Jessi Aguilar

Jessi Aguilar hails from Motley, MN and currently lives in Anoka, MN with her husband, three daughters and a beloved dog. She also has a younger sister who is deaf. Growing up in a Deaf/HH mainstream educational program, she learned both ASL and English. Growing up bilingual has helped Jessi tremendously with academics and throughout her career. After graduation, Jessica went on to earn her degree in social work from Gallaudet University and a social work license for the state of MN. She has worked with children and adults with disabilities and various mental diagnoses in group homes, day programs, and with case management. She is a strong supporter for the rights of individuals with disabilities. Jessi enjoys being a Deaf Mentor because she enjoys playing with children and educating families the benefits of learning ASL and about Deaf culture.


Joyce Atchison

Joyce Atchison moved to Duluth in the Fall of 2014 after 30+ years working professionally in the field of Deafness. Joyce was born hearing, and when she was 5 years old, she had the measles and a high fever and lost 85% of her hearing bilaterally. She grew up in regular schools in several Minnesota communities, relying only on one hearing aid and lip reading. After graduating from high school, Joyce learned ASL, and it opened up a whole new world for her! Joyce has a Bachelors degree in Special Education, a Masters degree in Deaf Education, and a Graduate Certificate in Marriage and Family Therapy. For 30+ years Joyce was a Director of Deaf Ministry at MSAD, a Teacher for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and finally, a Mental Health Therapist for Deaf and Hard of Hearing children and teenagers.



Amanda BavInka

Amanda Bavlnka is from Wisconsin. She was born Deaf and is the only deaf person in her family. Growing up, she was in a Deaf and Hard of Hearing program but mainstreamed for some of the classes. In high school she was fully mainstreamed. Amanda attended Winona State University and received a Bachelor's Degree in Sociology with Psychology as her minor. Amanda enjoys being a Deaf Mentor. During her free time, she enjoys spending time with her daughter, going for a long walks, camping, and reading.


Jeff Belevender 

Jeff Belevender hails from Michigan and currently lives up north of Twin Cities. He is a Deaf Mentor with Lifetrack Deaf Mentor Family program. He is 4th deaf member in his family generations.  He is married and has 2 young boys. Older one is hearing and the youngest one is deaf. He graduated from Gallaudet University with a degree in physical education.  He is currently working part time in Mental Health area and also as a Deaf Mentor. In his free time, he enjoys fishing, spending time with his family, keeping himself busy on his hobby farm.


Jackie Correa-Alley 

Jackie Correa-Alley is very proud to be a Hispanic and Deaf woman. She was born in Puerto Rico and attended Deaf schools in Massachusetts. Jackie went to St. Paul Technical College and had two majors in Data Entry and Business Clerk, and in Massachusettes took up a class in Deaf interpreting. Jackie decided to do something new when becoming a Hispanic Role Model. Her belief is that it is important for Hispanic families to learn how to communicate with their Deaf/Hard of Hearing child. Jackie  taught American Sign Language for 15 years through one on one, in an adult and hearing children education community. It included several different positions through advocacy, volunteering, community education, and participation in Deaf Community Organizations in the past.

Decidí buscar algo nuevo para convertirse en un modelo a seguir hispana, trabajando con el Mentor de la familia Sordo Hispana en Lifetrack. Mi creencia es que es importante que las familias hispanas aprenden cómo comunicarse con su Sordera / niño oyente. Apliqué mis experiencias de mi entorno familiar. Se me había enseñado el lenguaje de signos americano durante 15 años a través de uno en uno, en un adulto y escuchar comunidad de educación infantil, que incluye varias posiciones de trabajo diferentes como abogado, voluntario, educación de la comunidad, o la participación en organizaciones de la comunidad sorda del pasado. Puedo compartir esta experiencia para su hijo sordo como un modelo a seguir. Es genial para explorar el conocimiento hispana ganancia familiar de la cultura de los sordos para compartir a través de sus viajes. Después de todo, tenía una gran experiencia para ver cómo se están procesando a través de dos idiomas. Puedo hablar, escribir y de signos española para educar a las familias hispanas. Estoy emocionado y con ganas de ver cómo se están logrando en el aprendizaje de la lengua de signos americana y capaz de comunicarse con su hijo, porque esa es la clave.


Leah Bender Dolezal

Leah Bender Dolezal was born Deaf and grew up mainstreamed in public schools. She learned how to sign and speak at a young age. She taught American Sign Language at Minnetonka High School for eight years and has been at St. Catherine University for the past two. She has a Master's in Classroom Education. She married a Deaf man named John in February 2016. She is excited to join the Deaf Mentor family and teach American Sign Language classes for past, present, and families on the current waiting list. When she is not working, she enjoys long bike rides, painting, and reading.


Linda Fairbanks

Linda Fairbanks is deaf and has several Deaf family members. She graduated from MSAD and attended Rochester Community College. She hails from SE MN and grew up in the Spring Valley/Wykoff areas. She was employed in the Equipment Distribution Program before moving with her  three sons to Faribault where she was employed as a Special Education Program Specialist. After she remarried, she moved to the Mahnomen, MN area in Northwest MN. Linda enjoys being with her family, including her 4 grandchildren and working on the family tree.


Damian Forkner

Damian Forkner, orginally from Tacoma, Washington, is a Deaf Mentor with the Lifetrack Deaf Family Mentor program. He attended Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind starting at the age 3. When he was 12 years old, his family moved to the Tacoma, Washington area where he attended mainstream programs. Damian has a bachelor degree in social work from the Minnesota State University, Mankato. He is currently adjunct instructor at Minnesota State University, Mankato. He enjoys camping, hiking, biking, coaching, playing sports, and spending time with family.  


Melissa Forkner

Minnesota native Melissa Forkner, is a Deaf Mentor for the Lifetrack, Deaf Mentor Program. She became deaf when she was one-half years old by spinal meningitis. She learned sign language when she was two years old and went to preschool for the deaf program. Her mom and family moved to Faribault, Minnesota when she was five years old where she attended Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre at Minnesota State University-Mankato. She is currently teaching American Sign Language classes as Adjunct Teacher at Minnesota State-Mankato.


Jerry Geist

A North Dakota native, Jerry Geist is a mentor with the Deaf Mentor Family Program. Jerry is Deaf and uses hearing aids. He graduated with a degree in Biology from Gallaudet University. After completing Peace Corp service in Ecuador , South America, he is currently a Supervisor at the Minnesota Relay Center in Moorhead. During his leisure Jerry enjoys reading, trekking, golfing and reading good books.



Jessie Gertken

Jessie Gertken was born and raised on a dairy farm in Albany, MN. Growing up, she attended a mainstreamed program in Central Minnesota with the use of an ASL Interpreter. Jessie attended St. Cloud Technical College where she received a degree in Carpentry and in Office Technology Assistant. Currently, Jessie is involved with her parents in their Goat Dairy business. Jessie comes from a big family and also has a deaf sister. Jessie's hobbies are; 4-wheeling, kayaking, hunting and anything that includes outdoor activities. Jessie is excited to work as a Deaf Mentor for families with children that are deaf and hard of hearing.


Jackie Haley

Jackie is originally from California and has now lived in Bigfork, Minnesota for 20 years. She is the mother of four children and is an Deaf Mentor for Lifetrack.  She is Deaf and wears hearing aids. She graduated from Itasca Community College in Grand Rapids and will return to Bemidji State University to complete her BA degree in teaching, but wants to continue and pursue her MA degree major in Deaf Studies. During her leisure time, she enjoys camping with her family and friends and likes to go four-wheeling and snowmobiling. She also loves to travel all over and meet new people.


Jada Johnson

Jada is a proud Deaf Minnesotan with three kids. She attended public school in a mainstreamed classroom most of her years growing up. Jada attended Gallaudet University to complete her Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies, then pursued a Master’s Degree in Public Administration. Jada has experience working in both a human services office environment and education setting. It sparked her passion to interpret and guide those who are DeafBlind. She has been doing this since 2007. Jada has been a Deaf Mentor for approximately 10 years. Her hobby is couponing; if you receive Sunday's newspaper and don't use coupons, send it to Jada! :) Jada's interests are also in basketball, track, and ASL poetry.


Julianne Kinney

Julianne currently lives in Lakeville, Minnesota with her husband and 2 teenage sons. She has been signing since she was 16 months old and was mainstreamed in a large D/HOH program. She has lived in several different states, as her father was in the military. Julianne attended a boarding high school for the deaf (MSSD) from 9-12 grade on Gallaudet University’s campus. She received her degree from Metro State University. She has a BA degree in Individualized Studies with a focus in Educational Advocacy for D/HOH children and a minor in Disability Studies.

Julianne has many years of experience working with children in a K-12 grade setting who have diverse needs. Her passion is working with children, and being a Deaf/HOH advocate (intervention, education, and advocacy). In her free time, she loves to read, chat with friends, spend quality time with her family, take quick nature trips to the beach, or walk in the woods. Being a Deaf Mentor is fun and rewarding for her. She loves working with her current families, and looks forward to meeting new families!


Mandy MacDonald 

Mandy MacDonald has been a Deaf Family Mentor for Lifetrack for the past 4 years, in addition to 3 years prior with DHHS. She was born deaf to a hearing family in Biwabik, MN and was mainstreamed with an interpreter in a public school in Virginia, MN. She graduated from Mesabi Range Community and Technical College with both A.A. and A.S. degrees and from University of Minnesota-Duluth with a B.S. degree, majoring in Biology. After a few years of being a Bird/Reptile Curator at a ND zoo, she is now an Information Specialist II with the Public Health & Human Services for St. Louis County. She is married with 2 sons. In Mandy’s free time, she enjoys kayaking, disc golfing, reading, and spending time with family and friends. She enjoys being a deaf mentor and seeing the family’s ASL skills and communication grow.


Izzy Mohammed

Izzy Mohammed was born in Ethiopia, North East Africa. He became Deaf at the age 6 and grew up with hearing family and learned ASL at age of 18. He graduated with Bachelor of Science Degree in Applied Science and Art at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and Moved to Minnesota in 2011 from Canada. Izzy has been an Executive Director of Global Deaf Muslim-Minnesota Chapter since 2011. He is a mentor with the Lifetrack Deaf family Mentoring Program specifically for North East African immigrant families as well as working as a Paraprofessional at Metro Deaf School. He teaches Islamic classes for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Muslims on weekends. He speaks several languages such as ASL, English, Oromo, Somali, Arabic and French.  During leisure time, he enjoys playing soccer, field tennis and volunteering various community organizations. 


Dr. Gloria Nathanson

Dr. Gloria Nathanson is a native Minnesotan and a mother of four children, two of whom are Deaf. She has her doctorate in audiology and teaches a course periodically at Gallaudet University related to this. She has her certificate in Deaf and Hard of Hearing Infant, Toddler, and Family Collaboration and Leadership. She serves in an advisory capacity for several things, including the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention advisory committee. Her passion is with early intervention, education, and advocacy. 


Michele Rolewitz

Michele Rolewitz attended North Dakota School for the Deaf and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf/Rochester Institute of Technology. She has worked at North Dakota State University Financial Aid and Scholarships for 33 years. She also teaches ASL classes. She is the Deaf Mentor Family and Deaf Mentor Interpreter. She is married to a deaf man who has a deaf family. She has been involved in the North Dakota Association of the Deaf and Deaf community. She enjoys being with her family, cats, gardening, and traveling. Being a Deaf Mentor Family, she enjoys teaching families American Sign language (ASL) and wants to see the whole family have full communication access with their deaf child without any barriers. She would love to see every family have a strong bond by being able to communicate fully. She has three CODA (Child of Deaf Adult) children and 5 grandchildren plus one is on way that is due in October.


Sharon Rosen

Sharon Rosen is originally from Melrose, MN. Born deaf, she attended the MN State Academy for the Deaf and graduated from University of Minnesota-Waseca with a degree in Horticulture. After taking some time to raise her four children, she become a Deaf Mentor in 2000 and has enjoyed her job ever since. Over the years, Sharon has seen many families with deaf and hard of hearing children who have nothing or little knowledge of both ASL and the Deaf Community. Because of this, she is passionate to teach both the language and the importance of embracing Deafness.


Ashley Reuss 

Ashley Reuss lived in several different states--East Tennessee, Ohio, Washington DC, and has been living in Minneapolis for five years now. Ashley is a Deaf Mentor working for the Deaf Mentor Family program. When she first heard about the Deaf Mentor Program and knew that she would love to be part of the families who have D/HH child and provide them the ability to connect with their child through American Sign Language (ASL). Her family is hearing and they all learned ASL through a deaf program and this was very valuable part of her relationship with her family and would love to pass it on to other families. Ashley has BA in Social Work and Masters in Sign Language teaching. She taught at Metro Deaf School, provided Family ASL classes, worked at Minnesota Employment Center and currently is designing her new career journey providing the general community access to learn ASL. During her free time she enjoys going to yoga classes, working out, biking, reading and be surrounded with friends and family.  


Karla Sass

Karla was born deaf and grew up in Iowa. She graduated from Iowa School for the Deaf and went on to Gallaudet University and graduated from Iowa Western Community College. Her parents and brother learned sign language when she was very young. She feels fortunate having been able to communicate with them growing up. Karla’s husband is also Deaf and together they have 3 daughters. Two of them are RN nurses, and one is a 4th grader teacher. Karla has a passion for teaching. She has always wanted to help teach others. She’s now very excited to be working as a Deaf Mentor helping families learn more about ASL and Deaf Culture. She also currently works at Kohls. Some of her hobbies include reading, socializing, traveling, and walking.


Shanada Schwartz

Shanada is a proud, third generation Deaf person. She is married to Deaf husband and has four children (three are Deaf and one is CODA). With Bachelors and Masters degree in Social Work from Gallaudet University, she is able to pursue her passion in working with families and kids. Besides working as Stay-at-Home-Mom, she works as a Substitute Teacher at MSAD and as an ASL Teacher for MSAD hearing parents. During her free time, she enjoys running, camping, and spending time with family. She believes that ASL is for everyone, especially Deaf children.


Emily Smith-Lundberg 

Emily was born profoundly Deaf and grew up in the Brainerd Lakes Area. Emily has two wonderful hearing parents who strongly advocated for her educational rights in the Brainerd School District. They made sure that Emily had many opportunities for socializing with Deaf and Hard of  Hearing peers and adults. Emily is a founder and director of "Dreams and Inspirations - Deaf and Hard of Hearing Camps & Retreats", setting up many different types of retreats with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community. One of her most popular retreats is for families who have Hearing Parents with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children. Emily is also a Co-Director of Camp Sertoma, a youth camp for Deaf and Hard of Hearing camp at Confidence Learning Center near Brainerd, MN. Emily also serves as a Commission Member on Governor Appointed Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans. 

Mai Vang

Mai Vang is from St. Paul, MN and has lived in St. Paul ever since she moved from Kansas when she was a child. Mai comes from a full-hearing family and is the only person who is deaf in her whole family. Mai was born hearing then became deaf at the age of 1. She started to learn ASL when she was enrolled in Pre-K school at Rondo that has deaf and hard of hearing program. Mai currently works at ARCH Language Network in St. Paul as a Financial Services Specialist and Deaf Mentor. She recently decided to go back to school to complete her degree in Office Technology and is planning to further her education in human services. In her free time, Mai enjoys spending time with her son. She also loves to go to gym, bike, and loves watch sports, especially basketball and football.


Lisa Wasilowski

Lisa works as a K-12 school counselor in her 10th year at Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf in Faribault, Minnesota. Her areas of focus are preventive education, student advocacy, and college planning. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology (‘03) and Master’s degree in school counseling (‘05) from Gallaudet University. Lisa wants to work with families especially with young Deaf children to support their early social and language developments. DMFP is just the right place to meet and work with such wonderful families who do desire to communicate with their children. Seeing and meeting them take her back to her childhood days where her mother had met others like her (hearing parents of deaf children). As a part-time, Lisa has been with DMFP for three years.