State Rehabilitation Council Members
Juliet Hardeman - Chair
Juliet Hardeman is a mentor in the Georgia Parent Mentor Partnership, where she supports families of students with disabilities in Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools. During her career, she also taught high school students with disabilities. Additionally, Juliet served in the Army Medical Service Corps for over 21 years; she has been deployed globally in support of combat and humanitarian missions.
Juliet holds a master of Education from Georgia Southern University. She and her husband, Frank, have been married over 32 years and raised two daughters on Wilmington Island, Georgia.
Kate Brady, Ph.D. ABD
Kate Brady has worked in the field of disability policy, services, and systems advocacy for nearly two decades. Kate is Deputy Director for the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities with extensive experience in vocational rehabilitation, Medicaid, Social Security, systems change, and workforce development. She lives in Hapeville with her wife Michelle, two children, and three huskies.
Deborah Hibben is a retired high school public educator who previously worked for Henry and Clayton County Schools. In addition to being a member of the SRC, she also serves on the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities.
Deborah has two children, Hillary Anne and Hannah Elizabeth, the younger of whom is an adult with Down syndrome who has been meaningfully employed since finishing school in 2016. Deborah’s highest degree is an Education Specialist from Lincoln Memorial University. She lives in McDonough.
Matthew Barnes has been employed at The ARC of Southwest Georgia for more than 22 years. In his current role as an employment specialist, he strives to help disabled job seekers find meaningful employment. During his tenure at The ARC, he has held several positions within the organization. Matthew has served as an instructor of work readiness training as well as anger management training and behavior management training. He has been a manager at one of the ARC of SWGA employment work training sites. Matthew also has been a director, building relationships with business leaders and community stakeholders.
A native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, Matthew moved to the U.S. with his family at the age of 12. He graduated from Georgia Southwestern State University with a bachelor of science in Psychology in 1998. He obtained a master of education in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of Georgia in 2000. Matthew passed the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor exam and has maintained his CRC Certification for over 22 years. He lives in Albany.
Christina Peggy Venable has over 40 years of experience with vocational rehabilitation services, case management, job placement and vocational evaluation, among other areas of expertise. She is certified in work adjustment, vocational evaluation, job placement and worker’s compensation.
Peggy is the project director of The Muskogee Vocational Rehabilitation Program and has served as a family, individual and mental health counselor with various other agencies. She is a member of the Georgia and National Rehabilitation Association, Georgia State Rehab Council and the Georgia Statewide Coalition on Blindness. She also serves as treasurer on the Executive Board of the Consortia of Administrators for Native American Rehabilitation (CANAR). She holds a Master’s in Psychology, a Doctorate in Theology, a Ph.D. in Philosophy and received her Doctorate of Divinity, Summa Cum Laude.
She is a member of The Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe and the Project Director for the Muskogee Vocational Rehabilitation Program. She is a singer, songwriter, author and serves as the tribal historian of The Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe in Whigham, Georgia.
Austin McDonald is a physical education teacher with Cornerstone Christian Academy in Peachtree Corners, Georgia. He has seven years of experience in both private and public schools, and he has used his time as a physical education teacher to help students overcome their unique barriers and provide encouragement. He lives in Dunwoody, Georgia with his wife, Christine, and their child, Ryelee.
Cherise Mlott is Director of Corporate Real Estate Portfolio Management and Transactions at AT&T. Mlott has worked for AT&T for twenty-three years. Mlott earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia and an MBA from Georgia State University. Cherise is a strong advocate for the Multiple Sclerosis Society and has cycled for the last 19 years raising over $310,000 to fund a cure for MS. She is a native of Atlanta and lives in Brookhaven, Georgia with her husband Brent and Katie, their Irish Setter.
Jennifer M. Page is the Director of the Georgia Client Assistance Program and has worked for this agency for the past 13 years. She has worked with the disability community for 18 years. Jennifer is a member of the Georgia Rehabilitation Association, the Georgia Rehabilitation Counselors and Educators Association and attends workshops and trainings to improve her knowledge and skills to better assist her clients. CAP is involved in community outreach to inform and educate those who are not aware of the services GVRA and CAP can provide. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from South Carolina State University and a master’s degree in Counseling from Webster University and resides in Atlanta.
Lisa Leiter is a Transition Coordinator for Marietta City Schools. Lisa earned a bachelor of science in Education, with a concentration in Intellectual Disabilities, from the University of Georgia. She holds a master of science in Education with an emphasis in Secondary Special Education and Transition from the University of Kansas. Lisa is an active member of both the Metro Atlanta Transition Council and the Statewide Interagency Council.
Lisa, along with her family, served as the ambassador family for the 2013 March of Dimes Cobb Signature Chefs. Additional honors include being named 2014 “Volunteer of the Year” by Cobb Life Magazine and 2018 “Teacher of the Year” by the Marriott Foundation’s Bridges from School to Work Program. She and her husband, Jason, have four children and live in Marietta.
Brenda Bentley-Parrish is a management and program analyst and the local accessibility coordinator for the Internal Revenue Service. She enjoys having oversight of the employees with disabilities in the Accounts Management business unit. Brenda earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Knoxville College, in Knoxville, Tennessee. She has two children: a son Theodore and a daughter Brionne. Last year, she was blessed with granddaughter Dallas Kynnedi Simone Smith. She lives in DeKalb County, Georgia.
Dawn Johnson is the Director of Employment Services with the Hi-Hope Center and the former director of adult programs for the Frazer Center. She represents Georgia as a legislative liaison on the National Association of People Supporting Employment (APSE) First Public Policy Committee and sits on the board of directors for the Georgia chapter of APSE. Dawn also sits on the board of directors for the Service Providers Association for Developmental Disabilities and is a member of the UNLOCK! Coalition, which advocates for child and adult disability services in Georgia. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of South Carolina Aiken and a master’s degree in English from Queens University of Charlotte. Dawn and her husband, Joe, have two children and reside in Winder.
Wina H. Low
Wina Low is the State Director of the Division for Special Education Services and Supports with the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE). Prior to serving as State Director, she worked in other roles at GaDOE. Before joining GaDOE, Wina was the director of student services for Carrollton City Schools and served as an educational diagnostician and as a classroom teacher.
Wina earned a bachelor’s degree in Middle Grades Education from Brenau University. She holds a master’s degree as well as an education specialist degree in Special Education and Special Education Administration from the University of West Georgia. Wina and her husband, Michael, have two children and two granddaughters. They reside in Big Canoe in the North Georgia mountains.
Karen Addams is a vice president at Parent to Parent of Georgia, where she has worked for over 15 years. Previously, she worked for six years as a Parent Educator for the Babies Can’t Wait program for Georgia State University.
Karen has been supporting the disability community since the birth of her daughter over 35 years ago. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University. Karen and her husband, Peter, live in Lilburn and are the parents of two daughters.
Col. Dr. Samuel Verniero, Jr.
A resident of Holly Springs, Samuel is a Kentucky Colonel, an Arkansas Traveler and Ambassador, a United Nations World Humanity Commission Deputy High Commissioner-Ambassador, and a member of the Selective Service System Appellate Judicial Board. In 2020, Incyte Corp. and Cure Media Group named Samuel a 2020 MPN Hero for his advocacy on behalf of those living with Myeloproliferative Neoplasms (MPN). A tireless advocate, Samuel has also served on the DeKalb Community Service Board and the Department of Behavioral Health Advisory Council.
On Capitol Hill, Georgians honored Samuel’s advocacy through two separate Georgia Senate resolutions in 2020 and in 2023. Similarly, he was honored by the Georgia House of Representatives through two separate resolutions in 2020 and in 2021. In 2019, Gov. Brian Kemp named Samuel an Honorary Lt. Colonel Aide De Camp, along with other commendations.
Jerry Haywood is the Program Coordinator and an Associate Professor of Psychology at Fort Valley State University. Before accepting a full-time faculty appointment, he worked as Director of Academic Counseling & Disability Services for nearly 10 years where he served as an advocate and liaison for students with disabilities within the University community. Haywood’s research and program development strategies on African American Males in Higher Education have been well recognized by colleagues and scholars across the nation. He attributes much of his success and his passion to his experiences growing up in a small town in rural Georgia. Haywood received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling, both from Fort Valley State University. In 2012, he received a Ph.D. in Psychology from Capella University. In addition to his experience in higher education, he has over 15 years of experience and training in both group and individual counseling.
Katie Hearn works for the Atlanta Braves as Senior Coordinator, Digital & Accessible Services, and is their Club ADA Coordinator. At the age of 28, Hearn was diagnosed with pseudotumor cerebri, a rare disorder related to high pressure around the brain due to an excess of spinal fluid, resulting in the loss of her eyesight. In 2018, the Braves awarded Hearn with the Walker Banks Award for her extraordinary customer service. Hearn is passionate about providing opportunities to Georgians with disabilities to live, work, and thrive in our state. She resides in Smyrna.
For 18 years, Joy Norman served as the director of the Center for Accommodation and Access at Columbus State University. Recently retired, she continues to work as a part-time instructor at Columbus State University. She also delivers self-advocacy presentations to high school students with disabilities through High School High Tech.
Joy served six years as the chair of the Columbus Mayor’s Commission for Persons with Disabilities. To honor her public service, Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson proclaimed September 1, 2021, as Joy Norman Day in Columbus. Joy and her husband, Mickey Norman, have a son and a daughter, and six granddaughters. She holds a bachelor’s degree in health science and a master’s in community counseling.
Aarti Sahgal is the founder of Synergies Work, a 501c3 that is committed to expanding business opportunities for people with disabilities. By providing mentorship, training, and ongoing support through their network of industry experts and volunteers, the organization helps individuals find that special spark and turn it into a business. As a parent of a child with Down Syndrome, Sahgal has always been an advocate for her son and resisted services for her son that might isolate or disempower him. Prior to founding Synergies Work, Sahgal worked as a consultant to the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, building inclusive communities and workforce strategies for individuals with different abilities and for three years with Parent to Parent of Georgia as a diversity coordinator. She currently serves as a secretary on the board of Georgia APSE. Sahgal holds a degree in business administration and has worked in the for-profit world for 14 years.