Staff

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Donna Riccobono, MEd

Project Director
E-mail Donna Riccobono, MEd

University of Maryland
Counseling, Higher Education & Special Education Dept.
Benjamin Building 3214
3924 Campus Drive
College Park, MD 20742
Voice/TTY: 301-405-0482

DonnaRic@umd.edu

Donna Riccobono has worked with individuals with sensory impairment and multiple disabilities for more than two decades. Born and raised in New York, she began her training at the Helen Keller National Center in Sands Point, Long Island. Donna transferred to the University of Arizona where she obtained her BA in Deaf Studies and MEd in Severe/Multiple Disabilities. From 1997 to 2002, Donna taught children with sensory impairments and multiple disabilities in Arizona.

In 2002, Donna decided to return to the East Coast to be closer to family. She taught for one year in the Montgomery County Public Schools, and was excited to join the Connections staff in September of 2003 as the Project Coordinator. In 2012, she became the Project Director.

As Project Director, Donna is responsible for managing the activities of the project, including technical assistance, programs and trainings, the Delrey Demonstration Project, the Mini-grant program, and the annual Maryland Deaf-blind child count.

Donna lives in Frederick, MD. She has two children, Hakeem and Maya.

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Jennifer Willis, MS

Project Coordinator
E-mail Jennifer Willis, MS

University of Maryland
Counseling, Higher Education & Special Education Dept.
Benjamin Building 3214
3924 Campus Drive
College Park, MD 20742
Voice/TTY: 301-405-0482

JCWillis@umd.edu

Jennifer Willis has worked with children who have dual sensory impairment since 2003. While working on her teaching degree, she served as a 1-to-1 aide and intervener, working at the Maryland School for the Blind for five years. Once she earned her degree, she spent nine years teaching in the Family Education Department at the Maryland School for the Deaf, serving children in the birth-to-5 years population and their families, with a special focus on children with deafblindness and multiple disabilities.

Jen earned her BS in Deaf Studies from Towson University, and her MS in Deaf Education from McDaniel College. She also holds a certification in special education and early childhood education, and has extensive training related to supporting children who are deaf or hard of hearing. In addition, she has many years of experience working with children who have cortical visual impairment, and is currently working towards earning her CVI Endorsement through a new program in collaboration with Perkins Institute.

In her role as Project Coordinator for CBSS, Jen will work closely with the Project Director and other team members to achieve the outcomes targeted by the grant activities. Her specific role includes being responsible for coordinating the training and technical assistance components of grant activities to ensure both are delivered effectively and efficiently. She also shares responsibility for delivering training, technical assistance, and coaching to individuals receiving training to ensure that consumers of project services are better able to support their students with deafblindness achieve improved outcomes.

Jen is an animal lover, who enjoys doing CrossFit and biking in her free time.

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Sandra Newcomb, PhD

Technical Assistance & Education Specialist
E-mail Sandra Newcomb, PhD

University of Maryland
Counseling, Higher Education & Special Education Dept.
Benjamin Building 3214
3924 Campus Drive
College Park, MD 20742
Voice: 301-405-6476

SNewcomb@umd.edu

Dr. Sandra Newcomb is the Technical Assistance & Education Specialist on the Connections Project. Although she officially joined the staff in 2005, she has been a valuable member of the CBSS team for many years prior to that, serving on the Advisory Committee since 1993. Sandy earned her PhD at the University of Maryland in 2009, and holds certification in Early Childhood Special Education and in Visual Impairment. After several years of teaching in North Carolina, Sandy moved to Maryland and worked as an Infants/Toddlers teacher from 1986 to 2000, in the District of Columbia and then in Prince George’s County, where she also served as a vision specialist for five years. In addition, she maintained a position at the University of Maryland since 1985, serving as Coordinator of various grants, and teaching courses in the Department of Special Education. Sandy’s particular areas of interest include working with families, family support, and Cortical Visual Impairment.      

With Connections, Sandy provides targeted and specific technical assistance, consultation, and training for parents, educators, and related service providers, focusing on the needs of infants, toddlers and preschool-aged children with deaf-blindness and/or CVI.

photo jeni stepanke

Jennifer Smith Stepanek, PhD

Education & Technical Assistance Specialist
E-mail Jennifer Smith Stepanek, PhD

University of Maryland
Counseling, Higher Education & Special Education Dept.
Benjamin Building 3214
3924 Campus Drive
College Park, MD 20742
Voice/TTY: 301-405-0482

DrJeni2008@gmail.com

Dr. Jeni Stepanek serves as an Education Specialist for CBSS and provides Universal Technical Assistance. She became a member of the staff in 2012, after serving as a consultant to the project and a member of the Advisory Committee since 2008. In addition to developing resources, newsletters, brochures, and other forms of universal TA, she is involved in program evaluation, needs assessment, outreach, and training development for CBSS. She brings diverse insights on many issues related to working with children with disabilities and their families and service providers. Jeni has worked in the field of education, advocacy, and family support for more than three decades, and earned her MEd and PhD in Early Childhood Special Education from the University of Maryland, College Park. Her specific areas of research and practice include family needs and supports, psychosocial care, trauma and resiliency, and grief and bereavement.

Jeni is the parent of four children who had disabilities, all of whom are now deceased, and one of whom had Cortical Visual Impairment. Jeni also has a disability which necessitates the use of a wheelchair and ventilator, and which impacts her hearing and vision. A published author and editor of numerous books, articles, and chapters, Jeni is an award-winning advocate and motivational speaker on topics ranging from disability, family support, and collaboration to bereavement, peace, and spirituality. She serves as the Executive Director of the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation, a National Vice President for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and a Governor for the We Are Family Foundation. When she grows up, Jeni wants to be a “83 and a beach chair philosopher.”