Beth Wassell, Board Co-President.
Beth Wassell is a Professor of Language Teacher Education at Rowan University, where she teaches courses in bilingual and world language education for future and current K-12 teachers. She also conducts research on social justice approaches to language education and the experiences of immigrant-origin students and families in schools.
Beth received a EdD (University of Pennsylvania), MA in Spanish (University of Central Florida), BA in Spanish, and a graduate certificate in TESOL (Penn State University). Prior to her work in higher education, she taught high school Spanish in Florida and NJ and English to newcomer immigrant adults in Philadelphia.
She is an advocate for suicide prevention and regularly participates in initiatives sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Patricia Kenney, Board Co-President.
Patricia is a licensed clinical social worker with 25 years of psychotherapy experience. After 15 years of teaching high school science in a variety of capacities, Patricia decided to take a bold new turn, and she entered the MSW program at Widener University. Since 1997, her career path thus far has provided the opportunity for vast experiences ranging from the non-clinical like courtroom expertise, teaching in workshops, and publishing essays, to refining her clinical skills in group, individual, and family therapies. She specializes in the areas of addictions, anxiety and trauma, and relationship counseling.
While most of her professional clinical experience has been in private practices, both her own and as an employee, Patricia also gained valuable expertise in a trauma-informed agency setting for 7+ years. At Center for Family Services, Patricia wore many hats: both clinician and clinical supervisor for graduate-level interns, intermediate-level clinicians, and fully licensed clinicians. As manager of the outpatient department, Patricia was responsible for supervising clinicians, advanced practice nurses, and administrative staff who worked in the outpatient department.
When asked why Patricia wanted to serve on the Board of Allies in Caring, she said, “AIC is an organization that gets it. You cannot successfully help traumatized, mentally, or cognitively disabled children in a bubble. These children need to be treated in addition to, along with, the family systems they live in. Home-based care is the optimal form of treatment for the hope of enabling these children and their families to recover, learn better-coping skills, and survive and thrive in today’s world.”
Tania Rivera, Board Secretary.
Tania is a mother of 3 and an engaged Hammonton resident. She volunteers at the community garden, Con-Vivir Wellness Hub, Church, Downton Hammonton Mainstreet, and CATA (The farmer's support committee), among other civic organizations. Tania is a Connector of the Hammonton Health Coalition. In addition, she has served as a translator for New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI).
She likes how Allies in Caring (AIC) prioritizes the mental well-being of the community. Tania believes helping people, disregarding their economic status, is essential. Involving communities that are mostly left out shows how much equity is important. One of her biggest goals is to bring awareness into the Latinx community about the importance of mental health. She believes a big part of the Latino community keeps feelings inside and hidden in the shadows.
Melissa Rivera Screven, Board Trustee.
Melissa Rivera Screven is a doctoral student at Montclair State University's PhD in Family Science and Human Development program. Her research focus is on the cultural and linguistic responsiveness of marginalized populations, with particular emphasis on the translingual strategies used by multilingual Latinx families with Deaf children.
Melissa teaches American Sign Language (ASL) at the collegiate level. She owes her love of ASL to her Deaf family members, who have inspired a deep appreciation of the culture and language of the American Deaf community. In her current role as COO of the Multicultural Teachers of the Deaf, LLC, she serves to recruit and retain teachers of color in the fields of Deaf Education and Interpreter Preparation Programs. She has also obtained her MEd in Foreign Language Pedagogy (Indiana University at Bloomington), BS in ASL/English Interpreting (Bloomsburg University), and holds K-12 certification in Teaching ASL as a World Language and English as a Second Language (ESL). Melissa has held faculty and/or administrative appointments in Interpreter Training Programs, Deaf Studies, Deaf Education, Elementary Education, English as a Second Language, and Curriculum Writing in ASL and ESL.
Through her transdisciplinary research and expertise, Melissa aims to address the unique needs of Latinx populations, within a strength-based paradigm, to influence policy and guide practitioners working with Latinx families across various settings.
-”Allies in Caring serves to provide Latinx families with appropriate resources and accessibility in the areas of healthcare, language, and more. In collaboration with community members as stakeholders, we can build on the capital that already exists in our own Latinx communities. ¡Sí se puede!”
Ron Popowski, Board Trustee
Born and raised in a Deaf family in the Meadowlands neighborhood of New Jersey, Ron embarked on a career in natural resources, starting as a volunteer at Everglades National Park. His journey then took him to Yellowstone National Park and Gallaudet University, where he earned a Bachelor's degree in Biology.
Ron later completed a Master's in Wildlife Sciences at the University of Arizona, focusing on wildlife movement. He joined the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, contributing to conservation efforts across different roles. In 2006, he transferred to the New Jersey Field Office, eventually becoming a Supervisory Fish and Wildlife Biologist, managing programs for endangered species.
Ron's profound experience and commitment make him an invaluable asset as an AIC Board Trustee, championing essential Deaf-related programs in Southern Jersey.
Zerian Douglas, Board Trustee.
Zerian is a recent graduate of Rowan University with a B.S. in Biological Sciences. During his time at Rowan, he was actively involved in academic research and developed a strong interest in medicine.
Currently, Zerian works as a medical assistant at a rheumatology office and volunteers at Inspira Hospital in Vineland. He is passionate about improving mental and public health for underserved communities, drawing inspiration from his Latin background.
Zerian shared: "I am thrilled to join the AIC Board. My family instilled in me the importance of community involvement. I am eager to combine my interests in healthcare and mental health to make a difference on an often neglected issue."
Meena Peruvemba, Board Trustee.
Meena is a dedicated finance professional with many years of non-profit accounting experience. She comes with a wide range of experience in business advising, strategic planning, financial accounting and audit preparations.
She is collaborative and can also suggest process improvements. She also has extensive experience in leading the audit, collaborating with the senior executives in preparation of budgets and other financial analysis required for better decision making.