Advisory Board

Patrick Bartholomew head shot Patrick Bartholomew is a Speech-Language Pathologist with 30 years experience working primarily with individuals with complex communication needs. Much of his career has focused on implementing AAC and assistive technology with children and adults. During his career, Patrick helped to develop the Assistive Technology Resource Center in Morganton and coauthored research centered on AAC and autism and training communication partners. He currently works for a private practice serving young children with a variety of communication challenges. When he's not working, he enjoys woodworking and gardening. He is married and has two grown children and two grandchildren.

photo of Kate Brinko and son


Kate Brinko is Coordinator of Mediation Services and Employee Relations Consultant in the Office of Human Resources at Appalachian State University.  She claims to have at least a master’s degree in special education after parenting Mieszko Kwiatkowski, a young adult and talented artist who happens to have Down Syndrome.

Kaaren Hayes

Ron Henries

Betsy Laws is a K-5 teacher of Exceptional Children with intensive needs at Love Memorial Elementary. This is an inclusive school located in Lincoln County, North Carolina. She holds NC teaching certification in Elementary Education (Grades K-6) and Special Education (Grades K-12). Her focus is aiding in helping students have access to communicating and reading.

Dawn Sowers

Photo of Merlie Jackson and Jessie Merlie Jackson is a parent of three grown children and full time caregiver for adult daughter (Jessie) with developmental disabilities. Currently on management team for High Country First In Families and former member of the North Carolina Stakeholders Engagement Group Initiative and Smoky Mountain Consumer and Family Advisory Committee member.  Founder of Facebook group Riding For You. Active in community with her daughter Jessie to allow her to live her life despite the challenges she faces daily.


Kelly Wilson

Carole Zangari