We would not be able to make our mission possible without the hard work put in by our dedicated board members. Autism Awareness Shop owes its success to each and every person on our board. You can learn more about the team that is making our mission turn into a reality below!
Jenifer Band COTA/L, President
Jenifer created Autism Awareness Shop, along with her husband Scott Band, in order to increase autism awareness and acceptance, as well as establish employment for their son, who was diagnosed with ASD in 1999 at the age of 2. Jenifer has been providing Occupational Therapy services to individuals with autism since 2004 in both school and private clinical settings, as well as serving as an instructor for the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program at Keiser University in Pembroke Pines, Florida for almost 2 years. The need for a comprehensive adult vocational training program that offers on the job training, with fading supports in place, is a venture she feels very passionately about both personally and professionally.
Christian Wilson, Vice President
Chris has over 20 years of sales, marketing and management experience and is the founder of We Rock for Autism, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit that raises funds to assist children with autism receive music therapy. Christian’s goal is to use his background and experience to help Autism Awareness Shop provide successful training and employment opportunities to adults on the spectrum.
Merraina Acevedo, Secretary-Treasurer
Merraina is a single mother to two boys one of whom is on the Autism Spectrum. Her son was diagnosed at the age of 5 and has been in the ASD program through Hillsborough County Schools ever since. Merraina is very active with not only the PTA but also the ESE department at her son’s school to make sure that all kids are included in all activities. Merraina also actively raises money for various Autism charities. One of her biggest goals is to make sure her son has the opportunity to not only work independently as an adult but also to continue to receive necessary education & therapy services well into adulthood. Merraina has been employed as a full charge bookkeeper for the past 16 years.
Annie Russell, M.Ed. is the Director of the Florida Autism Center of Excellence (FACE) a charter school in Tampa, Florida for students on the Autism Spectrum. Annie is a graduate of USF where she studied Special Education with a concentration in Behavior Disorders. She has worked with individuals with Autism, both in schools as well as residential settings, for 8 years. Annie also has two adult family members with Autism. Ensuring that individuals with Autism have access to appropriate educational and vocational opportunities is her life-long commitment and passion.
Melissa Jablonski has been working with children with disabilities for 20 plus years. She has 2 degree’s, one in Early Childhood Education and the other in Human Services with a focus on Applied Behavior Sciences. She has spent her entire career working with children and adults with disabilities. She has been a preschool teacher, and has taught Kindergarten thru 12th grade in both public and private schools. She holds her advanced level state of Florida child care center director’s credentials and is currently the Director of Early Beginnings Academy, United Cerebral Palsy of Miami Charter School. The school focuses on early intervention and serves children birth to 2nd grade with diagnosed disabilities. In her spare time, along with her 17 year old daughter she coaches a special needs cheerleading team. They coach boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 49 years old and compete against other exceptional athletes throughout the state of Florida.