Disaster Recovery Advocate
Andy Anderson joined Disability Rights North Carolina in January 2020 as an advocate for the Disaster Recovery project. Anderson has over 30 years of experience working with the disability community in many different capacities. His experience includes direct residential care, clinical plan development, day programming services, advocacy, strategic planning, and governmental relations. In the different organizations and companies he has helped to create, he has advocated for person-centered services, and worked toward improving access to mental health supports in rural areas. To his position at DRNC, Anderson brings both a deep commitment to the disability community, and much personal experience supporting recovery efforts after recent NC storms. Anderson holds a B.A. in Public Administration and Political Science from North Carolina Central University. When he is not working or enjoying time with his wife and children, Anderson is a minister.
Charlie Barnes joined DRNC as the agency’s chief financial officer when it became the state’s Protection & Advocacy agency in 2007. Barnes has over 35 years’ experience in nonprofit accounting. Before DRNC, he worked 23 years with North Carolina Easter Seals and one year with the NC Partnership for Children. He has now “semi-retired” into his current role as part-time accounting assistant. Barnes received his MBA from Campbell University. When Barnes is not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, participating in church activities, reading or exercising. Barnes completed numerous marathons and ultra-marathons, including three 100-mile endurance runs.
Gabby Bush joined the DRNC team in 2010 as its first outreach specialist. In that role she met thousands of North Carolinians with disabilities and presented on topics such as the history of the P&A system and how to be a better self-advocate. In 2015, Bush moved to the investigations & monitoring unit to investigate facilities across the state where people with disabilities live. In her current work with DRNC she focuses on investigations involving Social Security beneficiaries and their representative payees. Bush graduated from UNC-Greensboro with a bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies. When she is not working, Bush enjoys spending time with her family and rescue dog, volunteering, or attending events with her Alpha Delta Pi alumnae sisters.
Katerin Castro joined DRNC in July 2019 on the Protection & Advocacy for Beneficiaries of the Representative Payees Team. Her work focuses on investigations involving Social Security beneficiaries and their representative payees. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Minor in Social Work from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA. She previously worked at Disability Rights California in Los Angeles, CA and at Crossroads Sexual Assault and Resource Center in North Carolina as the Bilingual Services Coordinator. She also worked at Family Abuse Services in Burlington, North Carolina. In her free time she enjoys shopping, going to the gym and spending time with loved ones.
Reighlah Collins joined DRNC in August 2018 as an attorney on the education team. Collins grew up in Zebulon, N.C. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of North Carolina-Asheville where she interned for the Asheville TEACCH autism program. Prior to earning her law degree from UNC School of Law, Collins worked as a direct supports coordinator in a group home for adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. Collins has family members working the disability field and her brother has fetal alcohol syndrome. These experiences led her to pursue a career in disability law. Outside of work, Reighlah likes to read, bake cookies, make people look at pictures of her two cats, and spend time with her family.
Joonu-Noel Andrews Coste
Equal Justice Works Fellow (sponsored by an anonymous donor)
Joonu Coste joined DRNC in September 2019 as an Equal Justice Works Fellow. She lives in the Triangle with her husband, three children, therapy rabbit, and cat. She graduated from Campbell University School of Law in May 2019 where she was a member of the nationally-ranked advocacy team and served as an associate editor of the Campbell Law Observer. Two of Joonu’s three children are autistic. After many years as an at-home mother/advocate/therapist/home educator/medical social worker she returned to school in order to advocate on behalf of children, families, and individuals with disabilities. Her Equal Justice Works Fellowship Project, funded by an anonymous donor, focuses on the civil rights of children living in psychiatric residential treatment facilities in NC. She loves reading, doting on her family, and running.
Barbara Daniels joined DRNC in September 2018. Her work focuses on investigations involving Social Security beneficiaries and their representative payees. Daniels has over 30 years’ experience in the social services field at the local and state levels. Prior to coming to DRNC, she retired from the NC Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Medical Assistance (DMA). At DMA, Daniels managed a team that provides Medicaid policy training and support to 100 county social services agencies. Daniels holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Fayetteville State University. She also earned her MBA with a concentration in public administration and a human resources graduate certificate from Strayer University. For many years, Daniels advocated for the rights of her two sons, both with a diagnosis of mental illness. Outside of work, Daniels enjoys spending time with her granddaughter and other family members, attending church, aerobic exercise, and traveling.
Shadari Douglas joined DRNC’s Information and Referral Team in September 2020. Shadari is a true advocate at heart and joining the Information and Referral Team aligns with her goal of fighting for justice and equity for marginalized individuals. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. While there, she received her bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Africana Studies. Shadari received her law degree from North Carolina Central University School of Law. Shadari has decided that working in the non-profit sector is her passion and intends to pursue it wholeheartedly. When she is not working, Shadari enjoys spending quality time with her family and friends coupled with traveling. She also enjoys binging on subscription tv and movie services, watching Youtube, listening to podcasts, and reading books and blogs.
Director of Public Policy
Corye Dunn joined DRNC in 2011 as the agency’s director of public policy. Dunn, who was born and raised in Durham, N.C., graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill and NC Central University School of Law. Prior to coming to work at DRNC, Dunn practiced law in a small firm. She also served as a direct care provider to adults and children with developmental disabilities and worked in nonprofits seeking to expand access to education and increase investment in low-wealth communities.
M. Alex Evans
M. Alex Evans joined DRNC’s education team in March 2020. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Education Policy Studies from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign where he researches issues surrounding racism, punishment, and schools. Evans graduated from North Carolina Central University School of Law in 2014 with an interest in civil rights and education law. Developing an invisible disability has deepened his passion to advocate for those with disabilities. Evans loves enjoying live music jam sessions, and as a native of Fuquay-Varina, NC he loves supporting all NCCU & UNC sports.
Meisha Evans joined DRNC in February 2018 after spending four years reviewing wrongful conviction claims for indigent North Carolina inmates. Evans received her bachelor’s degree from Virginia Tech and her law degree from UNC School of Law.
Virginia Fogg joined DRNC in 2014. As the supervising attorney of the education team, she works to resolve special education and discipline issues to help ensure positive outcomes for children and families. Fogg grew up in Wilson and attended UNC-Chapel Hill as an undergraduate. After earning her law degree from Columbia Law School in 1994, she clerked for the N.C. Supreme Court, then practiced class action litigation and transactional law in Northern California. Her legal background includes representing children in special education and discipline matters in her solo law practice. Fogg is married, has two children, and spends her free time attending sporting events and exploring the Triangle food scene.
Lisa M. Gessler
Lisa Gessler joined DRNC in March 2019. Gessler is originally from Ohio and graduated from the University of Akron School of Law. Before law school she worked in psychology in the mental health and developmental disabilities fields. After law school she relocated to North Carolina and worked at private law firms and Legal Aid of North Carolina.
Enid Gonzales joined DRNC’s accounting department in 2017. In her role as office manager, she provides direction and support the agency’s daily operation. Gonzales was born and raised in New York, where she worked in the marketing finance department of an international food-and-beverage company and for a franchise management group. In 2015, she relocated to North Carolina with her husband. They have two adult sons, who are pursuing careers in New York. Gonzales and her husband enjoy taking weekend trips to the beaches and mountains of North Carolina in their travel trailer with their two dogs. They also travel to New York frequently to spend time with their sons. Both Gonzales and her husband have family members with disabilities, and she is proud to work for an organization that devotes its time and resources to protecting the rights of people with disabilities.
Sandra González joined DRNC in August 2019 as an investigator/advocate for the investigations and monitoring unit. She has a personal and professional connection with people with disabilities and has worked in various advocacy roles for more than 30 years in New York, North Carolina and the southwest. González graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in art therapy. She completed graduate studies for a master’s in public administration with a concentration in health care administration and has a graduate certificate in gerontology from CW Post/ Long Island University. Amongst her other passions, González enjoys nature and many creative pursuits including painting, photography, jewelry making, gardening and baking.
Lisa Grafstein joined DRNC in 2011 and served the agency with distinction as legal director 2014 – 2020. In her role as litigation counsel, she focuses on developing strategic legal cases, both individual and systemic, on behalf of DRNC’s constituents. As litigation counsel, Grafstein also assists DRNC attorneys in sharpening their litigation skills. Prior to joining DRNC, Grafstein worked in private practice, primarily in the area of employment law. Since 2007, her peers selected her for inclusion in Business North Carolina’s Legal Elite. She was elevated to the magazine’s Hall of Fame in 2011. Grafstein also received recognition in the area of employment law by North Carolina Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers in America. In 2011, North Carolina Super Lawyers named her among the top 50 women lawyers in North Carolina. The NC Association of Women Attorneys honored her with the Gwyneth B. Davis award in 2012. Grafstein served as chair of the labor & employment law section of the NC Bar Association. Additionally, she was president of the NC Association of Women Attorneys and a board member for several nonprofits. Grafstein received a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Northwestern University and a law degree from UNC School of Law.
Iris Peoples Green
Director of Constituent Services
Oliver Harwood joined DRNC in September 2018. His work focuses on Social Security beneficiaries and their representative payees. As an investigator, Harwood conducts reviews of representative payees to ensure Social Security beneficiaries are not abused, neglected, or exploited. Prior to joining DRNC, Harwood was an advocate at the New York Legal Assistance Group in New York City. He also served as an ombudsman for long-term care residents in Portland, Oregon. Harwood is excited and grateful to help North Carolinians with disabilities and be part of the community.
Lucy Hatchell joined DRNC in 2015 as a disability law fellow on the education team. After her fellowship, she stayed on as a valued member of the team working to resolve special education and discipline issues. Hatchell, a native of Chapel Hill, N.C., received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Indiana University and her law degree from UNC School of Law. Hatchell worked in California after college, and moved back to North Carolina to attend law school. Her brother has autism and, as a result, Hatchell has always been passionate about advocating for individuals with disabilities.
Disaster Recovery Advocate
Curtis Hill joined DRNC in April 2019. As the advocate for the agency’s emergency management and disaster relief efforts, Hill assists people with disabilities affected by Hurricane Florence. Based in Columbus County, Hill can provide local support to help overcome barriers, access funding, and secure much needed services. Hill, raised in Eastern North Carolina, brings a personal connection to the community, as well as a wealth of nonprofit experience, to his role at DRNC.
Chris Hodgson joined DRNC as a staff attorney in 2015 after graduating from UNC School of Law. In 2020, Hodgson was promoted to Target Leader on the community inclusion team. In this role, he develops and leads the work for the Employment and Community Access Targets for the CIT. In addition to a law degree, Hodgson has a master’s in philosophy from Texas A&M University and a bachelor’s in English from Southern Illinois University. Hodgson developed his passion for disability rights prior to law school through his work as a direct care aide, case manager, and day program coordinator.
Meredith Huml joined DRNC in 2017. She previously worked as an independent living specialist at Alliance of Disability Advocates in Raleigh. Huml has FSHD, a form of Muscular Dystrophy, and is the NC Chapter Director with the FSH Society. She and her father wrote a book on MD, published in July 2015, and continue to publish papers on FSHD in the hopes of spreading awareness and one day finding a cure. She enjoys writing, snacking, petting people’s dogs, and spending time with her loved ones.
Cayce Kaminski joined DRNC in September 2019. His work focuses on Social Security beneficiaries and their representative payees. As an investigator, Kaminski conducts reviews of representative payees to ensure Social Security beneficiaries are not abused, neglected, or exploited. Previously, he served 4 years in the U.S. Air Force as an electrical engineer. He holds a B.S. in Criminal Justice from ECPI and an A.S. in Aerospace Maintenance Technology from CCAF. Kaminski co-founded a disaster response group, Green Responders, which aids in recovery and restoring homes in the wake of natural disasters. Outside of work, Kaminski enjoys practicing martial arts, spending time with family, woodworking, and designing/3d printing.
Disability Law Fellow
Emily J. Kim joined DRNC in October 2019 as DRNC’s Disability Law Fellow. She attended law school with the goal of pursuing a career in disability law and graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 2019. Kim also has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania. While in law school, Kim represented clients in her school’s Pediatric Advocacy Clinic in health insurance administrative appeals and on special education matters. In the summer of 2018, she interned at the Disability Law Center-Massachusetts. Kim has a sister with multiple disabilities who inspires her to forge her own path. In her free time, Kim enjoys spending time with her dog, reading, and crocheting.
Emma Kinyanjui joined DRNC in 2016. She held the position of Supervising Attorney for the Community Inclusion Team until 2020 when she was promoted to Legal Director. In this capacity, she will supervise DRNC’s legal unit, including the Investigations and Monitoring, Community Inclusion, Criminal Justice and Education Teams. Kinyanjui began her legal career as a Clifton Everett Fellow in the Morganton Office of Legal Aid of North Carolina where she represented low income clients in housing, benefits, and consumer related issues. After her fellowship, she continued working for Legal Aid for seven years as a staff attorney, supervising attorney, and eventually as the managing attorney of the Smithfield Office. Kinyanjui also worked as a director in the Office for Career Services at NCCU School of Law before returning to her first passion, helping individuals receive the rights and services to which they are entitled. She received her bachelor’s degree from Hollins University and her law degree from NCCU School of Law.
Virginia Knowlton Marcus
Chief Executive Officer
Virginia Knowlton Marcus joined DRNC in September 2018. She is a nationally recognized disability rights attorney who has been advocating for disability rights at the federal, state, local and international levels for 25 years. Her prior positions include executive director at Disability Rights Maryland, director of legal advocacy and director of public policy at Disability Rights California, and executive director at the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation. Her relevant experience includes leadership positions on the National Disability Rights Network Board of Directors. Knowlton Marcus earned her J.D. and B.A. at the University of California, Davis.
Nick Lett was born and raised in Sanford, NC, where his family owned and operated Lee Builder Mart for three generations. He received his bachelor’s degree from UNC-Wilmington and a diploma in paralegal technology from Central Carolina Community College. Prior to joining DRNC, Lett worked in his family’s business for eight years and then as a paralegal for a law firm in Lillington for two years. Lett has family members affected by hearing impairment, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, depression and Myasthenia Gravis. He considers it a privilege to be a part of an organization that supports and advocates for people with disabilities.
Tadra Martin joined DRNC in 2015 and leads the intake team. Although originally from South Carolina, Martin is a proud Tar Heel. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her law degree from Vanderbilt Law School. For over five years, she represented low-income individuals in various areas of civil law as a staff attorney at Legal Aid of North Carolina. Prior to joining DRNC, Martin conducted unemployment appeals hearings as a legal specialist at the NC Division of Employment Security. At DRNC, Martin’s work is focused on ensuring high-quality information and referral services and timely responses to service requests.
Andrea Martinez, a native of Raleigh, N.C., joined DRNC in 2018. Her work focused on advocacy and investigation within the education system until 2020, when she joined the investigations and monitoring team as an Investigator. Martinez earned her bachelor’s degree in child development at Brigham Young University in Idaho. Afterwards, she moved to San Francisco with AmeriCorps in their partnership with Prevent Child Abuse California. In California, she worked with children with delays and disabilities as a teacher, coordinator, and developmental therapist. She continued that work after returning to North Carolina. Martinez is pursuing her master’s degree in education from UNC-Wilmington. Outside of work, Martinez likes to read, try the most delicious restaurants in the Triangle, and attend to her two dog’s every whim.
Director of Development & Communications
Susan McLean joined DRNC in December of 2018. McLean grew up in the Triangle and earned a degree in special education from East Carolina University. She taught and developed after school programs in for a number of years before joining the American Red Cross as a blood recruiter. McLean returned to education as part of the administrative team of the Center for International Education in Chapel Hill. Her winding career path brought her to DRNC after more than 15 years as part of the develop teams at both Duke University and UNC’s law schools. She and her husband live in Raleigh with her adult brother with an intellectual disability. They spend as many weekends as possible in the mountains visiting her daughter in Asheville or hiding away in their tiny cabin off the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Araca Miller joined DRNC in September 2019 as an information and referral attorney. She brings to the intake role both her social work background and her knowledge of the law and legal skills. Miller grew up in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, but Raleigh has become her home since college. She received her bachelor’s degree in social work from North Carolina State University and her law degree from Campbell University School of Law. Before attending law school, Miller had the opportunity to volunteer at a rehabilitation center for children with physical and developmental disabilities while studying abroad in Guatemala. She also interned with Legal Aid of North Carolina for four months. Miller says that helping people wherever they are is her calling. She loves hiking, coffee, watching videos of corgis, playing board games with friends and family, and of course, her kind and caring husband.
Kishona Mimms joined DRNC in 2012 as an investigator for the investigations and monitoring unit. Mimms graduated from Touro College in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. She obtained a master’s degree in urban policy/public administration from Brooklyn College in 2007. Mimms worked for seven years as a paralegal in the sex crimes/special victims bureau of the King’s County District Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, N.Y. where she conducted child abuse investigations. She also spent two years working as an associate investigator for the NYC Department of Education in the special education unit. Mimms, who relocated from New York with her husband and two children in 2009, loves spending time with her family and running the children’s program for her church.
Tara Muller joined DRNC in May 2020. Her work involves ensuring individuals across North Carolina obtain necessary medical services and achieve community inclusion. Originally from Asheville, North Carolina, she received her bachelor’s degree from North Carolina State University and her law degree from Campbell University. For nearly 20 years before joining DRNC, Muller practiced law in the private sector and ran a solo practice representing individuals who developed work-related disabilities. She is also a certified mediator through the North Carolina Dispute Resolution Commission. Outside of work, she enjoys hiking, cooking, and spending time with her family.
Voting Rights Advocate
Kenya Myers joined DRNC in January 2019 as an experienced voting rights advocate. During the 2016 election cycle, she developed and implemented a strategic election protection plan that doubled the capacity of the program, expanding the statewide footprint from 36 to 79 counties. Her advocacy campaigns increased minority recruitment and participation. In addition to her voting work, Myers has vast experience in identifying abusive lending and housing practices. She worked to resolve loans and conflicts for victims of predatory lending and fair housing violations. Over the past 17 years, Myers assisted and trained numerous local, state and national organizations on various civil rights and economic parity topics. Myers serves as an adjunct instructor at the Patricia Robert Harris National Fair Housing Training Academy and as faculty at the National Community Reinvestment Coalition Training Academy.
Elizabeth Myerholtz joined DRNC in August 2018. She is from Ohio and graduated from Miami University with bachelor’s degrees in psychology and English literature. She worked as a direct support professional for adults with autism before moving to Washington to attend law school at American University Washington College of Law. While in law school, Myerholtz worked at the San Diego public defender’s office – mental health unit, the American University’s Disability Rights Law Clinic, and the Supreme Court of the United States. Outside of work, Myerholtz enjoys crocheting, restoring furniture, and exploring the Triangle with her two dogs.
Lisa Nesbitt joined DRNC in 2012 and was promoted in 2020 to Supervising Attorney for the Community Inclusion Team. In addition to overseeing that team, she helps children and adults obtain necessary medical services, including mental health and developmental disabilities services. Nesbitt received her bachelor’s degree from Cook College at Rutgers University and her law degree from George Washington University. She practiced law with several private firms in Washington and New Jersey before taking time off to raise three children.
Gaile Osborne joined DRNC as an Advocate in 2020. Her work focuses on advocacy and investigation within the education system. Prior to working as an advocate, she served on DRNC’s Board of Directors and as a member of the PAIMI Advisory Council. Osborne is a native of Alamance County and currently lives in the Western Region with her husband and two children. Her desire to get help for her children—adopted from significant trauma backgrounds—led her to a full-time career as an advocate at FIRST Resource Center; which offers services for persons with disabilities and the people who love and support them. Before joining FIRST in 2014, Osborne spent 17 years as a special education teacher in North Carolina. She has her master’s degree in special education from UNC-Greensboro and currently holds NC teaching certification in four areas. Osborne brings experience to DRNC as a parent of a child with special needs, an advocate in schools in western NC, and a former special educator.
Susan Pollitt came to DRNC after joining Carolina Legal Assistance in 2005. She specializes in defending the rights of people with disabilities who are incarcerated. A native of Chapel Hill, N.C., Pollitt earned her law degree from Northeastern University School of Law. She returned to North Carolina and began her career in 1984 at the Mecklenburg County public defender’s office. She and her husband moved to the Triangle in 1987 and she took a position with the North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Project where she advocated for workers’ rights. In 1989, Pollitt joined North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services where, over her 16 years of service, she developed the expertise that makes her one of our state’s leading advocates for breaking down the connections between poverty, disabilities, and incarceration. Her years of advocacy have led to increased public awareness of the psychological effects of long-term solitary confinement, the treatment of juvenile offenders with mental health disorders and intellectual disabilities, and incidents of suicide in prisons and jails. She is known within the state and around the country as an expert and mentor in this area of law.
Valerie Reed joined DRNC in November 2018. She graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in speech and hearing science. Reed has over 25 years’ experience as a speech language pathologist working with, and frequently advocating for, both children and adults with various disabilities. During her free time, Reed enjoys live music performances, worshiping with her church and serving the physical and spiritual needs of the community as part of the hospitality ministry. She strives to be a positive role model of how to live with a disability, and is grateful for her family members who are supportive of her.
Jill Sirko joined DRNC in January 2020 as the communications coordinator for the agency. Sirko’s responsibilities include working with DRNC attorneys and staff to promote advocacy services through publications, content strategy, website content and management, and outreach. Prior to joining DRNC, Sirko was a parent educator at the Exceptional Children’s Assistance Center (ECAC), supporting families of students with disabilities in navigating special education services. She was also a 2018-19 LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Developmental Disabilities) fellow at UNC Chapel Hill’s Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities. Sirko has a Ph.D. in English from Duke University, an M.A. in humanities and social thought from New York University and B.A. in English from the University of California, Irvine. She became passionate about disability rights after her first child was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition. In her free time, Sirko enjoys gardening and hanging out with her husband and three kids.
Media Strategist / Senior Writer
Cas Shearin joined DRNC as an advocate in 2007, and became director of the agency’s investigations and monitoring unit in 2009. In that role, Shearin oversaw investigations of serious allegations of abuse or neglect for people with disabilities. Her responsibilities also included supervising the protection & advocacy for beneficiaries of representative payees program and DRNC’s disaster relief project. In 2020, she joined the Communications and Development Team to as Media Strategist and writer. In this role, she writes and elevates stories to enhance public understanding and support for the civil and human rights of people with disabilities, and promote DRNC’s work in creative, innovative ways. Prior to pursuing her career in advocacy, Shearin reported for newspapers in Georgia and North Carolina for eight years. For 15 years, she worked as an investigator, consultant, administrator and legislative liaison for a Durham nonprofit law firm that specializes in defending people facing the death penalty. She is particularly passionate about people whose humanity and dignity has been overlooked or discounted by others.
Chief Financial Officer
Brad Spivey joined DRNC in January 2018. As chief financial officer, he oversees accounting and financial management functions for the agency. Spivey, who brings many years of experience in nonprofit accounting to DRNC, is a North Carolina State University alumnus. When he is not working, he enjoys spending time watching soccer or volleyball with his kids. He also enjoys golf, fishing, working in his yard and traveling with his wife.
Holly Stiles is a native of Asheville, North Carolina. She received her undergraduate degree from UNC Chapel Hill and a J.D. from New York Law School. She started practicing law in New York City but soon realized she is not a forever New Yorker and moved back to North Carolina. She worked for Disability Rights NC from 2009 to 2018 enforcing the rights of people with disabilities to access, work, and play in the communities of their choice. Holly left Disability Rights NC in 2018 to work for the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as a Trial Attorney in the Raleigh field office. In 2020, Holly returned to Disability Rights NC as Litigation Counsel.
Kristine Sullivan joined DRNC in 2007. She serves as the supervising attorney for the investigations and monitoring unit. Her work includes investigating allegations of abuse, neglect or suspicious deaths; monitoring the care and treatment provided at facilities throughout the state; and advocating for policy changes to protect the rights and dignity of people with disabilities. Sullivan earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and her law degree from UNC School of Law. She is conversant in American Sign Language and is the author of a manual for attorneys and advocates who represent students in matters related to seclusion and restraint in schools.
Larkin Taylor-Parker joined DRNC in 2017, shortly after graduating from the University of Georgia School of Law. Before and during law school, Taylor-Parker spent time as a grassroots organizer in Atlanta’s disability community and in various roles at nonprofits that advocate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Outside of work, Taylor-Parker enjoys spending time with friends and family, playing the tuba, and tinkering with an old Land Cruiser.
Debbie Thome came to DRNC in 2007 via Carolina Legal Assistance, where she first worked on the Thomas S. class litigation and then on the Special Education Juvenile Justice Project. She now splits her time between representing children to resolve special education and discipline-related issues in schools and monitoring the rights and safety of children and adults with disabilities in facilities throughout the state. Thome earned her bachelor’s degree in special education from East Carolina University. She has worked with people with disabilities and their families in the nonprofit sector for more than 30 years and has both lifelong friends and family members with disabilities. Outside of work, she enjoys walking, reading, attending live music events, camping and going to the beach with her two teenagers as often as possible.
Lena Welch joined DRNC in August 2020 as a Kennedy Fellow on the education team. Welch earned bachelor’s degrees in journalism and economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. While in law school, she represented clients in the Child Advocacy and Health and Disability Law Clinics. She worked on class action lawsuits as a law clerk at Disability Rights Advocates in the summer of 2019 and interned for the summer of 2018 at the disAbility Law Center of Virginia. Her experiences with family members and friends with disabilities led her to pursue a career in disability law. In her free time, Welch enjoys baking, yoga, and spending time with her cat.
Luke Woollard joined DRNC’s prison and jails team in January 2019. He received his bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University. He attended UNC School of Law after spending two years in Americorps. Prior to DRNC, Woollard began his legal career working to correct the wrongful convictions of indigent North Carolina inmates.