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Staff at CEL

                              Peer Mentors and Ambassadors
Peer Mentors and Ambassadors are young adults with disabilities who are paid employees of the center and work in integrated community employment settings with individuals from diverse backgrounds. Peer Mentors and Ambassadors assist with the day-to-day running of the Center. Mentors provide mentoring and advocacy service to Youth (ages 13-17) and Emerging Leaders (ages 18-30). Ambassadors prepare and deliver public speaking presentations at various community locations. When asked, a Peer Mentor will go with an Emerging Leader to their IEP, ITP, or IPP meetings.

To contact a specific Peer Mentor or Ambassador, Telephone: (619) 594-3588

OR E-mail: cel@interwork.sdsu.edu with “Attention (Person’s name)” in the subject line


Briana, Peer Mentor

I graduated from Springall Academy in 2005. In addition to being a peer mentor at CEL I work at Hollywood Video and JC Penney. I like to go to the movies, go shopping, and buy CDs I also like to visit family members and go out of town and visit different cities. I like being a peer mentor and helping other people. 



Emily, Peer Mentor

I am 21 years old and have been living with my family in Poway, California for the past ten years. I was born in Maryland, then moved with my family to Northern Virginia when I was 3 years old and remained there until we moved to Poway in 1998. I have had Tourette’s syndrome since the age of 8.  I enjoy traveling internationally with my family, volunteering at the American Cancer Discovery’s Retail Shop in Rancho Bernardo and working with my mother on landscape designs for clients. I love engaging with people. It has been said that I can walk into a room filled with strangers and 30 minutes later leave with a room full of friends. 

McGinn, Peer Mentor

Hello my name is McGinn. I went to Horizon High School from 1994 to 1998. I went to Cuyamaca  College for two years and took a couple of English classes and then I went to work at a before and after school child care program for three years. I went College and took some English and Computer classes before going back to work at a video store. I just finished the spring semester at Grossmont College. In my free time I like singing in my church choir, spending time with my friends and family and having a lot of fun. I also enjoy listening to music.  

Jonathan, Ambassador

Jonathan is originally from Buford, South Carolina.  He came to the San Diego area in 1984, in connection with his father’s job in the Navy.  Jonathan's two brothers have had significant influence on him.  They have shared their interest in music and computers.  Jonathan attended Mount Carmel High School in Rancho Penasquitos.  He also took some music classes at Palomar College.  Right now, Jonathan would like to collect all seven seasons of Star Trek on DVD.  Later in his adulthood, Jonathan would like to become a pastor.  In his spare time, Jonathan enjoys listening to AM radio.  He heard about CEL through a friend and former tutor.  Through CEL, Jonathan would like to learn more about what self-advocacy and self-determination mean to him.


Lucas, Ambassador

Hi, I’m Lucas. I’m 28 years old and have worked for The Center for Emerging Leadership for about a year and a half. I go to Grossmont College, and study Disability Service Management with dreams of starting a micro-business for young self advocates. When I’m not working or attending to my studies you might find me sitting back watching a movie, exploring the internet or just playing with my dog, Mahi. If you want to know anything more just ask!

Photo of Moriah

Moriah, Ambassdor

Moriah is one of three children. One of Moriah’s brothers is a pastor for a church in Texas.  The other brother is in the Army.  When she was a little girl, Moriah dreamed of working with kids at school.  Moriah’s favorite memory of when she was younger is going to Knott’s Berry Farm with her family. One little known fact about Moriah is that she used to collect Barbies from her childhood.  She also collects teddy bears that have been given to her throughout her life.

Moriah went to Patrick Henry High School.  While there, Moriah made the Honor Roll and earned an ROTC award.  She has also been involved with Transition Resources for Adult Community Education (TRACE).   It was when she was in a TRACE classroom that she heard about the Center for Emerging Leadership (CEL). Presently she is developing and polishing her public speaking and presentation skills.

Some future goals Moriah has are to take a hip-hop dance class with her mom and to continue working with CEL. In her spare time, Moriah enjoys hanging out with friends, building jigsaw puzzles, doing arts and crafts, and catching a good television show.

Photo of Ambassador Rebecca

Rebecca, Ambassador

After graduating from San Marcos High School in 1998, I entered San Diego State University, in order to take classes in political science.  My decision to major in Poli-Sci grew from my desire for people with disabilities to be better included in all aspects of society.  In high school, I proudly insisted on having the final say in every facet of my education, including my IEP meetings.  My first real experience in collaborating with people who have different disabilities was in 1996, when I attended a science and technology program in Washington State, called DO-IT.  Since then I have made a conscience effort to stay informed and involved with the community of people with disabilities.  I felt honored to be involved with CEL as a peer mentor during its implementation and I am excited to continue the work of Project LEADERS as an Ambassador for CEL.

Christopher Pirino, Lead Mentor

Contact: cpirino@interwork.sdsu.edu

I graduated from Mt. Carmel High School in 1996, then continued to Miramar College where I studied Child Care.

I have been a Peer Mentor with CEL at San Diego State University/Interwork Institute for two years. I also worked on Interwork's Project LEADERS. Recently I have been promoted to Lead Mentor. I really like mentoring people and feel I can use my life experiences as a person with a disability and more importantly living on my own in an apartment. Over the past few years I have learned how important it is for me to listen and ask good questions when mentoring. I enjoy watch people grow as they learn about their disability and helping them find ways to express themselves and become more independent and productive.


Photo of Dr. Marj Olney, Project Director

Marjorie Olney, Ph.D., CRC, Project Director
Contact: molney@mail.sdsu.edu

Phone: (619) 594-6883

Dr. Olney’s teaching, research and service activities focus on improving employment opportunities for individuals with psychiatric and developmental disabilities. In her prior career, Dr. Olney worked in the disability field as a direct service worker, counselor, supervisor, administrator and advocate. Her knowledge of, and passion for the field inform her academic activities. Dr. Olney is the Program Advisor to the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Certificate and the specialization in Psychiatric Rehabilitation, a training grant funded through the Rehabilitation Services Administration. She is also Project Director for the Center for Emerging Leadership (www.interwork.sdsu.edu/cel) and ProjectLEADERS, programs which provide peer-to-peer information, training and mentorship by and for individuals with developmental disabilities.  

     An active researcher, Dr. Olney uses multiple methodologies to explore disability issues related to identity, service utilization and employment outcomes, and barriers to employment specifically as these impact individuals with cognitive and psychiatric disabilities. She has had 35 articles, chapters, books and reports published, and has presented her work at over 40 state and national conferences.  

     Dr. Olney developed the certificate, specialization, curriculum and courses in Psychiatric Rehabilitation. She teaches graduate courses including psychiatric rehabilitation, job placement, foundations of rehabilitation counseling, and counseling theories. Dr. Olney's courses combine theory and practice, demanding critical thinking skills, independence and mutual respect in the classroom. Dr. Olney encourages lively intellectual exchange of ideas and attempts to provide a safe and supportive learning environment, motivating students to both apply their learning and to seek more knowledge.  In addition to classroom teaching, Dr. Olney regularly provides training to rehabilitation counselors throughout California and its neighboring states on working effectively with individuals who have psychiatric disabilities, counseling methods, supported employment and related topics.

     Lastly, Dr. Olney serves the community and profession on various university, local, state and national committees and boards. She is the Chair of the Program Development Committee of the Board of Directors for Employment and Community Options, an organization in Southern California that provides job placement and support for individuals with developmental and other disabilities. She is a Consulting Editor for the journals Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Dr. Olney is active in promoting psychiatric rehabilitation within the rehabilitation counseling community through participation in committees with the US Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association (USPRA) and the National Council on Rehabilitation Education (NCRE).

Photo of Janice Goforth, Project Coordinator

Janice Goforth, M.S., CRC, Project Coordinator
Contact: jgoforth@interwork.sdsu.edu

Phone: (619) 594-1758

     Janice began her educational journey by obtaining her Associate of Science degree in Disability Services Management from Grossmont College in 2000. From there, she transferred to San Diego State University and continued up Interwork Institute’s Career Ramp to receive her Bachelor of Vocational Education in 2001 and her Master of Science degree in Rehabilitation Counseling in 2004. In addition, Janice was voted the College of Education’s Outstanding Student for 2004, at San Diego State University. She is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and has a certificate in Rehabilitation Technology.

     As a graduate student, Janice served as the Focused Technical Assistant for Interwork Institute’s Project Success: Capacity Building Online for Minority Entities and Institutions, providing online technical assistance to project participants in relation to internet based instructional material and lectures.

     She is an Assistive Technology Specialist on Interwork's Higher Education and Capacity Building Success projects, along with serving as the Project Coordinator for Interwork Institute's Center for Emerging Leadership: Peer to Peer Mentorship by and for People with Developmental Disabilities.

     Janice is adjunct faculty at Grossmont College where she teaches Health Sciences 110- Disability and Society, and HESC 205- Augmentive/Alternative Communication and Assistive Technology for People with Disabilities within the Disability Service Management Program. Certificates and an Associate Degree in Disability Services Management are the first stops on Interwork Institute's Career Ramp.


Cindy Lyle , Graduate Assistant to Peer Mentors



Nicole Fullerton , Graduate Assistant to Ambassadors

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Copyright 2009

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