4th Annual

Positive Futures Conference:


Best Practices in Transition,
Employment and Adult Services


October 11 and 12, 2019

more information and to RSVP)

Vendor Resource Table Opportunities
More information 

Educator Track:

Discover the crucial
differences between waiver
programs to help families
apply for the right waiver
for their child’s transition

Learn about innovative
transition programs for
students with IDD
that are being offerred
by several Region 4 districts
Network with providers,
families and service

Provider Track:

Hear from program experts
about successful program
transitions to integrated
employment training and

Learn from Texas employers
who have successfully
hired adults with IDD and
what skills they are looking
for with newly hired

Network with families and
educators for ideas and

Parent Track

Join a panel of experts
to learn about the Texas
Workforce Commission
services, waiver services and
post-high school education
from the VAST program of HCC

Discover innovative transition
programs for students with
IDDs that are being offered
by several Region 4 districts


Find out more about
alternatives to guardianship and 

presented by two experienced local attorneys 


Presentations for Download


9:00 - 10:00 Keynotes: 
                    A) Smith and Associates (file too big, can be emailed if you request it at the conference)
                    B)  Beyond Bakery

10:15 - 11:45 Strand 1 VAST  (parents - Post-secondary options)


10:15 - 11:45 Strand 2 (educators - Waver Information You can Use for Family Needs)

10:15 - 11:45 Strand 3 (providers - Supported Employment)

12:45 - 1:45  Keynote: Kyle Piccola - Legislative Update 

2:00 - 3:30 Strand 1 & 2 (parents and educators - Innovations in school services for students with IDD)

2:00 - 3:30 Stand 3 (providers: Transitioning from a Day Program to Job Training) 

(file too big, can be emailed if you request it at the conference)



9:00 - 10:15 Transition Planning and Self Advocacy 

10:00 - 11:45 Alternatives to Guardianship and Guardianship Information
Alternatives to Guardianship


Sponsorship Opportunities

More information:
Sponsorship info flyer

Sponsorship pledge/registration



Friday, October 11, 2019


8:30 – 9:00           Registration/Breakfast


9:00 – 10:00         Opening with Video and Speakers:   a) Smith & Associates  and  b) Belong Bakery Owner, Kim Brown


10:00 – 10:15       Break/Visit resource tables


10:15 – 11:45     

                             Strand 1 (Parents)
                             Panel on Post-Secondary Options (HCS/TxHmL, TWC, VAST)
                                (Speakers: Representatives from TWC, The Harris Center and VAST)

                             Strand 2 (Teachers)
                             How to Explain  Texas Waiver Programs to Families
                                (Speakers: Department of Health and Human Services)


                             Strand 3 (Providers) Supported Employment:  How to Obtain Funding & Sustainability

                                Frank Higgenbotham (Director of Employment for the Center for Pursuit)


11:45 – 12:45       Lunch/visit resource tables

12:45 – 1:45         Legislative Updates on Texas Services for People with IDD
                               Kyle Piccola (Director of Public Policy and Advocacy for The Arc of Texas


1:45 – 2:00           Break/visit resource tables


2:00 – 3:30        

                             Strand 1 & 2 (Teachers/parents)
                             Innovations in Local District, School Transition Services for Students  with IDD 
                               Panel of selected Region 4 school district speakers describing their programs

                             Strand 3 (Providers) Transitioning from a Day Program to a Job Training Program
                               Frank Higgenbotham (Director of Employment for the Center for Pursuit)

Saturday, October 12, 2019

8:30 – 9:00           Registration/Breakfast

9:00 – 10:15         Why is Self-Advocacy So Important/Key Things to Ask for in Transition Planning 
                               MaryJane Williams  (Executive Director of Family to Family)


10:15 – 10:30       Break/visit resource tables

10:30 – 11:45       Guardianship & Alternatives to Guardianship
                               Cecily Reed (Attorney for Disability Rights)
                               Leona Filis (Attorney; private practice)



Speaker Bios:
Keynote Speaker Bios


Smith & Associates:


Art Figueroa 


Vice President of Operations and Quality, NA & EU


Art manages Smith’s global distribution logistics, reverse logistics, anti-counterfeiting efforts, and corporate sustainability. He graduated from the University of Houston with his BA in political science and joined Smith in 2004. In his time with the company, he has served in key roles overseeing security, facilities, emergency planning and business continuity, risk mitigation, and quality management systems.


Art is deeply involved in Smith’s sustainability and CSR initiatives across all of the company’s worldwide offices.



Patti Everitt,


HR & Recruiting Manager

Patti manages all aspects of Smith’s human resources – including payroll, recruiting, and benefits – across the company’s sixteen offices. She has been a part of Smith’s team since 2001. During her eighteen years with the company, she has worked in various roles across payroll, accounting, executive support, and human resources.


Patti is an active leader in Smith’s global CSR efforts and continually supports new initiatives to help and empower the communities Smith’s worldwide offices call home.



Kimberly W. Brown


Kimberly is the visionary behind the BELONG concept. Kimberly and her husband, Jay have three adult daughters, one of which (Ellie) has intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Kimberly obtained her Bachelors’ Degree of Business Administration (B.B.A.) in Marketing from Baylor University in 1991. She then graduated from South Texas College of Law in 1994 where she served on the Law Journal and was a member of the Order of the Lytae. 


Kimberly practiced personal injury trial law for over twenty years in Houston and has recently retired in order to start BELONG. Kimberly has been active in the Memorial community volunteering within Spring Branch Independent School District (SBISD) for her daughters. In addition, Kimberly has chaired various fundraising and philanthropy committees within SBISD including chairing school auctions raising hundreds of thousands of dollars and chairing, organizing and planning many student events over the years. Kimberly has served her community through National Charity League (NCL) as Vice President of Philanthropy leading philanthropy projects at various organizations throughout the Houston community including Brookwood, Gracewood, The Houston Food Bank and Texas Children’s Hospital. Kimberly brings her personal passion and commitment to providing employment opportunities for her daughter and other similarly situated adults along with her love of baking, creativity and strong work ethic.  


Kyle Piccola

Kyle directs all public policy efforts for The Arc of Texas. He plans, organizes and directs the implementation of The Arc’s governmental affairs and advocacy efforts to advance its mission and policy positions at the state and federal level. Kyle also represents The Arc of Texas before volunteers, local chapters, elected officials, state agency staff and other policy makers. In addition, Kyle works to support and coordinate volunteers to facilitate their involvement in advocacy activities and networks with allied organizations and coalitions to advance high priority issues that impact persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities.


Previously Kyle worked in the Colorado Legislature as the Community Relations Manager for Senate President Brandon Shaffer. In this role, he connected the Colorado Senate Majority with their communities and ensured Senate priorities aligned with their constituency. After leaving Colorado, he became the Senior Field Organizer and Lobbyist for PROMO Missouri. He opened a Kansas City Field office and spearheaded legislative initiatives for LGBT Missourians. 



Break Out Session Speaker Bios


Ana Calvo

Ana received her Bachelors in Arts of Social Science with concentrations in Psychology and Sociology and a Minor in Political Science in 2002 from the University of Houston-Downtown.  Ana went on to get her Master in Social Work from the University of Houston College Of Social Work in 2007.  Ana currently works at Houston Community College Vocational Advancement and Social Skill Training (V.A.S.T.) Department as program director of transition services where she prepares young adults with cognitive and physical disabilities lead a healthy and productive independent life.  Before joining Houston Community College VAST, Ana worked at the Shriners Hospital for Children-Galveston/Houston as the transition coordinator for seven years and developed their transition program.  Ana is very active in the community and served as Chair for the City of Houston’s Commission for People with Disability, on the board for Ms. Wheelchair Texas Foundation, and a member of the National Coalition for Assistive and Rehab Technology.  Ana was recognized as one of the 100 Houston Latinas Women in Leadership in the city of Houston, and 2013 Houston Superlady.  Currently Ana is the host of “No Barriers” televised on HCCTV and won the 2013 Hometown Media Award from Alliance for Communication Media.   As Ms. Wheelchair Texas 2009 Ana promoted her platform of helping the youth embrace their disabilities and achieve their dreams through education, employment, and community involvement. 


Cicely Reed

Disability Rights Texas (DRTx) is the federally designated legal protection and advocacy agency (P&A) for people with disabilities in Texas. DRTx’s mission is to help people with disabilities understand and exercise their rights under the law and secure their full and equal participation in society.  DRTx attorneys fulfill the organizational mission by providing direct legal representation in order to: assist people with disabilities whose rights are threatened or violated, protect the rights of individuals and groups of people with disabilities through the courts and justice system, educate and inform policy makers about issues that impact the rights and services for people with disabilities, empower people with disabilities and their family members to assert their rights, and make referrals to essential benefits programs and services.


Cicely Reid is the pro bono coordinator and a senior staff attorney at Disability Rights Texas.  Cicely works in the Houston office primarily with the community integration and healthcare team on Medicaid appeals, and the housing, employment, accessibility, and transportation team on DOJ complaints and other accessibility disputes and litigation.  Cicely also operates, markets, and manages the DRTx pro bono program across the entire State.  Her focus is utilizing private law firm attorney volunteers to help litigate and resolve DRTx cases.  The pro bono program has successfully allowed Disability Rights to greatly increase the number of clients that the Organization can assist and represent.


 Prior to joining Disability Rights Texas, Ms. Reid was an assistant prosecutor in Harris County, then practiced insurance defense litigation at a number of large private law firms, serving as in-house counsel for several Fortune 500 insurance companies.  Cicely earned her MBA from Tulane University in 2013 in finance and nonprofit governance. Cicely is a proud graduate of The University of Texas School of Law and Texas A&M University, where she earned undergraduate honors in political science and business management.  

Elaine Wied 

Title: Lead Policy Specialist for the Home and Community-based Services (HCS) and Texas Home Living (TxHmL) Waiver Programs 

Organization: Health and Human Services Commission 


Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas 

Master of Arts degree in Human Services Administration from Saint Edward’s University in Austin, Texas 

Experience: Over 19 years of state service working with the waiver programs. 

Frank Higginbotham  


Frank V. Higginbotham, Jr. has served as the Director of Supported Employment Services at The Center for Pursuit for the last 2 years. Over the past 2 years, Supported Employment Services has placed upwards of 60 adult individuals into community employment and provided career navigation and job skills training to 50 transition age youth (14-22). Frank has also developed a large number of community partnerships with a variety of industry leaders.  These partnerships have led to the development of numerous jobs for individuals in our community and fostered a more diverse work force for the community partners involved. 

He has more than 19 years of experience in the Supported Employment, Job Placement and Vocational Training field. Before coming to The Center for Pursuit, Frank served as Director at Arise Transitional Living Center where he developed a drug support and transitional living program for homeless men. He is also the co-founder of Higginbotham Staffing Solutions, an employment agency geared toward helping individuals with Mental Health & Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities gain employment. 

He has credentials from University of North Texas Work Inclusion & Sustainable Employment as a CRP Director, Supported Employment Specialist, Job Coach and Job Placement Specialist, and has completed training as a Work Incentive Specialist from Cornell University-Institute on Employment. He also is the Interim Head Coach for the men’s Basketball team at North American University in Stafford,



Kristen E. Davis, M.S., NCC 


Regional Transition Program Specialist 

Texas Workforce Solutions: Vocational Rehabilitation Services 


Kristen Davis currently serves as the Gulf Coast Regional Transition Specialist for Texas Workforce Solutions: Vocational Rehabilitation Services. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Mississippi State University, and a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling/Rehabilitation Counseling from Mississippi State University. She joined Texas Workforce Commission (formerly DARS) in April 2015 as a Transition Counselor. Prior to this, she worked as a General  and Transition Counselor with the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services, and has also worked in private Rehabilitation. She has been counseling for 9 years and is a Licensed Professional Counselor-Intern. 


She comes with a wealth of knowledge and experience in transition. She has worked with Project SEARCH at Texas Children’s Health Plan, and has assisted with initiatives like Summer Earn and Learn, in addition to working closely with Houston ISD schools. She strives for excellent service and has a passion for helping students with disabilities become successful. 

Leona Filis 

owner of The Filis Law Firm, P.C., in Houston, is an attorney who focuses her time and energy on helping families with children with special needs. Leona has built her practice by being a partner and a resource to parents helping them navigate through tough decisions regarding their child’s care. Leona grew up in a Greek family spending much of her youth in the family-owned restaurants. After graduating from the University of Texas, Leona attended South Texas College of Law in Houston. When she passed the State Bar in 2002, Leona founded The Filis Law Firm, PC, as a general civil practice. Later, being that she lived in Houston, Texas, Leona began working in oil and gas law. Her personal life changed in 2010 when she received the diagnosis confirming her belief that her son, Jonathan, was on the Autism Spectrum. Since then, Leona realized that the niche of a Special Needs Attorney wasn’t being filled and that many parents were overwhelmed and uninformed regarding their medical and legal rights.Her primary focus is to help, guide and educate parents and families of children with special needs.Leona and her staff provide free presentations to parent groups with information about Interest Lists for Medicaid Waiver Programs, SSI, local services and programs, Estate Planning, Supplemental Needs Trusts, Wills, Power of Attorney, Supportive Decision-Making Agreements, 529A accounts, transitioning into adulthood, Guardianship cases, and lesser restrictive alternatives. In addition to the monthly e-newsletters to her clients, Leona has a publication – “8 Steps to Consider When Raising a Child with Special Needs” and an article “Utilizing Section 504, IDEA, and Special Education”, The Houston Lawyer, January/February 2018. Her article was included in a compilation that won the 2017-2018 State Bar of Texas, Substantive Law Series of Articles Award for Special Needs Law & Advocacy. Leona is active in her community with her volunteer work, including donations of hoursofpro bono legal services and funding of special projects. Her interests include charities that share her passion to help individuals with disabilities. She is on the Advisory Board of the Houston nonprofit S.A.F.E. Diversity Communities. Recently, Leona was honored to be the 2019 Chair for the 5th Annual Blue Carpet Scholarship Awards Gala for S.A.F.E. Diversity Communities and isnamed a 2019 Top 30 Influential Woman of Houston.

Lily Pan 


Job Title—Department Director for TxHmL & ICF-IID Services, The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD 

Experience-I have over 30 years work experience in both private and public sector providing services for persons with IDD. 

       Private Sector from 1986 to 1990—Executive Director, Westside Development Center, a 66-bed ICF-IID Facility 

       Public Sector from 1990 to present-The Harris Center IDD Division, in different areas-ICF-IID, Respite,  HCS/TxHmL Waiver, Day Hab and Employment Services 


Professional Affiliations, 

1.       Co-Founder of FFASN (Friends and Families of Asians with Special Needs) Support Group --a 501 (c) (3) 

2.       Constituent Advisory Council Member for Center on Disability and Development with Texas A & M Univ. 

3.       Advisory Board Member for Village at Hickory Glen Apartment 

Mary Jane Williams

Mary Jane Williams is Executive Director of Family to Family Network, a Houston area organization committed to making a difference in the lives of children with disabilities. She supported the creation of the Texas Project FIRST website dedicated to providing accurate and consistent information on the special education process. Mary Jane currently represents families on several TEA committees, serves on the advisory committees of The Harris Center for Mental Health & IDD, as well as The Eleanor & Charles Garrett Center on Transition & Disability Studies (SHSU). Mary Jane believes that children’s futures should not be dictated by a disability label and that family knowledge is the key to ensuring successful outcomes for their children. Her wealth of knowledge on disability issues comes from supporting her children with disabilities become successful adults

Region 4 Panel Speaker Bios 
Townsley Tayebianpour 

Transition Specialist, Region 4 Education Service Center 

Townsley Tayebianpour currently serves as the Transition Specialist in the Special Education Solutions Department at Region 4 Education Service Center in Houston, Texas. Mrs. Tayebianpour has been in education for over 15 years with experience in teaching, instructional coaching, and administration, including 5 years as an administrator of special education programs in a large suburban school district in the Houston area. As a special education administrator, she provided leadership and vision in the development and implementation of many innovative programs and services, including evidence-based 18-22 transition services. Mrs. Tayebianpour continues to work with school districts, parents, students, and community partners to build transition programs and services that help students and families make successful and meaningful transitions to postsecondary life.  Her continued areas of focus for learning and training include transition services from birth to adulthood, self-determination practices, work-based learning, and sustainable implementation of all areas of transition services. 


Keri Williams 

Director of Student Support, Tomball ISD 

Keri Williams currently serves as the Director of Student Support for Tomball ISD in Tomball, Texas. Mrs. Williams worked in public education for 7 years in Kansas and over 12 years in Texas.  In addition to serving as Director, she has provided service and leadership in the roles of a  Speech-Language Pathologist, Program Specialist, and Assistant Director of Special Education. As a special education administrator, she provided leadership and vision in many innovative programs and services, including evidence-based 18-22 transition services, research based speech therapy practices, adapted physical education programming and related services. Mrs. Williams continues to work with all aspects of Tomball ISD’s Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) including continued support and guidance of their transition programs and services. 


Kim Rodgers 

Transition Specialist, Clear Creek ISD 

Kim Rodgers currently serves as the Transition Specialist for Clear Creek ISD. Mrs. Rodgers has been in education for 20 years with 10 years experience in teaching students with behavioral and pervasive disabilities and 10 years as an instructional specialist for life skills and transition in a large suburban school district. As Transition Specialist, she provides training, guidance and support for her district's work based learning programs, graduation, transition planning including self-determination, agency linkages starting at the elementary level, and the direct support of the district's evidence-based campus and community based 18+ service models. 


Felicia Caraway 

Transition Specialist, Conroe ISD 

Felicia Caraway currently serves as the Transition Specialist for the Conroe Independent School District.   As the Transition Specialist, Felicia provides leadership and support to the 18 plus transition services as well as supervises all areas of transition. She has been in education for 20 years.  18 of those years have been in the area of special education and 5 years as the transition teacher.  This is Felicia’s dream job! 


Geralyn Sullivan 

Transition Coordinator, Humble ISD 

Geralyn Sullivan currently serves as the Transition Coordinator in Humble ISD.  Mrs. Sullivan has been in education for over 17 years with experience in elementary, high school and 18+ program, serving in different capacities in special and general education.  After being displaced in 2011, she had the opportunity to teach in the new 18+ program. She found her passion while working in the program and enjoyed connecting with students, and families providing support while they navigated different programs for their child.  While teaching in the 18+ program they saw a need of developing a position to help the students connect and find appropriate programs for each student in the program.  

She continued to work on building relationships with organizations and agencies to learn about the services they provided so she could educate families.  During her time as the district Transition Instructional Specialist, she connected and built relationships with community business partners that would provide a community classrooms for high school and 18+ students in the work-based learning program for job sites and internships. 

Her passion about the disability field, especially transition, helps her lead her transition team to focus on building capacity with training and providing resources for them to support all students and families in Humble ISD to meet their post-secondary goals and to encourage her team to continue to connect, educate, empower students with knowledge to make the best decision.  It is important to her to bring awareness to her community about individuals with disabilities and their value to their community and the workforce.  They are the best employees! 

Mrs. Sullivan continues to guide Humble ISD in best practices and continue research based transition programming and encourage collaborating with support services to help our students and families to plan with the end in mind. 


Contact Us

Tel: 713-957-1600 

Email: info@aogh.org