Selima Ani Hargadon, LSW Executive Director
Selima joined the P.A.C.E. Program in 2013. Most recently, she served as Associate Director of Community Initiatives for Aspire of Illinois Belle Center Program in Chicago, a provider of inclusion-based services for children with disabilities, their families, and schools. She has also served in leadership positions representing multiple facets of the disability field, including the residential and employment arenas. Selima has presented to conference audiences and chambers of commerce as an advocate for the employment of people with disabilities. She holds a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Illinois, Chicago with a concentration in schools and children with disabilities. She is licensed to practice in Illinois.
Fabio Buda, MAT, LBS1 Transitions Team Leader
Fabio Buda has joined the P.A.C.E. Program in 2006. He graduated from the University of Rome, Italy in 1997 and shortly after moved to Chicago to pursue a career in business. After several years spent between the U.S. and Italy working as a financial consultant for a major insurance company, in 2006 Fabio decided to change careers and was hired at P.A.C.E. to work with young adults with multiple learning disabilities in the Transition Program. In 2010, Fabio earned a Masters in Special Education from National Louis University and a teaching certificate (LBS I). In September 2010, Fabio became the P.A.C.E. Transition Coordinator. He has been working with his students in several different settings (Vocational, Life Skills, Academics and Social) to help them achieve their independent living goals. He also continues to work as an academic instructor for the P.A.C.E. second year students.
Laura Frayn, MA, LBSS1 Vocational Team Leader
Laura is an experienced special education teacher, case manager, learning behavior specialist, and state of Illinois approved vocational coordinator. Along with an extensive background in vocational education, Laura has presented seminars on differentiated instruction, individualized assessment, co-teaching, and ADHD. She is highly skilled in creating new curriculum and modifying instructional methods. Laura earned a Master’s degree in secondary education/special education from Roosevelt University. She currently is working on becoming a Transition Specialist from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Additionally she is a former Illinois Certified Public Accountant with experience in the corporate and public sectors.
Wendi Gearing, MAT Assistant Director / Vocational Team Leader
Wendi has been a special education teacher for over 20 years. She earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Art Education at Illinois Wesleyan University, and completed her Masters Degree in Special Education at National Louis University. Wendi joined the P.A.C.E. Program for 22 years, starting her career as a Life Skills Instructor. From there she moved to the position of the Program Manager for the PASS-AGES Program for five years. Then she found her true calling when she moved into the vocational component as an instructor, and then as the Team Leader for the P.A.C.E. Program. Prior to working at P.A.C.E, Wendi worked with special education individuals at Little City Foundation in Palatine.
Christopher Khalid, MSW Residential Life Director
Christopher joined PACE in 2012, and is a Social Work professional who brings experience and expertise in the areas of Special Education, Child Welfare, Community Outreach and Sexual Health to National Louis University. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology and a Master of Social Work degree from DePaul University. Christopher manages the dormitory experience for the P.A.C.E. program, supervises Residence Life Instructors, coordinates outside student services, and manages the various dining services for the P.A.C.E. students.
Lauren Kornhauser, MAT, Technology and Communications Lead Instructor
Lauren has been with the PACE Program since 2007, and has been working with people with special needs since 2004. Lauren has an extensive background in skill assessment, task analysis, and creating individualized goals in educational, vocational, and social settings, as well as experience in curriculum design and IEP writing. While completing her MAT in Special Education at NLU, Lauren worked as an RA in the PACE dorm, and was hired as the PACE Student Life Instructor in 2011, coordinating the social activities and clubs for students. Lauren now manages the PACE intranet, advises first year students, and assists with student recruitment. She also teaches PACE technology classes and coordinates Service Learning opportunities for students.
Instructional and Residential Staff
Keisha Billups, M.S. Life Skills Coach
Keisha L. Billups joined the P. A.C. E. Program in 2014. She has been trained by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). She has also been trained on the Ansell Casey Life Skills Assessments (CLS), a tool that assesses the behaviors and competencies youth need to achieve their long term goals. It aims to set youth on their way toward developing healthy and productive lives. Keisha received her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from DePaul University and completed her Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling at Governors State University. She began her career at Aunt Martha’s Social Services as a Life Skills Coach, Counselor, and a Group Facilitator for many years. She also conducted Life Skills and Counseling in High Schools and with the Juvenile Probation Department at the Markham Courthouse. Keisha is associated with one of the world largest Lawyers and Judges Associations. In addition, she also had the pleasure to work at Harpo Studio as an independent contractor. Keisha combines her clinical counseling expertise with her business knowledge to offer clients a unique perspective of problem solving.
Joe Connelly, M.S. Academic Instructor Assertiveness Training
Master Joe Connelly has over 40 years experience in martial arts and is a 6th Degree Black Belt martial arts instructor in Taekwon-do. He is the Midwest regional director of Kidpower International, a padded-assailant violence-prevention skills training organization based in Santa Cruz, Calif., and director of Connelly’s Academy of Martial Arts, an Evanston, Ill. He has designed and taught programs that empower populations with special needs since 1981. His background includes 15 years of work experience in business education with IBM and The Fortune Group International, a training firm serving Fortune 1000 companies. Joe has his Master’s Degree in Human Services.
Amanda Culig, Residential Advisor
Amanda joined the PACE program as an RA in the fall of 2013. She has been working with students who have special needs since the summer of 2008. She graduated from DePaul university with a BA in psychology. Currently she works as a special education assistant at Alexander Graham Bell Elementary School. She earned her B.A. in Psychology at DePaul University with a minor in Sociology.
Sharon Curran, M.S. Job Coach
Sharon joined the PACE team in 2013 and works as a vocational instructor/job coach. After receiving her BA in Psychology from National University of Ireland, Maynooth, she began working as a Applied Behavioral Analysis Tutor in both school and home environments. She has a Master’s Degree in Gender and Women’s Studies from Trinity College, Dublin and has worked with diverse populations in a variety of therapeutic and supportive roles.
Kathy Felice, Job Coach
Kathy received her bachelor's degree in Sociology and her master's degree in Rehabilitation Counseling. She has worked in the field of vocational rehabilitation for several years providing counseling, vocational assessment and job placement services to individuals with disabilities. She has also worked as a vocational specialist for the Office of Disability Determination and has worked as a research associate in the field of rehabilitation. Kathy joined the PACE program in 2012.
Georgia Gikunoo, MAT Independent Living Coach
Georgia joined the P.A.C.E. Program in 2011. She worked as an RA for 2 years before joining the P.A.C.E. Transition program. She holds a BA from Illinois Wesleyan University, an MA from Middlebury College, and completed her MAT in secondary education at National Louis University. Georgia is a full time middle school teacher.
Reanna Perrera, Residential Life Assistant
Reanna works full time in the Family Guidance Center at a therapeutic high school for teens and young adults with autism. She is a graduate of Trinity International University where she played with the Women’s basketball team, and received her Bachelor degree in Sport and Wellness Management. She enjoys leading fitness clubs with the PACE students.
Maria Pripon, Independent Living Coach
Maria joined the P.A.C.E. Transition Program in 2013. She earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics at Northeastern Illinois University with a minor in Applied Mathematics. Maria is working full time with people with developmental disabilities for the last 10 years as a developmental trainer. In her native country, Romania, Maria has worked as a primary school teacher for 16 years.
Tyler Middlebrook, Residential Life Assistant
Daniel Morganstein, Residential Life Assistant
Daniel joined P.A.C.E. in 2014 after three years at Misericordia working with adults with developmental disabilities. He graduated with a degree in interdisciplinary studies from Northeastern Illinois University. Daniel is no stranger to the hardships of learning disabilities, for he received special services throughout his academic career. He hopes to pass down the skill of self-advocacy to his students and help them learn that having a learning disability doesn’t stop their development and ability to succeed. His interests include discovering new musical acts of all genres, watching films and reading criticism, and studying postmodern philosophy.
Megan Pudela, LSW Assistant Residential Life Director
Megan earned her Bachelor's Degree in Social Work from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and earned her Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. As an undergraduate, Megan worked at Brehm, a program for high school students with multiple learning disabilities. At the University of Illinois, she was a Disability Advocate at Beckwith Residential Support Services, a residential dorm for students with physical disabilities. Megan started working at the P.A.C.E program as a Job Coach and Residential Advisor for the 2013-2014 school year.
Suzanne Shy, Life Skills Coach / Job Coach / Classroom Instructor
Suzanne first started working with the P.A.C.E. program in 1996 as a Vocational Instructor. From 1997 to 2001 she coordinated activities for 50 students as the Student Life Instructor. She has taught violence prevention skills through the organization Kidpower for 15+ years and has continued to teach the Assertiveness Training Class at P.A.C.E since it’s inception in 1998. Prior to working at P.A.C.E., Suzanne worked for 3 years as a child care worker with children and adolescents in residential facilities. Suzanne received her BS degree in Child and Family Development from Missouri State University.
Beth Voitik, MSW Transition Instructor
Beth received her undergraduate degree in Sociology & Cultural Anthropology from the University of Dayton. After a year of service with Americorps in Denver, she came back to her native Chicago and received a type 3 teaching certificate and taught in an elementary school for 4 years. Beth received her Master’s of Social Work from Loyola University Chicago in 2013. After receiving her MSW, Beth became a Licensed Social Worker and started working for the PACE Program at National Louis University, and primarily works with Transition students as an instructor and job, independent living & social skills coach. In addition, Beth has trained at Piven Theatre Workshop since junior high and was invited to join their teacher training program after returning to Chicago. Beth began teaching Theatre Games & Story Theatre classes to children & teens in 2008. In 2012, Beth became the lead teacher for Piven’s PEEP class (Piven Empowerment through Enrichment Program) for adults with developmental disabilities. She is a member of Piven’s Improvisation Ensemble, and loves exploring communal creative processes with all ages and abilities.
Lynn Weingardt, M.Ed. Classroom Instructor
Lynn brings over 20 years special education experience to the PACE Program, with the Fremont District and SEDOL as a reading specialist, resource, as well as life and vocational preparation skills teacher. She is a trained Executive Functioning skills instructor through Rush Neurobehavioral Center, and is highly skilled at modifying curriculum, utilizing modifications, and integrating assistive technology into her classrooms.