Executive Director – Matthew Garcia
Matthew C. Garcia, originally from Charlotte, North Carolina, is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Vermont Law School. After his admission to the Vermont bar, he worked as a trial court law clerk in the Vermont Judiciary for several years, followed by a session with the Vermont Legislature as Legislative Counsel in health care policy.
Since 2008 Matthew has pursued a modest private practice in law in White River Junction, but devotes the majority of his time to what he likes to call “humanitarian” work. Matthew was a member of the board of directors of the Good Neighbor Health Clinics in WRJ for almost ten years, serving at various times as fundraising chair, vice chair, and chair of the board. He is currently the vice chair of the board of trustees of the Valley Court Diversion Programs and volunteers as a community justice board member there. He is also a member of the board of trustees of Healthcare and Rehabilitation Services of Southeastern Vermont. Matthew has been a Guardian ad Litem in the Vermont Family Courts for five years, he is a member of the Judiciary’s GAL Oversight Committee, and recently founded a statewide Vermont non-profit group, the Friends of Vermont GAL, Inc. He is also a founding volunteer attorney for the Windsor-Orange Legal Assistance Project and is a volunteer at Headrest in Lebanon, NH.
Program & Center Manager – April Smith Bean, MEd
April is excited to have recently returned to the Upper Valley. She is a Montessori trained teacher with many years of experience working in special education. April has worked to develop a special education school and teacher training program in India and is currently busy creating an ecovillage Montessori school here in Vermont. She has worked with various non-profits, including Special Olympics and domestic violence advocacy. In her free time, April is an avid downhill skier, loves animals and handwork such as knitting, and is always reading several books at a time.
Community Outreach Coordinator – John Fenley
John Fenley was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor at the age of three which required four surgeries to successfully remove. Though the resulting brain injury created obstacles to overcome, John strives to define himself by his abilities rather than his disabilities. He has made it his calling to speak openly and passionately about his experiences in the hope that it might inspire others to join the disability rights movement.
Since 2008 John has faithfully served as President of UNITE (formerly Upper Valley Neighbors) an advocacy chapter based in Lebanon, New Hampshire. In 2012 he was elected President of the statewide advocacy organization, People First of New Hampshire. In that same year John was appointed to the Council on Developmental Disabilities by the Governor, and helped create Advocate NH – an organization that plans and delivers the annual statewide disability rights conference. In 2013 he joined the Self Advocacy Leadership Team (SALT) a group that addresses issues of: abuse and neglect, accessible transportation, and mentorship of young advocates. Through his extensive involvement in these organizations, John has had many opportunities to testify at the NH State House on issues of health and human services.
Venues in which John Fenley has given keynote presentations include: NH Direct Support Provider Conference, Family and Caregiver Support Conference, and Self Advocacy: Learn it! Live it! Love it! Conference. He has been invited to speak at trainings for: the NH Bureau of Developmental Services, NH Institute on Disabilities, and the NH Leadership Series. In 2014 he presented at the Massachusetts Direct Support Provider Conference. With a style more conversational than lecture, John Fenley is sure to engage any audience with his passion and humor.
Marketing Specialist – Cortney Nichols
Cortney has worked in many fields and began by working with small non-profits helping them build their brand awareness before coming to Spark! Community Center. She continues to help local non-profits with their marketing, development, and communication strategies in a consultant capacity. Cortney is also a board member with the NH Association of Conservation Commissions and the Claremont Chamber of Commerce. She is also a blogger for stayworkplay.org.
In her free time, Cortney can be found enjoying the beautiful New Hampshire outdoors. She loves kayaking, horseback riding, hiking, and volunteering in the field of conservation.
Activities Specialist – Allison Zito
Allison Zito has a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Allison’s artwork has been exhibited in numerous museums including the Berkshire Museum in Massachusetts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Delaware Art Museum and the Pennsylvania State Museum. She taught studio art for more than ten years at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, various Art, Art History and Humanities Classes for eight years at the college level at Harcum College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania and continues to teach as a visiting artist for the University of Pennsylvania. Allison teaches art classes in the Upper Valley at The AVA Gallery in Lebanon and at her studio in Claremont, New Hampshire. Allison is pleased to join Spark! Community Center at this time as an Activities Specialist.
Activities Specialist – Heather Slater
Heather grew up in Groton, Vermont and moved to the Upper Valley with her three boys two years ago. She attended Lyndon State College studying Psychology and Human Services with a minor in Art. She has worked in domestic violence advocacy with Umbrella and has several years’ experience working as an aid with special needs kids. In Heather’s spare time she enjoys drawing, painting and staying busy, enjoying the outdoors with her kids.