Meet the Team


Lorell Marin founded LEEP Forward in 2001 out of her desire to create innovative and inclusive learning environments for all children that focused on social emotional development.  She expanded this vision in 2018 to include a school focusing on diverse learners.  Lorell holds a master’s degree in both Social Work and Teaching (specializing in Special Education ). Lorell believes passionately in the potential of all children. This belief has driven her to continue to build up her toolbox and evolve with her clients. Just as no two children are alike, neither can the approach we take to support them along their path. She continues to learn as much as she could while prioritizing listening to her clients and honoring their journey. This has brought her to become certified or trained in a variety of areas. Most recently completing requirements to become an LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) and BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analysts). Prior to this she completed training as a level 2 DIR practitioner. In addition, she completed training in RDI, Play Project, Mendability, SCERTS, TEACCH, Social Thinking programs and a host of other training. Lifelong learning is in her DNA. However, she continues to learn the most by observing and listening to children and their families. She knows with the right support the children she works with will take over the world (and what a beautiful world that will be)! 

Lorell Marin



LEEP STAFF 2021-22 34 of 45.jpg

Dana Hutchins

Head of School

M.S., D.T.

Dana is a credentialed Developmental Therapist, she received her professional DIR-FCD Model certificate in Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Development through the Profectum Foundation. 


 Dana received her undergraduate degree in ElementaryEducation from the University of Wisconsin and taught in the public schools in Aiken, South Carolina. Dana returned to Chicago and graduated from The Erikson Institute with a Master’s in Science with a focus in working with children with special needs. 

Amanda Bird 3.jpg

Amanda Bird,
ABA Clinical Director

Amanda is originally from the south suburbs of Chicago. She has a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Millikin University and a Master's degree in Applied Behavior Analysis from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. As a BCBA, Amanda has worked in public schools, therapeutic schools, private homes and workshop settings with children, adolescents and adults. She has also worked as a Master Trainer for QBS, Inc., training individuals across the U.S. to be Safety Care Trainers and Specialists. 


When Amanda is not working, she enjoys spending time with her young daughter and friends, exploring new and free events in the community, listening to live music and decorating for her favorite holidays Halloween and Christmas.

Staff Photos 2017-19_edited_edited_edited_edited.jpg

Elena Martinez, Director of Billing and Insurance

Elena is the LEEP Forward Medical Insurance Advisor, Communications & Office Manager, helping families navigate through insurance benefits as swiftly and painlessly as possible.   Born in Chicago, she is a graduate of DePaul University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce. 

QLA Picture Day 2021 37 of 44.jpg

Annie Jackson
Program Director

Minnesotan at heart, Annie moved to Chicago in the fall of 2017 after receiving her Bachelors degree in Vocal Music Education at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. There she found a deep passion for Adaptive Music, bringing music to all abilities. Since arriving in the city, Annie has completed the Second City Conservatory program and the iO improv program. She enjoys singing with her friends, trying new flavors of kombucha and finding new ways to use her crock pot. 


Kate Sharp, 
M.S., D.T.

Kate is originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has worked with children in various settings for 10+ years. She graduated from Northeastern Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in anthropology. There she found a passion for child development and working with families from a variety of different backgrounds. This led to a desire to further education in this field. She obtained her master’s degree in child development from the Erikson Institute. She believes in a holistic, child-led approach to working with children and families, which is what drew her to LEEP Forward. While working as an assistant clinician at LEEP Forward – West Loop, Kate completed an internship working with a clinical supervisor. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to continue to be a part of the LEEP family as a clinical supervisor at QLA! In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, traveling, scrapbooking, and exploring the city!  

QLA Picture Day 2021 42 of 44.jpg

Nico Salemi,
Social Worker- BCBA

Nico was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois and has remained in the city since completing his B.A. in Psychology and Master’s degree in Social Work(MSW) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Throughout his academic experience, he was able to simultaneously provide in-home ABA therapy, family therapy, individual counseling, and group therapies in clinic-based and in-patient psychiatric settings. Throughout these experiences he has supported families and individuals with diverse learning needs for both children and adults. While exploring providing services as a social worker, Nico decided to further his studies in ABA and completed an MA in Special Education-Applied Behavior Analysis at the University of Arizona  and was able to complete his BCBA simultaneously in the spring of 2021. Nico enjoys being able to provide a wide range of individualized services and support for individuals and their families.

Katie Professional Pic.jpg

Katie Lane
Occupational Therapist


Katie grew up in Columbus, Ohio and just recently moved to the windy city to start her career as an occupational therapist. She obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Exercise Physiology with a minor in Psychology from Ohio University and went on to get her Doctorate in Occupational Therapy from Nova Southeastern University. Katie spent time during her doctoral capstone researching evidenced-based interventions and strategies for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to engage in daily occupations and has experience working with children with ASD during graduate school. Katie is interested in feeding and reflex integration and has plans to take courses to specialize in these areas. She enjoys being silly with kids and helping them maximize their potential through meaningful activities. In addition to work, Katie enjoys concerts, walks/runs around the city, cooking, spending time with friends and family, and taking her pup, Lola, to the dog park.

Miriam pic.jpeg

Miriam Mixon
Social Worker


Miriam is a dedicated mental health professional with a passion for client centered therapeutic work and a special interest in collaboration and solving complex client issues. Miriam is originally from New York City and Minneapolis but has called Chicago home for over 30 years.   Miriam has experience in school, hospital, community mental health clinic, crisis,  insurance and non-profit work settings.


Miriam attended undergraduate school at Macalester College in Saint Paul Mn.  Macalester has a reputation for a focus on social justice which helped spark Miriam’s interest in Social Work. Miriam attended graduate school at The University of Chicago and went on to earn her LCSW.

When not working Miriam enjoys spending time with family and friends and hosting people at her house where there are often extra pets or teenagers staying with the family.

Miriam enjoys a tight knit work community where everyone is committed to the goal of improving the quality of life for clients.

Drawing Face

Elizabeth Kolodiej,
Speech and Language Pathologist

Bio coming Soon

LEEP STAFF 2021-22 6 of 45.jpg

Lindsey Dunn, Occupational Therapist, Dept Head

Lindsey grew up in the western suburbs of Chicago and received her Master's degree in Occupational Therapy from Midwestern University in Downers Grove, IL. Lindsey also has a Bachelors of Social Work (BSW), which she received from Indiana University, Bloomington. Lindsey has enjoyed working at both LEEP Forward and Quantum LEEP Academy locations for the past 2 and a half years. Her demonstrated passion is to provide services to promote and support participation in everyday activities across multiple environments. She finds joy in seeing every child flourish and grow to their greatest potential. Lindsey has substantial experience with the DIR® Floortime approach, sensory processing, and feeding. 


In her spare time, Lindsey loves traveling (to both warm and cold destinations!), exercising, and spending time with family and friends!

LEEP STAFF 2021-22 33 of 45.jpg

Alex Nowak,
 Speech and Language Pathologist

Alex was born and raised in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. She received her Bachelor’s of Science in Speech-Language Pathology at The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She went on to earn her Master of Science in Speech, Language and Learning from Northwestern University. 


Alex is passionate about fostering meaningful relationships with her clients and their families to create an environment that promotes development. Alex has experience working with a wide variety of pediatric clients, including those with language delays and disorders, phonological and articulation disorders, and autism spectrum disorder. She’s a firm believer in the undeniable value of an interdisciplinary approach to care and she’s excited to be a part of the teams at both LEEP Forward and Quantum LEEP Academy. After work, Alex enjoys trying new restaurants around the city, listening to live music, and traveling with family and friends.


Michelle Shaefer,


Michelle is a West Coast native who grew up in San Diego and attended the University of Washington for her undergraduate education in psychology and communications. In 2015 Michelle moved to Chicago to attend Rush University's masters program in occupational therapy, and pursue her dream of working with children with neurodevelopmental differences. She has extensive experience working with children of all ages and abilities who have motor, sensory, developmental, and learning challenges. Michelle has worked in a variety of settings including therapeutic schools, outpatient clinics and in home settings. Michelle utilizes a holistic approach to therapy and believes that the family is an integral part of the therapeutic process. She believes that collaboration between home and school are key to creating a successful intervention plan and seeing progress in her clients. In her free time, Michelle enjoys spending time with her husband, daughter and mini goldendoodle.

LEEP STAFF 2021-22 16 of 45.jpg

Jonathan Krug,
Lead Teacher

Johnny joined the QLA community in June 2021 as a Lead Teacher! He has over ten years of experience working with students of all ages. Johnny grew up on the Southside of Chicago and is currently attending DePaul University, where he will complete master’s in Clinical Mental Health. His goal is to work with students using CBT and DBT. When Johnny has free time, he enjoys spending time with his Great Dane, Brutus, and completing his goal of traveling to all seven continents.


Alexandra Stark
Senior Assistant Clinician

Alex grew up in the north suburbs of Chicago. She received a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Illinois State University, Go Redbirds! While attending, she was a research assistant in the developmental psychology department for two years studying young adolescents and fellow ISU students. After graduation she started working as a special education associate in her hometowns district. After two years of being a one on one associate, she began working in an educational life skills classroom that was brand new to the district. She is currently in her second year at QLA! 


In her free time Alex likes to spend time with friends, cuddling with her family's dog, reading, and binging the occasional netflix show! She is also a big Cubs fan!

LEEP STAFF 2021-22 18 of 45.jpg

André Armattoe,

Born and raised in the rain and trees of the Pacific Northwest but a Chicagoan at heart. André comes to QLA with nearly a decade of experience working with children of varying ages, developmental stages, socioeconomic backgrounds, cultures, and needs. André attended Portland State University and graduated in 2016 with a Bachelor’s in Psychology. He also has education in child development from Erikson University and is currently working towards his Master’s in Counseling at DePaul University with the goals of becoming an elementary school counselor. Self-care and mental health are incredibly important for André. When not in the classroom as a professional or student, André is usually spending his time working on his indoor garden, biking (when the weather allows), finding new music, catching up on the trending TV show, going to the movies, or playing video games. Having worked in many different capacities (mentor, tutor, coach, teacher, and direct support professional), André enjoys the unpredictability that comes in the work with children and is always ready to switch his approach at a moment's notice.

Drawing Face

Lea Mendoza,
Assistant Clinician

Bio coming soon

LEEP STAFF 2021-22 22 of 45.jpg

Riley Rydners,
Senior Assistant Clinician

 Riley was born and raised in southern Illinois outside of St Louis, and graduated with honors from the University of Missouri (Mizzou) with a Bachelor’s in Health Science and an emphasis in Pre-Occupational Therapy. She learned from an internship at a children’s therapy clinic in Indiana that her true passion lies with helping children with special needs reach their full potential. Riley has spent the past two years as an RBT in Chicago, using fun and creative ways to provide children with a positive environment to build their self-esteem and daily living skills. Riley’s ability to form deep emotional connections with others has allowed her to better understand and serve the individuals she works with.  While it is her job to give children the reassurance they need to help build their self-esteem and reach their fullest potential, these children have inspired her to have better self-esteem and never give up as well. Riley hopes to further her career by going on to become an OT.

LEEP STAFF 2021-22 30 of 45.jpg

Alicia Gordon,
Assistant Clinician

Alicia grew up and resides on the south side of Chicago.  She received her Bachelors Degree in Early Childhood Education, from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. Alicia has continued her studies, towards earning  her Masters Degree at Erikson Institute in Child Development. 

Alicia’s passion for servicing families and children started as volunteer work With the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. Alicia has also worked closely with children ranging in age of infancy to school aged. 

In Alicia’s spare time she likes to take on fun DIY projects and spend time with friends and family. 


LEEP STAFF 2021-22 15 of 45.jpg

Sarah Hand,
Assistant Clinician

Sarah is a Native of the northwest suburbs of Chicago and moved to the city to complete her undergraduate degree. Sarah earned her BA in Psychology with a concentration in Human Development from DePaul University. Sarah has a passion for helping youth in need and educating young minds. During her years at DePaul she spent her time working in classrooms and researching mental and physical health outcomes for low-income youth. Sarah hopes to complete her MSW in School Social Work in the upcoming years.

In her free time, Sarah enjoys spending time with her dog Princess, cooking new things, and hanging out with her friends and family.

LEEP STAFF 2021-22 31 of 45.jpg

Celeste De La Fuente,
Assistant Clinician

Celeste is a Chicago native, having the privilege of living where my mom grew up. I am a recent undergraduate from Northeastern Illinois University, in which she obtained a double major of Psychology and Sociology. Throughout her life I have spent her time working with children either through child care or through the Chicago Park District.  Celeste always encourages a healthy and respectful environment for a child's development. She believes that children learn about themselves not just through biological and physiological changes, but also through external factors including relationships and play! She believes her life would be incomplete if she isn't working with children. 


In her spare time she loves to binge watch netflix, and run on the 606 and thoroughly enjoys reading psychological thrillers or having a cookout with her family! 


Megan Michaels,

Assistant Clinician

Megan is a native of the southwest suburbs of Chicago and earned her bachelor's degree in applied psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2019. Since the start of her high school education, she has been volunteering, interning, and working with children and adolescents in various settings. She plans to soon go to graduate school to earn her MSW in social work, following her passion to support children with developmental delays, autism, and mental health issues.


In her free time, Megan enjoys practicing yoga, spending time with her dog, scrapbooking with her grandma, and learning about filmmaking.

Drawing Face

Heidi Mosquera,
Assistant Clinician

Bio Coming soon

LEEP STAFF 2021-22 28 of 45.jpg

Gavin Giles,
Assistant Clinician

Gavin grew up in the Oak Park and River Forest area but is now based in the Near North side of the city. He graduated with a bachelors in Developmental Psychology from the University of Minnesota in the spring of 2021, with special interests in childhood and adolescent mental health. He began work with neurodiverse populations in high school which later developed into an academic focus point in college. Joining the QLA community in summer of 2021, Gavin is passionate about building relationships with, and being a mentor to young people where he emphasizes developing empathetic and compassionate personalities. He is looking forward to pursuing a masters in social work next fall and continuing work with young adults. 


In his free time, Gavin can be found making music in his studio (bedroom), taking long walks, visiting the Lincoln Park Zoo, and playing seasonal sports.

LEEP STAFF 2021-22 25 of 45.jpg

Erin Voci,

Erin is originally from Grosse Pointe Park, MI.  she attended Michigan State University where she received her bachelor's degree in Kinesiology.  She then moved to Chicago to attend The Chicago School of Professional Psychology where she recently graduated from and received a Masters in Applied Behavior Analysis.


Throughout highschool, college, and in her masters program she  was lucky enough to have worked in different settings and fields, such as hospitals, schools, camps, and clinics, with kids of all abilities. Erin has always loved working with children, and is  so excited to continue that work at LEEP. 

In her spare time she enjoys adventures outdoors with my australian shepherd puppy-Winnie! Along with spending time with my friends exploring Chicago! 

QLA Picture Day 2021 40 of 44.jpg

McKenzie Martin,
Assistant Clinician

McKenzie,   Kenz for short,  comes from a family of physical and occupational therapists, and she have been helping care for children since she was very small. She helped my sister co-parent both of her children from birth: Owen turned 6 years old this March and Violet will be 3 years old in July.


Kenz has a B.S. in Human Development and Family Studies with a concentration in Child and Adolescent Development from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. During college, she loved learning about children through her coursework, as well as through the various research projects I took on – I was a research assistant on the STRONG Kids 2: Protective Parents Subproject, and in the Culture and Family Life Lab where I did her senior thesis in Jamaica. After graduating, she moved to Chicago where she started teaching as a lead infant teacher for 8-15 month old babies, and then as a preschool teacher for 2 to 3 year olds. Kenz believes that early education is instrumental in fostering a love for learning and important social connections between a child and their peers, as well as teachers and society as a whole.  She is planning to get her Master’s Degree in Social Work.

QLA Picture Day 2021 36 of 44.jpg

Jada Bell,
Assistant Clinician

Bio coming soon

Drawing Face

Alex Kruse,
Assistant Clinician

Alex was born and raised on the north side of Chicago and is a soon to be graduate of Brown University where she studies Computational Biology. She is the proud child of two educators, and actually started her educational journey at age 3 in the very building where QLA now resides! She has been spending as much time as she can since high school working with neurodiverse kids and adolescents, working and volunteering with Best Buddies, Special Olympics, Chicago Park District, Brown University, JCC Apachi, and as a one on one caregiver and tutor. Alex has a true joy and passion for building relationships with young people, and believes deeply in a compassionate, affirming, and individualized approach. She is hoping one day to be a licensed clinician in the field of early childhood and development, and is so excited to start her journey at QLA.


When she’s not hanging out with kids, Alex can often be found walking along the lakefront (her favorite place in the world), blasting music and dancing in her bedroom, or up too late watching Bravo.  

LEEP STAFF 2021-22 41 of 45.jpg

Anna Oremland,
Assistant Clinician

Bio coming soon.

LEEP STAFF 2021-22 11 of 45.jpg

Dina Plofsky,
Assistant Clinician

Bio coming soon.

QLA Picture Day 2021 43 of 44.jpg

Paola Gomez,
Assistant Clinician

Bio coming soon.

Drawing Face

Olivia Terenzio ,
Assistant Clinician

Bio coming soon.

Drawing Face

Aria Kressel,

Bio coming soon.

Girl with Drawing

Jae Garcia,

Bio coming soon.

Drawing Face

Elizabeth Banda, Assistant Clinician

Bio coming soon.

Pencil Bunch
Education Designed Differently.