What a bittersweet end to a fantastic traineeship for the University of Arizona LEND cohort!

Over the past nine months, Arizona LEND has been involved in some great Leadership Projects designed to step outside of their comfort zones and serve people with disabilities and complex medical needs in Tucson. From neighborhood playgrounds to customized websites, the trainees in this cohort came together to make the most of their skill sets. Here are some of the highlights.

Araceli Olivas, Andrea Moreno, Kayla Ichiba and Aaron Whiteley took educational approaches to their projects. Their goals concentrated on increasing awareness of neurodevelopmental disabilities among professionals in their respective fields. While Moreno and Olivas were designing materials to raise awareness among social workers, Ichiba and Whiteley worked on making their expertise in audiology more accessible to other members of their interprofessional teams. Collaboration at its finest!

Lisa von Geldern, Cynthia Garcia, RN, NNP-BC, and Rachael Charles, MD, MPH directed their attention toward new mothers and their infants. Charles conducted research in which she tracked the neurodevelopmental outcomes of Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) graduates to learn more about associated risk and protective factors. Her work is certainly an honorable contribution to science! Meanwhile, Garcia was serving in the Newborn Developmental Clinic at Diamond Children's Medical Center in Tucson. In the words of Garcia, "it takes a village of dedicated staff" to successfully support positive outcomes for those NICU graduates.

Von Geldern's passion project focused on the creation of a peer support group for new mothers who are battling alcohol dependence, financial strain, and/or social instability. Also, let's not forget Laura Rodriguez, MA, Chelsey Tarazi, and Megan Trout, who created a comprehensive webpage resource for rural bilingual families with infants in special care. These amazing women have gone to great lengths to bolster mothers and babies in those important early years!

Many Arizona LEND trainees took it to the street with some awesome community-based projects. These included strengthening connections between Applied Behavior Analysis researchers and community stakeholders who have been affected by autism (Rebecca Hartzell, PhD, BCBA-D, LBA), advocating and planning for improving accessibility of public parks in Tucson (Toni Saia and Curby Sickmon), and helping to make the Autism Walk & Resource Fair of Southern Arizona a record-breaking success (Rebecca Cummings, Athena Luong, and Sarah Broughton)!

This incredible team is ready to go out and take action for positive change in the world. Like trainee Sarah Broughton always says, "teamwork makes the dream work"