Advisory Board

Zach BentonZach is a graduate of the Western Carolina University UP Program. He is a 2013 Rockin’ Recipient who had the drive and the dream to go to college in hopes of one day leading a more independent life and getting a “cool job”. Well, not only did he achieve his dream of higher education, Zach is now living independently in his own apartment and just got his “cool job.” Zach was recently hired by Mars Hill University working in the food and catering department. He will be prepping food for the college students and keeping the stations clean. He is so excited for this new chapter in his life and we cannot wait to see what other exciting things are ahead for him.

In his free time, Zach loves to run long distances and has even completed a half marathon! He is also working towards his driver’s license. We are so honored to have Zach as a Ruby’s Rainbow Advisory Board Member and know he will be a valuable addition to the team here!

Keep on rockin’ it, Zach!

Taryn StinsonTaryn Stinson is attending the UNCG Beyond Academics Program where she lives in an apartment on campus with other students. She is achieving her life-long dream of being a college student, but is no stranger to dreaming big and reaching her goals. Taryn has always loved school and wanted to learn, even bugging her teachers for more homework! She believes she can change her life and be more independent, and we believe that too! When not on campus, Taryn is busy knitting scarves that she donates to a local soup kitchen or sends them overseas to our troops. She won “Volunteer of the Year Award” from the local Hickory Community Theater for her caring heart and willingness to always want to help the community.

In 2012, Taryn was a panel presenter at the National Down Syndrome Conference in Washington D.C., and looks forward to continuing being a self-advocate and being a strong, positive voice for people with Down syndrome. We are so honored to have her as a Ruby’s Rainbow Advisory Board member and use her wisdom to help us be the best organization we can be!

Keep on rockin’ it, Taryn!!

Susan is the mother of Rion, age 22, and Molly, 19. Rion is a second-year student in the Clemson LIFE program at Clemson University balancing his studies with working part time at Fike Recreation Center as well as Firehouse Subs. Some may be familiar with her Rion through the viral YouTube video of him opening his college acceptance letter which was later used in Google’s “Grads” advertisement. Rion and his parents were also featured in a segment of “On the Road” with Steve Hartman for the CBS Evening News.

Currently an empty-nester, Susan teaches 2nd and 3rd grade Gifted and Talented students, serves on the board for Advanced Institute of Development and Learning, and enjoys promoting post-secondary studies with parent groups, civic groups, and educators.

Holly ChristensenHolly’s bio coming soon.

Catherine MorrisCatherine was honored to serve as the Communication Chair for Ruby’s Rainbow from 2014–2015, and excited to continue on the Advisory Board when her two-year term ended. She doesn’t ever want to stop working with this incredible organization! A romance author, freelance writer, editor and former teacher, Catherine lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and their two children.

When their daughter, Pearl, was born at home in August 2011, they learned she was rockin’ an extra chromosome. Raising Pearl has been cooler than Catherine could possibly have imagined (well, the same goes for raising Pearl’s little brother, Zephyr, who happens to be a typically developing kid — but he’s still pretty cool, too!).

Becoming a part of the local Down syndrome community has opened a wonderful new world for the whole family, and Catherine is incredibly grateful for this rich and unexpected experience.

Mary BryantMary is mom to 21-year-old Kailin Kelderman, who is a student in the Path to Independence (P2I) program at the University of Nevada Reno (UNR). Mary is employed by the Nevada Center for Excellence in Disabilities (NCED) at UNR, where she developed and directs the P2I program, an inclusive postsecondary education program for students with intellectual disabilities.

Mary is vice-chair for the Nevada Commission on Services to People with Disabilities (CSPD) and serves on the Nevada Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC). She also assists her daughter in the operation of her micro-enterprise, KK Glass, where Kailin creates fused glass jewelry.

Dr. Kelly KelleyDr. Kelly R. Kelley received her Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Since 2010, she has served as the University Participant (UP) Program Coordinator, Consultant, and Co-Director. She is also an Assistant Professor at Western Carolina University. Additionally, she serves as the NCCDD Learning and Earning Grant Project Co-Director to several NC school districts.

Dr. Kelley has published five book chapters and 14 journal articles. She has presented at over 110 international, national, and state conferences. Her research interests include secondary transition related to assistive technology, independent living, and inclusive postsecondary opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Kelly also enjoys providing technical assistance and consulting opportunities with other PSE programs.

Dr. Heidi GraffDr. Heidi Graff has personal and professional experience in working with individuals with intellectual disabilities. Along with being a parent of a young adult with autism, she is the director of the Learning into Future Environments program and an assistant professor of special education at George Mason University.

Dr. Graff’s commitment to the development of programs and strategies for individual with intellectual disabilities is reflected in her research line of parent readiness, independent living skills, and standardizing the application process for students with low incidence disabilities applying to institutes of higher education.