and 7 year old Gavin. Shannon has helped organize playdates for children aged 0-3 within the DSNMC community and is pleased to have an official role on the board.
Professionally, Shannon teaches 3rd grade in a DC independent school. She brings her expertise in the field of education and early childhood development to the board. In addition to over a decade of teaching experience, Shannon has held many leadership roles, including sitting on search committees for administration hires, several mentor roles for new faculty, and, one of the most dear to her heart, the launching of an affinity group for Black students at her school. Prior to her teaching career, Shannon worked as account executive with Ogilvy PR Worldwide. She spent 4 years working on an account with NIAID on their HIV Vaccine campaign. Shannon graduated from the University of Maryland with a BA in Communications and from Howard University with a Masters of Arts in Teaching.
Haydée has been a member of the Down Syndrome Network of Montgomery County (former Parents of Children with DS, or PODS) since 1988. Originally from Brazil, Haydée lives in Bethesda with her husband Ramon (a NASA Engineer) and her oldest son, Ramon (38, with Down syndrome, a US Government employee for 17 years). Her youngest son, Marcus Vinícius (a Designer and Light Artist) lives with his wife Tess (a Growth Strategist) in New York.
Haydée served as the Board Secretary and as the PODS Board Liaison with The Arc of Montgomery County until the group, now DSNMC, became a 501(c)3 organization. She was also part of the New Families Outreach Committee, for families who speak Portuguese, and a member of the Professional Outreach Committee. She created and was a leader of the Tools for Schools workshops, a collaborative program of the DSNMC, The Arc Montgomery County, the Autism Society, Montgomery County Chapter, and the Partnership for Extraordinary Minds. Haydée feels honored to serve on the Board of the DSNMC, once more, now as a member of the DSNMC Education Committee and Step Up Walk Committees, Grupo Latino, and serving as a resource person.
Haydée holds a BA in Psychology, a MS in Early Childhood Education, and a Ph.D. in Education. A former Kindergarten teacher in Brazil, she has been a catechist for more than 34 years (32 of them at the Archdiocese of Washington). She was a MCPS Special Education Chair and volunteer throughout her sons’ school years, a trained Boy Scouts Leader (both her sons are Eagle Scouts), and a volunteer in all her sons’ many programs. Haydée worked for over 24 years as an advocate and the Family Services Liaison at The Arc of Montgomery County where she was also the Education Committee Liaison, Sibshops facilitator, and a co-founder of Transition Times, a collaborative program with MCTransitions and PCR (where she now volunteers for Transition Times).
Alissa and her family joined DSNMC in 2013. She served for a number of years as DSNMC's new family co-coordinator, and also served on DSNMC's executive committee, leading a strategic planning retreat and the hiring process for current staff. She and her husband are the proud parents of a son with Down syndrome. The DSNMC community has made a profound and joyful difference in her family's life.
Professionally, Alissa has two decades experience in large-scale coalition building and an extensive global network in the social enterprise, local economies and environmental management fields. She currently serves as vice president of a national non-profit advocacy organization. As a trainer and technical assistance provider, she has assisted hundreds of businesses, non-profits, agencies and coalitions with policy advocacy, network and organizational development, public outreach and education, and program development and implementation. A frequent commentator, she has been featured in media outlets including CNBC, NBC News, PBS, The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, WAMU and WTOP, among others, and has delivered more than 250 talks, workshops and webinars in the United States and abroad. She is functionally fluent in Spanish and holds degrees from Brown University in Environmental Studies and Development Studies.
My name is Thelma Salmeron Viana. I am 33 years old and I am originally from El Salvador. I am the eldest of a large family with 3 brothers and 3 sisters. Looking for a better future for me and my family, I moved to the United States at 18 years old.
In my country, I was studied Civil Engineering for 3 years before I immigrated here. I have worked at “Irene’s Pupusas” (one of the Step Up Walk sponsors) since 2005 as a cashier and waitress. I've also taken ESLA classes at Montgomery College (English as a Second Language Assessment).
I am married (my husband Oscar Salmeron) and I have two daughters and Melissa, 11 years old, has Down syndrome. We have been connected with the DSNMC since she was born and got involved in the organization. My second daughter Madison is 16 months old.
I love helping people, advocating and trying to make everyone aware that people with disabilities are like any other person and that they can do whatever they set out to do.
In my free time, I go to the park with the girls, to the cinema or meet with my family and cook. I love cooking.
Hari Kannan is a 20-year-old young man from North Potomac, Montgomery county. Hari was born with Down syndrome. He was included during his school years in his neighborhood schools. He attended Wootton High School and graduated in the Spring of 2020. He is part of the first cohort of class in the TerpsEXCEED program at University of Maryland.
He enjoys living in the dorm at UMD and loves socializing with friends, attending games, and being part of clubs. He is working hard at the courses along with other UMD students. He is interested in becoming a personal coach/trainer, so he is taking classes focused on community health and nutrition. He is an intern at the UMD Health Center and is enjoying his job. Hari is attending the Think College Advocacy program in the spring 2022. He is hoping to learn about advocating for post-secondary education options for students with developmental disabilities. Hari is also a state ambassador for Best Maryland. Hari is a passionate advocate for inclusion of people with disabilities in our schools and community.
Nancy Forsythe, MA., EdS., is a subject matter expert in disability inclusion at work and speaks widely to national audiences on this topic. Much of her expertise in the field of disability comes from parenting a dynamic and successfully employed young adult with Down syndrome. Nancy currently works as a Faculty Specialist in Disability Inclusion at the University of Maryland University Career Center. There, she supports students in the career preparation, job search, and on-boarding processes and works closely with employers to improve their capacity to hire and retain people with disabilities. She has a background in social science research and vocational rehabilitation. Nancy enthusiastically participates on the DSNMC Board to advance their exceptional work in serving our community across the lifespan, and she hopes to use her expertise in employment issues to make a difference for the community. If you would like to learn more about how your workplace could reap the advantages of employing individuals with Down syndrome, please be in touch.
Asha Pinkney Gillus serves as the Director of Human Resources at Martha’s Table. She is responsible for all internal operations and people functions of the organization. In this role, she aligns all infrastructure divisions to ensure they are integrated, efficient, sustainable, and compliant with all relevant regulations. Under her leadership, processes have been automated and streamlined, pipelines of talent have increased, and costs have reduced significantly.
Ms. Pinkney Gillus has over 20 years of experience in human resources in a variety of industries. Her career has been built on providing organizations with the best talent available while positioning them as an employer of choice.
Ms. Pinkney Gillus hold a M.P.S in Human Resources Management from Georgetown University and a B.S. in Business Administration from Bennett College. She is the mother of two amazing children, Caleb and Channing. She and her family are proud sixth-generation Washingtonians.
Asha is the leader of the group Channing’s Champions. For the last two years, they have been a top fundraiser for Step Up and are very active in the Down Syndrome community. In her spare time, she enjoys resting on the beach with a good book, binge-watching the latest shows, and catching up on pop culture with Wendy Williams.
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