Meet Our Board of Directors

President

Laura Swanson

Laura is the parent of two children with IEPs.  She founded IEP-Hope and serves on our Board of Directors because she has seen first-hand how children have been negatively affected due to laws, procedures and IEPs/504s not being followed- simply because parents didn't fully understand the process. 

 

After witnessing the struggles of these parents and their special needs children in all stages of the IEP process, her goal is to help educate families in their rights... in the IEP process... and in their role as an advocate for their child, so that change may be brought about- together.  

Her experience as a former LaPorte County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) , Visit Supervisor at Harmony House, and Regional Program Specialist for 10+ years has also provided her with an insight into the injustices that children suffer.  She believes that many of the difficulties special needs children face are due to "misunderstandings", possible misdiagnoses, or even a lack of training.  She feels that this can only improve through education and awareness- by learning what a child is trying to communicate... even when they're not communicating at all.   

Laura is also a strong believer in the School to Prison Pipeline and feels that many children in the juvenile system are there, in part, because they lacked the understanding, support and accommodations to be successful in a regular school setting.

 

As Executive Director of IEP-Hope, Laura hopes to increase the awareness of these hidden issues by educating the community and advocating with special needs families to create the change that is so  desperately needed.

Her passion and experience in the outreach and advocacy sectors is only one of the strengths she possesses that will make IEP-Hope an invaluable resource for those navigating the IEP/504 process. 

Thank you for creating #TeamIEP-Hope Laura!

Secretary

Lisa Milne

Lisa is the parent of a child with an IEP.  She shared that she encountered many difficulties in the public school setting and, as a result, her family made the difficult decision to homeschool in order for their child to receive a quality education and avoid unnecessary issues.  

 

Lisa became interested in serving on our Board of Directors because she wants to be a strong advocate for families of special needs children.  She is very interested in attending our Volunteer Advocate training program to assist in educating parents and supporting them in IEP case conferences.  

In addition to her personal experience with IEPs, Lisa has also earned a BS in Special Education, so she is very familiar with the process, resources, parental rights, and the laws and policies that guide them.

 

Lisa is no stranger to serving on a Board of Directors.  She dedicated her time to serving on the board for the nonprofit organization Chasing Dreams.  Chasing Dreams is a nonprofit learning center which provides the tools and skills for independent living for the special needs community and their families through education and programs.  

Lisa's background in special education, first-hand experience with the IEP process, and past service with a nonprofit organization will make Lisa an invaluable asset to the special needs community and our Team.

Welcome to #TeamIEP-Hope Lisa!

Board Member

Victoria Schwarten,

MSN, APRN, FNP-C

Victoria is the parent of a child with an IEP.  She believes that families in the special needs community would benefit from an advocacy program.

She feels that serving on our Board of Directors is an excellent way to spread awareness about a cause that she is passionate about. 

 

Victoria is looking forward to sharing her knowledge, experiences and resources with other parents to help them become stronger advocates for their child.

 

Her dedication to helping others is evident by the many years she has served in the healthcare sector as a nurse.  She gained her experience in settings such as hospice, hospitals, pediatric home care, developmental disability care, inpatient detox and rehabilitation, as well as skilled nursing. Victoria later went on to earn her Masters in Science of Nursing at Indiana Wesleyan University in 2017 and is now a Family Nurse Practitioner.  

Victoria's skills in administration, management, program evaluation and special events planning- along with her passion, dedication, and first-hand knowledge and experience with the IEP process, will make her an invaluable asset to the Special Needs Community and our Team.

Welcome to #TeamIEP-Hope Victoria!

Board Member

Joanne Tedesco

Joanne is the parent of a child with an IEP.  She has been involved in the advocacy community for several years, using her professional skills to advocate, educate and support the disability community. 

 

Joanne became interested in serving on our Board of Directors because she wants to continue creating awareness and change in the special needs community.  She believes that her 25+ years in the public relations field and experience with grant writing will be an essential asset to our Team... and she's absolutely right!!!

In addition to her personal experience with IEPs, Joanne has also served on several boards in various capacities throughout Northern and Central Indiana, including serving on the Valparaiso Mayor's Advisory Council on Disabilities, organizing the Michigan City Human Rights Commission Autism Forum, and the Michigan City Parents Support Group where parents of children with disabilities could share stories, learn about a variety of disability-related topics, and offer support to one another.  

Her implementation of programs and her willingness to volunteer at school system events, afterschool programs and educational-related advocacy forums have benefitted more than just the special needs community.  

Joanne earned her BS in Communications in Wisconsin and has been utilizing those valued skills to achieve results, develop and implement strategic plans, and be actively involved in several community outreach programs.

Joanne's background in public relations, past and present advocacy in the special needs community, first-hand experience with the IEP process, and her unselfish commitment to utilizing education to bring awareness will make Joanne an invaluable asset to the special needs community and our Team.

Welcome to #TeamIEP-Hope Joanne!

Vice-President

Ronald Schoff, Ph.D., MBA

Ron is the grandparent of children with IEPs.

 

He is interested in serving on our Board of Directors because he believes in the cause, recognizes the benefit, and sees the need for this organization.

 

Ron's assets to our team include his member experience on non-profit boards, fundraising, accounting, public relations, advocacy, grant writing, policy development and strategic planning- among many others.  His skills set certainly meets the needs of our board!

 

He has executive consultative and management experience in entrepreneurial development, corporate management, organizational development, human resource development, corporate training, product and market strategies, succession planning, and business growth management- and has instructed on Entrepreneurial Studies at the university level.

Ron earned a B.S. in Business Administration, an MBA from PNC, and a Ph.D. in Technology Management from ISU.

He is currently the President of RSA Consulting, Inc. where his extensive consultation services, technical business skills, and authored journal articles benefit companies of all sizes in both the public and private sectors.

Ron's educational background in business, first-hand experience with non-profits, prior board member service, numerous technical skills, and successful business consultation service will make Ron an invaluable asset to the special needs community and our Team.

Welcome to #TeamIEP-Hope Ron!

Treasurer

Lauri Dodd

Lauri is the grandparent/parent of children with IEPs.  She relates that raising a second generation of children was challenging on its own, but being thrust into the "IEP world" was an overwhelming task for her.  Having no prior experience with, or knowledge of, IEPs, she was certain that the case management team professionals would make all of the necessary recommendations which were in the best interest of her children. But, as her children continued to struggle, it soon became evident that nobody would ever be a better advocate for them than she would.  So she began learning the process...

She became interested in serving on our Board of Directors because she wants parents to know that they have to be their child's voice, their advocate, and their protector- because nobody will ever do it louder, better, or more fiercely than the parent who knows them best.  Additionally, she would like to bring awareness to the Medicaid Waiver- a valuable program that many parents don't even know exists.    Lauri believes that children can also play a role in spreading awareness by understanding their own IEP/504, learning to self-advocate, and being educated in their rights.  She feels that by educating children how to be more confident self-advocates, it may also prompt a beginning to ending the vicious bullying that many of these children are subjected to on a daily basis in the school setting- hoping that awareness will breed acceptance.  

Her assets to our team include experience with non-profit committees, fundraising, accounting, public relations, advocacy, policy development, education, human resources and office management.  

 

Lauri earned degrees in both Paralegal Studies and Computer Information Systems, was a part-time adjunct professor at a local state college, a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), and worked full time in a law office.  

Her background in law, office administration, computer proficiency, service with non-profits, child advocacy, fundraising, public relations, and organizational skills will make Lauri an invaluable asset to the special needs community and our Team.

Welcome to #TeamIEP-Hope Lauri!

Board Member

Lindsay Gear

Lindsay is the parent of a child with an IEP.  She shared that early on in the IEP process, she felt alone and didn't know what types of services or accommodations she could ask the school for that would benefit her child. 

 

Lindsay became interested in serving on our Board of Directors because she wants to be a resource and support to others, so that they don’t feel how she felt.  She hopes that as her child sees this support system, it will encourage her to be a part of it for her peers.

 

In addition to her personal experience with IEPs, Lindsay has also worked in the disability field for 15 years, most recently as a case manager for Medicaid Waiver services.

 

Lindsay earned her BS in Psychology from Purdue North Central.  She assisted in opening the psychological research lab in 2014, and ran a psychological study on health efficacy which was published in journals and presented at the Health Psychology conference in San Antonio, Texas in 2014.  She was named PNC’s Student Employee of the Year in 2015 and has been volunteering with Purdue’s Sinai Forum since 2018.  During those events, she met and guided esteemed guests such as Lou Holtz, Retired General John Kelly, Gloria Steinem, and Alan Dershowitz.

Lindsay's background in psychology, past and present work in the disability field, first-hand experience with the IEP process, and extensive knowledge of Medicaid Waiver services will make Lindsay an invaluable asset to the special needs community and our Team.

Welcome to #TeamIEP-Hope Lindsay!

Board Member

Scott Pelath

Scott previously served as the Minority Leader of the Indiana House of Representatives.  He represented Indiana’s 9th District, which includes portions of LaPorte and Porter Counties in Indiana. 

He is interested in serving on our Board of Directors because he recently created a new agency and believes that his experience and knowledge would be helpful to further the success of IEP-Hope’s mission. 

 

Scott's assets to our team include his extensive board member experience on non-profit boards, finance and accounting, administration and management, grant writing, policy development, program evaluation, and more. 

 

This skill set is vital to ensuring the development of quality programs, acquiring funding to support those programs, and assisting in the development of State and Federal mandated policies.

 

He has nearly 3 decades of experience in government and non-profit administration, serving in the Indiana legislature for nearly 20 years, and as the Human Resources Director at a local community mental health center for 19 years.

 

He has volunteered his time to serve on the board of organizations such as Michigan City Black Expo, Lubeznik Center for the Arts, and Child Care Consortium, Inc.

 

Scott earned his B.S. in Public Affairs from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.

 

He is currently the Executive Director of the Kankakee River Basin and Yellow River Basin Development Commission, which was created in 2019 by the Indiana General Assembly.  According to its website, “The Basin Development Commission directly serves the water resource planning and development of Jasper, Lake, LaPorte, Marshall, Newton, Porter, St. Joseph, and Starke Counties in Indiana.”

Scott's background in public service, first-hand experience with non-profits, prior board member service, and experience in the mental health sector makes Scott an invaluable asset to the special needs community and our Team.

Welcome to #TeamIEP-Hope Scott!

Joe Batten

"The first task of a

leader is to keep

hope

alive."