Where are you from? Louisville, Ky – Actually I grew up not too far from DSL!
Why DSL? I was blessed to become a babysitter for one of our members, Emily Stilwell, while in high school. The few summers I spent with her and her siblings made an impact on my life. Emily made me appreciate things and she could ALWAYS make me smile. I became a volunteer as soon as I returned from college.
Favorite DSL Memory: There are too many to count. But, there is one that always makes me emotional. In my first year at DSL, we decided to have a last-minute celebration on campus for World Down Syndrome Day. It was such a great day- just celebrating who we are. I went back to my office after it was over and just cried tears of joy. I think I actually said out loud, “This is my JOB?” I’m so grateful.
Something you may not know about me: I love to paint
DSL is important to me because it is a place of empowerment, but also a place of comfort. Our members know that here we will push them to be their best, yet love them no matter what. It truly is a family.
Get to know more about Julie on this podcast with guest host & DSL Member Katie Croom
Director of Waiver Services and Adult Programs
Where are you from? I am from Louisville, Ky.
Why DSL? I was a teacher in Jefferson County for 29 years, working with students with disabilities. One of my students brought me to DSL to serve on the board and volunteer. I served on the board three terms and once I retired from teaching I began working as the director of the DSL Adult development academy.
Favorite DSL Memory: The opening day of the ADA and seeing the excitement on our member’s faces. It has grown from an initial enrollment of 16 to now 100 members. This speaks to the success of our programs and makes me proud.
Something you may not know about me: I am an avid mystery and thriller reader. I read every night.
DSL is important to me because I want to help empower our members to lead their best lives. I want to provide them opportunities to share their unique abilities on the job, at school, and living independently. I want to encourage our folks to advocate for themselves and educate our community on the importance of inclusion of all people.
Dr. Jenny Kimes
Director of Clinical Services and Children’s Programs
Where are you from? I am from Philadelphia, PA, but have lived in Louisville since 1997.
Why DSL? I came to DSL through the birth of my oldest daughter, Tabitha, who has DS. Initially, I was a parent volunteer before becoming part of the staff in 2004.
Favorite DSL memory: The signing of the studs of the current DSL Lifelong Learning Center (Louisville location), when families could walk through the building as it was being built and sign their names on the beams and studs before they were covered. It amazed me to have a groundbreaking place that was dedicated to the hard work and advocacy of generations of families and to the future success of our members. It was wonderful to see members of all ages come together to celebrate and take part in the commitment to the DSL.
Something you may not know about me: I like to go fishing and although we have two ponds on the farm, finding the time to fish is challenging.
DSL is important to me because it is a place where everyone is working on a common goal: the empowerment of families and members to achieve their dreams.
Finance & HR Director
Where are you from? I am from Eminence, KY
Why DSL? I was looking for a new accounting position. I saw an ad from DSL looking for an accountant/full-charge bookkeeper. I answered the ad, was interviewed and later offered the position. When I first came to the DSL building and campus, after taking in the surroundings and feeling the wonderful atmosphere, I instinctively felt like I belonged there. I was very excited to have the opportunity to work with Down Syndrome of Louisville.
Favorite DSL Memory: The Halloween Party in 2018. The whole place was well decorated for Halloween… that afternoon we made the interior of the building dimly lit; Katie played spooky music over the intercom, and the members came around to each office dressed in costumes. We gave them candy treats and really enjoyed celebrating with them.
Something you may not know about me: I truly love helping people less fortunate than myself.
DSL is important to me because we help children, teens, and adults with Down Syndrome to have fun, enjoy life, feel good about themselves, enjoy interacting with other members and staff, and learn new skills they can use to help them have a good life. The members I have had the privilege of getting to know are very charming and kind people whom I have become very fond of. In addition, the staff at DSL are very talented, professional, kind, caring, and wonderful people to work with.
Where are you from? New Albany, Indiana
Why DSL? I sent a resume to DSL when I saw the building going up on Hurstbourne. I saw the sign that said “Future home of Down Syndrome of Louisville” I knew I had to be a part of it. They called me for an interview 2 years later!
Favorite DSL Memory: I have so many, but nothing gives me more pride than to see our members sharing their abilities and zest for life to the world at the Talent Show each year.
Something you may not know about me: I have a degree in Musical Theatre!
DSL is important to me because everything in my life shifted when I got my job at DSL. Our members are such a breath of fresh air and for me the sunshine on any cloudy day. They give me purpose and energy. I truly believe that we are all a huge family at DSL and look forward to any day that I can serve our members and their families.
Programs & Operations Director
Where are you from? I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Moved to KY, CA, KY again, SC, KY, NC, then back to KY lol
Why DSL? Social Work Practicum. It was a challenge getting DSL approved but I fought hard to make it happen because I didn’t want to be anywhere else! I felt like I was called to be here and always had a love for ALL people
Favorite DSL Memory: OOOOHH there are so many, but I really looked forward to every Friday afternoon when Sierra would come hangout with me and asked for things to do to help me. She would remind me every Friday, every time we saw each other, that she would be up soon to help me work. I always replied “Can’t wait!!” Oh and Jeremy’s story about one time eating at Hooter’s haha…I’ll tell you sometime, so funny One last thing…EVERYTIME I see a performance of any kind I WEEP!
Something you may not know about me: I have visited 12 countries…does Canada count lol… and visiting 3 more in the summer of 2021. I absolutely love meeting new people, learning and experiencing new cultures. I have intense needs to travel and see our beautiful world, a German word describes it best, Fernweh “can be literally translated as farsickness or longing for far-off places”
DSL is important to me because I value life and I believe in DSL’s mission. Educating the public, and advocating for our members rights and inclusion enriches the lives of our members. I have made some of the deepest connections of my life at DSL and it feels like home.
Adult Development Academy Manager
Where are you from? Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, but have lived in Louisville for 20 years.
Why DSL? My work in the residential field for 10+ years led me to pursue a degree in Special Education, which then (luckily) led me to pursue a teaching position at DSL.
Favorite DSL memory: I look forward to our annual trip to Slugger Field each summer with the members! My favorite people, my favorite sport, and my favorite time of year – what could be better?!
Something you may not know about me: I’m ambidextrous
DSL is important to me because every person in our society is valuable, but sadly, not every person is valued. At DSL, our members’ talents, personalities, and successes are valued each and every day!
Adult Education Manager
Where are you from? I am from Hobart, Indiana (Northern Indiana)
Why DSL? I stepped out of my role as a classroom teacher after 14 years in the public school system…My enjoyment diminished as I saw the lack of joy in my students eyes who were constantly faced year round with preparation for the state test… students of all abilities were expected to be top notch. I’m my eyes they were, but on paper they may have not been. I believed in reaching students on their level and in their own time. The connection I had with my students was far more valuable then any state test ever!
Favorite DSL Memory: My 8th year anniversary is coming up in August and I have so many wonderful memories…the best ones are enjoying personal conversations with each of them during lunch or seeing their personalities shine through dance, song, and playing instruments.
Something you may not know about me: I have a nephew with Down syndrome. His name is Alex and he loves wrestling and the ladies.
DSL is important to me because it offers educational classes for our members in all stages of life. Members’ goals and abilities shine as we support, advocate, and educate them to be the best version of themselves. Our building is truly filled with love.
School Age Manager
Where are you from? I am from Louisville, Ky but spent 20 years in the Lexington, Ky area.
Why DSL? After interviewing at DSL I felt an immediate connection to the members and DSL’s mission of education and advocacy.
Favorite DSL Memory: Seeing a member achieve a goal like getting a job, or gaining new skills.
Something we may not know about you: I love to bake!
DSL is important to me because I have found a group of people, members, and families that I love to serve.
ADA Lead Teacher
Where are you from? Salvisa, KY
Why DSL? What brought me to DSL was the desire to give back to the community and engage in personally meaningful work.
Favorite DSL Memory: The first time we had enough produce and herbs from the garden to cook our own healthy snack. It was so cool to see the members pick the produce and herbs, bring them inside, wash, and prepare them, all without ever needing a trip to the store.
Something you may not know about me: I’m actively trying to convince Julie and the powers that be to let me build a chicken coop at DSL. Free eggs, hands-on learning.
DSL is important to me because we’re setting the example for what an inclusive community can look like.
Where are you from? I was born in Brooklyn, New York
Why DSL? Being able to learn and grow as a person from the members.
Favorite DSL Memory: The energy and excitement that comes with the beginning of the SEE program each summer. The smiles and laughter of those kids is the absolute best!
Something you may not know about me: I’m afraid of worms
DSL is important to me because it is a place of kindness and acceptance for everyone. I love the members and have close friendships with many staff members. It’s a great place to be!
Southern Indiana Coordinator
Where are you from? Clarksville, IN
Why DSL? I have volunteered at DSL since I was fifteen. I started by helping at the events then joined Southern Indiana’s Living and Learning class. I have been there ever since.
Favorite DSL Memory: Tutoring my amazing friend, Steven, hanging out with my Southern Indiana members, and helping in the early communication classes held over the summer.
Something you may not know about me: I am a junior at UofL majoring in Psychology. I plan to go to graduate school for Speech Pathology where I hope to specialize in working with kids and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
DSL is important to me because it has become a second home for me since I was fifteen, and I can’t be more grateful to it and its members for being my extended family.
Career Solutions Specialist
Where are you from? I was born in Bowling Green, and moved to Louisville in the summer of 2008.
Why DSL? In 2014, I was working at Our Lady of Peace but was on the hunt for a job with a more reasonable schedule. My mother was who told me about DSL, and I applied right away. I’ve been here since August of 2014 and began my role as an ADA Lead Teacher. After having my first child, I was looking to work a little bit less and have some more flexibility, so I happily transitioned into the Career Solutions program. I had already established relationships with our members, so it was an easy change for me.
Favorite DSL Memory: When all staff and members created a baby pool for me when I was pregnant. Everyone guessed the gender and the date, and we had a huge chart hanging in the classroom. One of our members guessed correctly on both the gender and date!
Something you may not know about me: I have a strong aversion to birds, I met my husband in Las Vegas, and I really enjoy refurbishing furniture.
DSL is important to me because the staff and members quickly become friends and family. I have made so many connections in the community, met so many amazing people, and this is the first job I’ve had that hasn’t felt like work.
Where are you from? Louisville, KY
Why DSL? In elementary, I went to a school with pretty great classroom inclusion and got to be friends with several of our individuals with DS. After college I was looking for a place where I could volunteer and was reminded of my elementary days and how much joy and love those individuals brought to my life. I came to DSL as a volunteer looking to make new friends and rekindle those old friendships and now I get to work with them every day and I LOVE it!
Favorite Memory: Dancing & singing karaoke with Michael Donze at the guy’s lock-in
Something you may not know about me: I love pigs! & it is my dream to own a pot-bellied pig and name it Leonard!
DSL is important to me because inclusion & equality for every person is huge and so necessary – we are called to defend and advocate for those who cannot do so for themselves, and ensure they are able to lead their BEST life! DSL makes this happen every day for so many individuals and families & I want to be a part of that!!
Where are you from? I am from Eastern Kentucky. I grew up just outside of the small town of Grayson, in the middle of nowhere!
Why DSL? After many years as an independent provider of Developmental Intervention, I was ready to become part of a team. I called DSL on a whim, partly because it was located close to my house. Jenny Kimes took the call…and the rest is history!
Favorite DSL Memory: I have wonderful memories of all the families I’ve been privileged to work with over the years. The Walk and the Zoo events are two of my favorites, so I have a lot of good memories from attending those events. I also loved attending the Grand Opening of the new building in the summer of 2011. It was a great day!
Something you may not know about me: I love adventures! I once rode on a camel in the desert. I rode a four-wheeler in the desert too, that was actually more fun! I’m a closet Dog the Bounty Hunter fan. I used to watch his show all the time!
DSL is important to me because I can see and get to be a part of the sense of community fostered by DSL. It is so important for families to know they are not alone on their journey, no matter what it looks like. I love being a part of a team that truly cares about and for its members. When I come to work at the center, I feel joy and kindness in the atmosphere.
ADA Lead Teacher
Where are you from? I grew up in St. Charles, IL; a western suburb of Chicago.
Why DSL? After graduating from Boyce College in Louisville, KY, I decided to stay in town with the intention of working with people with disabilities. I had heard of DSL from my sister who had worked in the S.E.E. program and sent in my resume hoping for an open position. The following spring I received a call about an opening in the Adult Development Academy.
Favorite DSL Memory: Since starting at DSL in 2015, I have always loved the “lightbulb” moments when a piece of information or a new skill clicks with a member.
Something you may not know about me: My wife, Michaela, and I host the Indispensable Podcast.
DSL is important to me because we all work together to give the members a healthy environment to continue learning as well as provide opportunities for growth in relationships with others.
ADA Lead Teacher
Where are you from? I am lucky enough to have been born and raised in Louisville. I love Louisville and enjoy spending time with family and friends.
Why DSL? I knew I wanted a job with meaning and a purpose. I have two nephews with Down syndrome who have brought such joy to our family, so I was thrilled when there was an open teaching position in the Adult Development Academy. I feel so blessed to get to spend my days with such amazing individuals and see everything that they have accomplished.
Favorite DSL Memory: My first summer at DSL we had a water balloon/ water gun fight as part of the Summer Fun Week. We had several staff and lots of members outside chasing each other, laughing, and enjoying the summer weather! I smile every time I think of that day.
DSL is important to me because we are one big supportive family. I love being able to help provide services and opportunities to amazing individuals. It’s impossible to have a bad day at DSL!
Nyna Jenay Parker
Where are you from? I’m originally from Blount County, Alabama; but I’ve lived and raised my children in Kentucky since 2001. I love the Bluegrass State, though my blood runs Crimson (i.e. Roll Tide!).
Why DSL? I’ve been an advocate for people with Down syndrome since I was very young. My brother, Greg, was born with Down Syndrome when I was just shy of 2 years old. As a teenager, I helped my parents make sure Greg had all the same opportunities to participate with friends in school events and educational programs. When I discovered DSL, there was no doubt that I was destined to become a part of this amazing family.
Favorite DSL Memory: I love teaching in ADA. My favorite DSL memories include ADA members singing, dancing, laughing, and celebrating life…so many reasons to celebrate every day!!
Something you may not know about me: In my personal life, I enjoy spending time with my family, reading a good book, and cuddling with my sweet kitty, Luna.
DSL is important to me because I get to facilitate learning and share in the growth of some very amazing adults.
Career Solutions Specialist
Where are you from? My family is from Texas, and I mostly grew up outside of Columbus, Ohio. I also lived in southern Germany for two years after college.
Why DSL? In the summer of 2015, I went on at least a dozen classroom interviews throughout Kentucky. I had some good interviews, but nothing had worked out. My dad, who was a radio DJ in Bardstown at the time, was Facebook friends with Lisa, who used to do our HR. After an interview and meeting the members, I knew I was home.
Favorite DSL Memory: There’s a point in someone’s job training when they know what they are doing, and they still look back to see that you are there. Around this time, they begin to believe in themselves, and that they can do a good job on their own. You can practically see their confidence rise as they start working independently. That is always very special.
Something you may not know about me: As a child, I heckled Gene Hackman at the Indianapolis 500.
DSL is important to me because we are doing human rights work for a segment of the population that historically has their rights enabled last out of all marginalized groups. Consider what your life would be like if you couldn’t go where you wanted, see who you wanted, or if all of your decisions were made with the consent of someone else. That is at the heart of what we do. To enable our members to live their fullest lives and help them overcome barriers that could be standing in their way.
Where are you from? Louisville, KY
Why DSL? I love working at non-profits, have a degree in Non-Profit Leadership, and fell in love with Down Syndrome of Louisville the moment I stepped foot in the door for my interview.
Favorite DSL Memory: Visiting with all the members during camp.
Something you may not know about me: I love new projects, painting, baking, and everything else. Pinterest is both a friend and a foe for me.
DSL is important to me because I have always been an advocate for those in need, and I am just so thankful I get to be an advocate for our members and help their dreams become a reality.
Where are you from? Louisville, KY
Why DSL? The desire to be part of something meaningful and rewarding.
Favorite DSL Memory: Seeing how excited the members were when they saw the video from The Backstreet Boys.
DSL is important to me because I feel we make a difference in our members’ lives. It is so rewarding to see how happy they are when attending our programs. They clearly enjoy coming to DSL. The staff is such a great group of people and they truly care about the members.
Grants & Database Coordinator
Where are you from? Lebanon, KY
Why DSL? I had always heard such good things about DSL, especially when a childhood friend (who is a member here) came here and I saw her progress soar. When I was job hunting, I saw the ad come up on Indeed, and jumped on the chance because I wanted to be a part of something great!
Favorite DSL Memory: I just love walking into the Adult Development Academy every day to see different members I’ve become friends with. Highlight of the workday.
Something you may not know about me: I won second place in a Miss Bacon Festival Pageant. There were two contestants.
DSL is important to me because it’s so easy to want to support and advocate for our members. They’re amazing.
ADA Lead Teacher
Where are you from? Louisville, KY
Why DSL? I love teaching
Favorite DSL Memory: Being dunked in the dunk tank during summer fun week.
Something you may not know about me: I lived and taught in South Korea and Vietnam for eight years.
DSL is important to me because I believe in our mission of kindness and respect. I want to be a part of the change I want to see in the world.