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Different backgrounds, common passion

The Center for Independent Futures staff is made up of dedicated and diverse individuals who share a commitment to supporting individuals with disabilities.

Our Staff

Ann C. Sickon, Executive Director

Ann C. Sickon, Executive Director

Ann, who joined Center for Independent Futures in 2012, has an adult sibling and a child with disabilities. Building a career combining health, business, and law, she has worked in hospital research, community health nursing, and starting and managing healthcare businesses. Ann’s health law practice focused on merger and acquisitions and healthcare management issues. Ann earned her J.D. from Loyola University School of Law, her Nursing Diploma from Henry Ford Hospital School of Nursing and her Bachelor of Science degree in healthcare administration from University of Michigan-Flint. She remains active with multiple charities, primarily focused on children and services for individuals with developmental disabilities.  

Niki Moe, Director of Development

Niki Moe, Director of Development

Niki received her B.A. from Eastern Illinois University in marketing and worked for the Disney Corporation for more than a decade in marketing, sales, and special events. After taking time off to raise her children and volunteer at multiple non-profits and schools, Niki joined Center for Independent Futures, where she leads fundraising efforts and plans a variety of events.

Gerilyn Miller-Brown, Development Manager of Grants & Foundations

Gerilyn Miller-Brown, Development Manager of Grants & Foundations

Gerilyn received her M.S.W. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis. She began her career in geriatrics and has many years of experience in project management, research, grant writing, and program development and evaluation. Having a child with a disability has involved her in work with organizations, boards, and commissions that serve individuals with disabilities and has brought her to Center for Independent Futures, where her role includes grant research, grant writing and reporting, and foundation relations.

Constance Paesel, HR/Financial Coordinator

Constance Paesel, HR/Financial Coordinator

Constance brings a global background to Center for Independent Futures, having studied languages and business in Germany and HR management in the United Kingdom. She earned her MBA in International Business at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In addition to many years managing an intellectual property law office, Constance has experience in early childhood education. During her time in Evanston, she has been highly engaged in the community, including serving on the PTA, as a Girl Scout troop leader, and as a member of the Woman’s Club of Evanston. 

Jacqueline Eddy, Marketing/Communications Manager

Jacqueline Eddy, Marketing/Communications Manager

Jackie has worked with Center for Independent Futures since 2002 in the areas of marketing communications, product development, and training. Jackie holds a B.A. in Art from St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and an M.B.A. from Northeastern University in Boston. She brings her experience in general management, marketing, and training positions to her work with Center for Independent Futures.

Elizabeth Male, Marketing Communications Coordinator

Elizabeth Male, Marketing Communications Coordinator

Elizabeth is an alumna of Northwestern University, where she enjoyed getting to know the Evanston community through volunteering opportunities. Elizabeth joined the staff of Center for Independent Futures in 2013 to support the development, marketing, and administrative teams. She runs for and coordinates Center for Independent Futures’ Bank of America Chicago Marathon team and also serves on the Auxiliary Board to become further involved in this inclusive community.

Pat Finnell, Office Administrator

Pat Finnell, Office Administrator

Pat brings her years of experience in the corporate world to the administrative duties at Center for Independent Futures. Her career includes sales and marketing positions, primarily within the software industry. Having recently moved back to the Midwest from New York City, Pat is enjoying learning about the Evanston community. 

Avielle Suria, Office Administrator

Avielle Suria, Office Administrator

Avielle joined Center for Independent Futures in August 2016. She has previous experience working as a concierge and a Senior Resident Assistant during her undergraduate studies. She received her B.A. from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., and is pursuing an M.S. in Leadership for Creative Enterprises at Northwestern University’s School of Communications.

Megan Madigan, Program Director

Megan Madigan, Program Director

Megan received her B.A. in Political Science from Loyola University in Chicago in 2008. Her background in childcare provided her with the opportunity to work with children with disabilities, sparking her interest in working with older individuals with disabilities and their families. Megan joined Center for Independent Futures in 2009 as a Life Skills Tutor and now oversees all programming, ensuring that each individual gets the support he or she needs.

Rob Larson, Community Life Coordinator & Life Skills Tutor

Rob Larson, Community Life Coordinator & Life Skills Tutor

Rob graduated from Bethel University in Minnesota with a B.A. in Fine Arts and has been working with families and people with disabilities since 2005. Rob supports individuals through Skills Training and coordinates services for residents in the Chicago Avenue and Harrison Street Community Living Option communities.

Jeff Morthorst, Activities Director & Community Life Coordinator

Jeff Morthorst, Activities Director & Community Life Coordinator

Jeff began working at Center for Independent Futures in 2007 as a Personal Assistant and Life Skills Tutor, using his background as a Certified Nurse Assistant to support individuals with disabilities in reaching their health-related goals. As Activities Director, Jeff coordinates the monthly calendar of social, cultural, and physical activities that build connections in the community.

Jake Rohde, Life Skills Tutor

Jake Rohde, Life Skills Tutor

Born in Chicago and raised in Evanston, Jake has dedicated himself to giving back to his community. After earning a degree in Social Work from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Jake began volunteering at Evanston Township High School, where he has served as an assistant football coach for over five years. As a member of both the Center for Independent Futures staff and Auxiliary Board, Jake is excited to be a part of an organization that supports individuals’ full, independent lives.

Margaret Tanenberg, Director of Family Connections & Community Resources

Margaret Tanenberg, Director of Family Connections & Community Resources

Margaret began her career working many years as a psychiatric social worker in an outpatient community mental health center. When her son was diagnosed with a disability, her focus shifted to advocating for and working with children and adults with disabilities in many settings as well as informing legislators about disability issues. Holding both a Bachelor of Science in psychology and a Master of Social Work from the University of Illinois along with L.S.W. and A.C.S.W certifications, Margaret has been affiliated with Center for Independent Futures from its inception.

Cynthia Witherspoon, Community Life Coordinator

Cynthia Witherspoon, Community Life Coordinator

Cynthia holds both a B.S. and an M.S. in Special Education and taught for more than 20 years in multi-categorical classrooms, where she worked with middle and high school students with a wide range of abilities. She joined the Center for Independent Futures staff in 2007 after relocating to Evanston. Cynthia brings a passion for creating innovative educational opportunities and effective management systems to her work with individuals and students.

Chrissy Lewis, Full Life Process Consultant

Chrissy Lewis, Full Life Process Consultant

Chrissy began her career in sales and marketing before pursuing a master's degree in education in 2001. She gained experience as a teacher, case manager, and guidance counselor in Chicago Public Schools while receiving a master's degree in counseling. After transitioning into the non-profit sector, Chrissy joined Center for Independent Futures to advocate for educational access and resources for students with disabilities.

Kathleen L. Lyons, Project Director

Kathleen L. Lyons, Project Director

Kathy joined Center for Independent Futures to focus on the intersection of education and employment. Formerly Executive Director of the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy in Evanston, Kathy has also worked at the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board and as an employment lawyer in private practice. A parent of a son with disabilities, Kathy has worked with the Illinois State Board of Education and Evanston schools since 1999. Kathy received her JD from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and her Bachelors of Business Administration from the University of Michigan.

Marney Orchard, School and Agency Consultant

Marney Orchard, School and Agency Consultant

Marney graduated from the University of Iowa with a B.A. in media studies. She worked in media sales as well as non-profit fundraising and marketing, and later followed her passion for teaching by pursuing a master’s degree in education from DePaul University. Before joining Center for Independent Futures, Marney taught middle school social studies and thrived on the energy of the school environment. As a member of the School Consultation Staff, she is excited to bring person-centered planning to as many classrooms as possible.

Sharon Purdy, School and Agency Consultant

Sharon Purdy, School and Agency Consultant

Sharon holds a Bachelor of Science in Special Education with an endorsement in grades K through post-high school. After completing a full teaching career, Sharon joined Center for Independent Futures first as a volunteer. Today, as a member of the School Consultation Staff, Sharon supports individuals in school settings.

Success Stories

Jonathan's Story

Jonathan's Story

A short film from Guy Bauer Productions captures a day in the life of Center for Independent Futures participant Jonathan Shuman, documenting his full life and the ways we support him and others to live their dreams.

Read More »

Upcoming Events & Activities

Blog Posts

Training is Underway for Team CIF

On October 8, nine members of the Center for Independent Futures community will collectively run over 230 miles to support hopes and dreams. Read More »