Staff

 

Karen Thompson is the Executive Director at ASK. She works across all projects and serves on a number of statewide committees representing persons with disabilities and their families in the areas of healthcare and education. Karen is thrilled to be part of such a passionate, expert staff team! She credits the board members and staff with making the organization what it is today and considers herself lucky to be a part of it. Karen has worked in disability advocacy, rehabilitative training/counseling, and public program administration serving people with disabilities professionally for nineteen years. She holds a Bachelor's in Psychology. Her family experience with disabilities spans three generations. She is the daughter of a stroke survivor, the mother of two children with ADHD, and a person with dyslexia. She sees her disability as an attribute and challenges others to do the same.

Mari Reynolds is The Transition Iowa Project Coordinator and Data Coordinator for ASK Resource Center.  She worked with families as a Family Support Coordinator for 15 years.  She has developed and provided training and resource materials to empower families and the professionals who support them with the goal to advocate for a child’s needs.  Mari has served on the Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Council, the Olmstead Consumer Task Force, Family Peer Support Advisory Council and Trauma Informed Care Stakeholder group.  She has a younger brother with multiple disabilities. 

Deb Chiodo is a Family Partnership & Professional Development Project Coordinator and Co-Director at ASK. She has worked there three years. Prior to working at ASK, Deb was an elementary school principal for over 20 years focusing on collaborative leadership, mentoring teachers and developing and designing curriculum to enhance and support all student’s needs. She has a Master's in Administrative Leadership and a Specialist in Administration from Drake University and received her Bachelor's in Education with an emphasis on special education from the University of Michigan. Deb is highly active in the education community statewide, serving on the boards of United Way and Employee Family Resources. She is passionate about advocating for families and student’s needs, heading up the initiative Family School Partnership with leading education experts from around the country. Deb is driven to use data to help advocate for students and families in Iowa.

Jessica Gituma is a Family Support Specialist for the Early Hearing Detection & Intervention program in collaboration with the Iowa Department of Public Health at ASK. She holds a Bachelors degree in Psychology and a Masters degree in Business Leadership. She has served 2 years as an AmeriCorps Volunteer with a focus on positive youth development programming through the Iowa State of Promise AmeriCorps program 2008-2010. She has worked in programs that impact children in early childhood including Child Care Resource and Referral program specialist and SIEDA Community Action’s Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visitation (MIECHV) family support. In the past she has assisted with the launch of a new child abuse prevention council and has served in AmeriCorps reaching some of the most at risk youth through recreation. Most recently, Jessica came to ASK after running a business with her husband for three years where they worked with the school to provide limited internship and work skill building opportunities for high school students with special learning needs. Jessica brings lived experience to her role specific to hearing loss through her son who has Down’s Syndrome and mixed hearing loss.

Anthony Nguyen is a full-charge Bookkeeper at ASK. He is an immigrant from South of Vietnam. He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from University of Economics in Vietnam, Associate Degree of Accounting from Des Moines Area Community College and Master of Accounting from Drake University. With many years working in the accounting industry, Anthony has discovered his passion in numbers. Accounting is a career, not a job, to him. He joined ASK in 2016. He enjoys digging in issues for solutions and procedure improvements as well as setting up a clean and healthy accounting system which provides the Management with reliable and informative data for decision making.

Alicia Karwal is a Family Support Specialist at ASK working primarily for the Parent Training and Family to Family Health Information Center projects. Additionally, she is a trainer for RESPECT which is a training offered through ASK. Prior to working for ASK, Alicia was a Family and Educator Partnership Coordinator with Des Moines Public Schools. She is also a former elementary special education teacher for the West Des Moines Community School District and Director of Children’s Ministries for a downtown church in Des Moines. Alicia earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s in Education from The University of Northern Iowa. Alicia has always been passionate about advocating for individuals with differing needs. Alicia also has lived experience with disabilities. Her husband lives with a spinal cord injury. Together they have two daughters, the youngest with several diagnoses including cerebral palsy and ADHD. In her current role, she feels privileged to work with Iowa families of children with disabilities, helping to guide, support and empower families in their journey. She also partners with the many professionals that serve these individuals.

Erin Bollman is a Family Support Specialist and Social Media Coordinator for ASK. Erin has a Bachelor's Degree in Graphic Design from Grand View University as well as an AA in Computer Programming. Prior to working at ASK she owned an Art Gallery in downtown Des Moines where she organized events and fundraisers for local non-profits to benefit the homeless and March of Dimes – March for Babies. Erin serves on the Children at Home Advisory Board and advocates at the state and federal level for access to life-changing medicine. Her son has UBE2A Deficiency Syndrome which caused him to have a rare seizure disorder with cognitive and physical disabilities, who is also non-verbal and struggles with self-harming and aggression. Erin feels that her son’s diagnosis changed her life for the better and that he taught her about life, love and how to celebrate all the little things.

Marilyn Kowbel is the Administrative Assistant at ASK. Prior to joining the ASK team Marilyn worked as a Quality Assurance Specialist working in Mortgage Fraud Forensic. She also brings over eighteen years of financial experience, including the positions of supervisor and manager. Part of her credentials include advanced training through the American Institute of Banking-Michigan Branch. Her background in Human Resources, also brings an added depth to our team.