APSE National Team
Jenny has spent her career working alongside and on behalf of people with disabilities, their families, and communities. After 12 years as a music therapist, and increasing frustrations with systemic barriers to inclusion that her clients faced, she received a master’s degree in child and family law from Loyola University Chicago—School of Law and found her professional home in the advocacy world. Jenny has worked as a private advocate for families, a project director at the Wisconsin Parent Training and Information Center, and director of education policy at TASH and the SWIFT Center. In 2016, Jenny’s policy work with the SWIFT Center was honored by the Zero Project—an International NGO monitoring the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Jenny brings her skills as a writer, speaker, facilitator, trainer, and leader to her role at APSE. Jenny is also the mom of two school-aged kids; her teenage son is on the autism spectrum.
Jenny’s contact information:
Professional Development Director
Erica spent the first half of her career as a teacher in an integrated classroom from 2000-2006. She then worked in the private sector, advancing to Director of Educational Programs at Falls View Academy where she developed program opportunities through Supplemental Educational Services (SES) and Extended Learning Programs (ELT) across the state for students with disabilities and underserved populations. In 2015 she began working in Vocational Rehabilitation Community Employment at the Center for Human Services Education, create materials and provide trainings to school personnel on options for students with disabilities after high school. As a Special Education teacher herself she was unaware of how many young adults with disabilities are unemployed. Bridging the gap between the high school and college/work became her passion. In her most recent role as the Associate Director of the CHSE, she had the opportunity to oversee contracts that provided training and education to agencies that provide Supported Employment across NYS. A highlight of this position was collaborating and organizing the yearly NYS APSE Conference in Lake Placid, NY. Erica and her husband live in Fairport, NY with their three children. In her free time she volunteers as a Parent Representative on the Committee for Special Education.
Erica's contact information:
Director of Policy and Advocacy
Julie J. Christensen, LMSW, PhD, is the Director of Policy and Advocacy at APSE – the Association of People Supporting EmploymentFirst. Prior to joining APSE, she was the Director of Iowa’s University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), Center for Disabilities and Development (CDD), at the University of Iowa. Julie’s background encompasses work in schools, not-for-profits, government and higher education. For the past 15+ years, her career has centered around improving quality of life outcomes for at-risk youth, including youth with intellectual and development disabilities, through promoting employment and access to leisure and recreation opportunities in inclusive settings. She currently maintains an adjunct faculty appointment in the University of Iowa School of Social Work. Her research and policy work has focused in the areas of transition, employment, quality of life, and leisure and recreation participation of people with disabilities across the lifespan. Julie also currently serves as the Senior Disability Policy Fellow for the Harkin Institute at Drake University.
Julie's contact information:
Jaya Franklin joined APSE in February 2019 as a Marketing and Communications Manager. In this position she is responsible for overseeing the marketing/communications initiatives and messaging to all APSE members, internal and external stakeholders. Prior to joining APSE, Jaya served as the Associate Director of Communications for Georgia State University College of Law. Jaya is based in Atlanta, Georgia where she serves on the Board of Trustees for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and as a Super Crew Volunteer for the society’s annual events. Currently, she is completing her second-term as the Vice President of Digital Media with the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists, where she heads their digital communications efforts and leads programming for #AABJDigital, a series of workshops offered to members to educate them on emerging digital trends and tools. In her free time, she heads Visionary Artistry Online Magazine’s internship program. Va Mag was launched eight years ago by Jaya and her brother J.Q. Franklin, after merging their love for the arts, and making an effort to fill a void to provide a hands-on training opportunity for aspiring writers with little to no writing experience. Jaya coaches college students and recent graduates in writing, reporting and editing. She also assists them in landing gainful employment after graduation. Fun Fact: Jaya is a writer at heart and loves to collect random notebooks, journals and pens to jot down her thoughts, ideas and daily activities.
Jaya's contact information:
Operations Support Manager
Sarah joined APSE as project coordinator in 2016. Sarah assists with CESP™ program, membership, and conference coordination. She has worked in the administrative field for a number of years helping teams with project coordination and quality assurance. Sarah received a bachelor’s of science in applied psychology from Pennsylvania State University.
Sarah’s contact information:
Erynn Pawlak is an Accounting and Finance professional who has worked extensively within the nonprofit world, specifically in the overlapping areas of human and environmental rights. She is excited to have the opportunity to apply her professional knowledge to APSE. Employment First advocacy is near and dear to her heart.
After receiving her B.S. of Agricultural Economics from Colorado State University, Erynn went on to receive her MBA in Finance from American Public University. Erynn uses her love of “big picture thinking” to help focus on specific operational needs that help propel businesses and non-profit organizations. She continues to manage her consulting firm, Content Llama Consulting, in order to help small businesses and entrepreneurs. Erynn is the founder of a local parenting group, OMG We’re Parents! which brings together families of children with special needs, in order to enjoy outings, exchange information and network within the community.
She is also a lifelong Girl Scout and continues to lead a group of very special girls. Erynn spends her days on her little chunk of land in Clarksburg, MD with her husband, two young children, two dogs, a flock of chickens and soon-to-be goat. She enjoys cooking, leatherwork, writing, camping and traveling.
Erynn’s contact information:
Christa P. Rainwater
Director of Member and Chapter Engagement
Christa P. Rainwater is a passionate leader committed to social justice, member development and engagement, and equity and inclusion. Christa began her career as an educator — teaching Introduction to Women’s Studies courses at the collegiate level, sociology, geography, and American Government at the middle and high school levels. In her most recent role at the International City-County Management Association (ICMA), Christa led ICMA’s women’s initiatives, drove equity and inclusion programming, chapter development and engagement for ICMA’s student chapters and Women Leading Government state chapters. Christa brings membership experience, project and organizational management skills, and relationship-building capabilities — as well as a strong personal desire to advocate for people with disabilities and the amazing people who support them. She has a master’s degree in political science with a concentration in feminist theory from the University of South Florida and a master’s degree in Secondary Education from George Washington University. Christa lives in Arlington, Virginia with her amazing husband, son, and two dogs.
Christa's contact information:
Kari began her work in supported employment as a job developer in Des Moines, Iowa. It was there that Kari discovered the true enjoyment of seeing businesses view inclusion as a best business practice. As a Customized Employment Specialist, Kari served as an advocate for the integration of qualified job seekers with diverse abilities into the workforce using their skills and talents.
Now serving in the role of Certification Director with National APSE, Kari partners with employment professionals across the country to support the continued professional development of direct support professionals.
Still living in Iowa, Kari has served on the Iowa APSE Board of Directors since 2016 and is currently serving as President. Kari earned her M.Ed. in Higher Education from Iowa State University and her Bachelor's degree from Drake University.
Kari’s contact information: