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Executive Director 


Danielle Tessen 

Danielle is the Executive Director for the Autism Society Alaska. She joined the board in 2012 while working on her Master’s thesis and later became the first hired Executive Director in October 2014. It was during a class on interpersonal relationships that she developed a passion for communication and advocacy. Her master’s thesis examined the experiences of mothers' raising children with autism in Alaska. A passion for public speaking flourished as an adjunct Communication Professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. In her time with the Autism Society of Alaska she has given numerous presentations and training courses in Alaska to inform others about Autism. Danielle's areas of responsibility span across committee management, media relations, finance, compliance, technology, board development and community outreach.

Danielle is a fourth generation Alaskan who values building relationships with people in the Golden Heart Community.

In addition to her work with Autism Society Alaska, Danielle enjoys athletic adventures and spending time with her husband, Craig, and their daughter, Madison. Danielle considers her position with the Autism Society of Alaska an honor and continues to strive to making a positive impact for those who are affected by Autism in Alaska.

 

Board of Directors


Brandy Raby President

Brandy and her husband enjoy raising their two boys in Alaska. As a resident of this great State for 29 years, she graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks with her Associates in Paralegal Studies and had a range of educational experiences from Elementary to Post-Secondary education. Her family enjoys fishing, traveling, hiking, and skiing. By the young age of 2 her oldest son was given the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. This diagnosis set her on a passionate journey which has created many opportunities. She has participated in many State-wide conferences, programs and trainings as well as out of State programs and National Autism Society Conferences. Brandy has held a position on the Board of Directors for the Autism Society of Alaska since 2010. She previously held the position as Vice President and is the current President. As a Board member she has lead parent support groups, participated in fundraising events and has had the opportunity to advocate for ASD awareness, acceptance and services. She is the State representative for the Society Assembly of Affiliate leaders for the National Autism Society Organization. This network of Affiliate leaders work together on local and National levels lobbying in D.C. as well as creating strategic plans and programs to be implemented and available across local and National arenas. Having been on this journey for a while, Brandy has seen the statistics; services and educational opportunities change over the years. She appreciates the individuality of every person who experiences Autism and intends to use her time on the Board as well as any other opportunity she is given to #StompTheStigma that surrounds them and their support systems so that the celebration of who they are can be joined by all.


Denys Collins Secretary

Denys Collins is the Autism Society of Alaska's secretary and social media manager. Raised in Idaho, she moved to Alaska in 2013 with her husband and two kids. It didn't take long for her to realize she was home.

After her son was diagnosed with Autism in 2015, she found herself surprised that so many experience autism yet she knew such little about it. This experience is what drives her to not only focus on increasing public awareness but acceptance as well. Her dream is a fully inclusive world that is willing to change to fit everyone's needs. After attending sensory friendly events with her son, she realized the Autism Society of Alaska was a great way to focus on her new passion. 

When she's not chauffeuring her children around or helping with the Autism Society, she enjoys cheering for the Green Bay Packers with pizza.


Dawn Ham Treasurer

I have lived in Alaska for over 30 years and have a desire to see the community come together and support one another.  I want to see non-profit organizations be successful and educate and encourage one another.  I do not have any children of my own, but am part of a large family and love being called aunt.

Autism is something that I feel is not understood well and am excited to be part of helping to educate others as well as learn more myself.   I appreciate your consideration on adding me to your board.


Joshua Kamerick Board Member who experiences autism

My name is Joshua Kamerick I was born in September 1983. I want tell you that I have disability. You wouldn't believe it that I have a disability until you have met me and get to know me. You will be able to see it more however I tend to hide my disability. My disability does affect my life. I try not to let it sometimes it does control my life. Before hand I have to tell you when I had found out that I had a form of Autism at the 22 years old. It was a load off of my mind because I did not know where I fit in. I did not know who I was. Before hand I was diagnosed with Learning Disability, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified (LD,PDD-NOS) for short. All of my childhood I was held behind of the students the same age. When I graduated High School I had 3rd grade Reading skill and 2nd grade Math skill.

With being diagnosed with Autism I am able to learn more how to adjust and to adapt to the different life skills mostly on social issues. It is hard for me to get the things that I want to say it. Sometimes it makes sense to me and not to the other person or what the other person say it makes sense to them not to me. So I put myself in different situations where that I have to be involved with other people. So I like to find people who have like interest that I have and we go from there. If we don't have in stuff in commons love to learn about them what the like the next time we meet each other I will be more prepared to be on the same line that the are. Sometimes I lead people in an activity where I have to demonstrate how to do stuff. I am at that point where I like to be challenged to get out of my comfort zone.

Since I have been diagnosed with Autism I have overcome many challenges in my life. So I have accepted who I am and keep living. I have accomplished many things in my life like: I have earned my 2nd degree Black Belt in American Taekwondo Association with that I was able to become a student teacher. I also did competition with other who is on the Spectrum. I placed 1st place in Missouri State Special Abilities 3 years in a row. I also love to be a Mentor and to talk to everyone who is willing to listen to me about Autism. One of my favorite things is when a child come up to me who I am teaching. That child said “I can’t do it. I have Autism.” I say to that child so do I have Autism. When they hear that they stopped crying and try what I am showing them how to do it.


Alana Frazier Board Member in the Professional Field 

Alana was born and raised in Virginia. She attended graduate school for occupational therapy at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences in Saint Augustine, Florida, receiving her Master of Occupational Therapy degree in 2012. Alana has since worked in outpatient occupational therapy settings, first in Texas and now in Alaska. As an occupational therapist, she works with individuals on the autism spectrum each week. Much of her continuing education has related to sensory processing challenges and autism spectrum disorder. At work, her focus centers around increasing quality of life for the individual client and extends into the family.

 

Heidi Haas  Founding Honorary Board Member  

As the founding member of the Autism Society of Alaska, Heidi Haas has a dedicated passion for autism and education advocacy. Heidi and her husband were both born and raised in Fairbanks and value the support Alaskan's have shown the Autism Society and especially their family. After her daughter was diagnosed with autism in 2007, Heidi set out to create supports and advocacy for others. Heidi is also a member of the Governor's Council on Disabilities and Special Education, Autism Task Force for the state and is currently the president of the Fairbanks North Star Borough School Board. Being involved in the community that supports our future is important and rewarding for Heidi.

 

Betsey Jacobs Honorary Board Member

The Autism Society Board has voted Betsey Jacobs as the Honorary Board Member, a yearly rotating position. This honor is given to a member in the community who has positively impacted our families who experience autism.

Betsey Jacobs has been a practicing speech-language pathologist in Fairbanks for the past 12 years. She has been a therapy animal handler for over 20 years and currently trains service dogs with Paws for Purple Hearts and The Other Paw Assistance Dogs. Betsey has created Camp YES! in the woods, a camp for all kids, addressing social thinking and sensory regulation, along with service dogs-in-training, in a fun outdoor environment.
Thank you Betsey Jacobs for all you do for Autism in Alaska!


Caitlin Frye Volunteer Grant-Writer

Caitlin moved to Fairbanks in 2013 with her husband and two young girls. She first connected with the Autism Society of Alaska at an event in Fairbanks when she suspected her older daughter was on the autism spectrum. With the organization's help, her daughter was eventually diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Caitlin's family found support, activities, education, and inspiration in the Autism Society of Alaska. Caitlin's background in writing and grant administration, along with her passion for advancing the well-being and acceptance of those who experience autism, made grant-writing for the Autism Society a perfect fit. When she is not caring for her family and writing grants, Caitlin works full-time as a Publications Specialist at the Alaska Department of Transportation and sings and plays guitar with a local band.