betsy at the beach. the water is rolling in behind her.

Betsy Valnes is the Executive Director for NYLN. She was part of NYLN’s inception [beginning]. She loves the value of empowerment. She wants people to recognize their full potential. Her main passion is international human rights. She has contributed to  events in eight different counties. Many of these events focused on inclusion justice.  Betsy works with other organizations as well. One example is the National Council on Disability. Another is the Mobility International. She also worked with the World Bank and the United Nations. She advocates for the power of young people and people of diverse cultures. Betsy completed her Master’s degree at American University in 2010. In her free time, Betsy likes to read, write, travel, create expressive art, mow lawns, and use power tools.


Kristen is looking at the camera and smiling

Kristen Jones is Technical Support (web updates, updates the listserve, and develops the newsletter) for NYLN. She has been part of NYLN since 1999. She has a passion helping to shape and mentor youth into the next generation of leaders. In December 2012, she finished her doctorate in multicultural special education at the University of Texas at Austin. Kristen teaches disability studies courses for the Texas Center for Disability Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She also works full-time for Disability Rights Texas, a protection and advocacy (P & A) organization, as a training and technical support specialist for the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). In Kristen’s free time she enjoys watching movies, cooking, and reading.

Elesia signing sitting at a dinner table

Elesia Ashkenazy is the Director of Community Outreach. She educates others, brings people together, and develops youth leaders. Elesia lives in Portland, Oregon. She is passionate about the Disability Community and self-advocacy. She also enjoys teaching people about their rights so they can be fully included. Elesia strives to empower others in her work. She is a Board member for Autism Women’s Network (AWN). She also works with projects that focus on disability research. Elesia likes to share information and support communities. She believes that self advocates should be in leadership roles. This includes decision making and law making. She loves spending time with her family. And she enjoys art, reading books, and writing. In her free time, she loves ballet and ice skating. Elesia is fluent in American Sign Language (ASL). She also uses a cochlear implant (an electronic speech device for people who are deaf). Check out her blog, Aspitude. Click here:


Cindy smiling

Cindy Singletary is NYLN’ s Volunteer Coordinator. She is an Independent Living Specialist at LIFE (Living Independence For Everyone) of Mississippi, a center for independent living. She has been with LIFE for nine years. Cindy also serves on multiple boards and councils. She holds leadership positions in the Community Partnership Advisory Council for the Institute of Disabilities Studies (IDS) and the COCA Steering Committee. In her spare time, she spends time with her family and friends. She enjoys helping youth become independent.


jessica in front of a teal background

Jessica Croner is NYLN’s Honorable Fellow. Jessica graduated from Idaho State University in 2009 with a Bachelor degree in University Studies with an emphasis in Occupational Therapy. During her college years, Jessica became heavily involved in advocacy and Universal Design. Since graduation, she has worked with many state disability advocacy organizations. Two years ago, Jessica began working with NYLN as the coordinator for the state partnership in Idaho and was the 2012 NYLN president.


Staci smiling wearing a pink scarf

Staci Forrest is NYLN’s Curriculum Development Specialist. This means that Staci helps to create awesome curricula (sets of learning activities that teach people something) that help to teach young people with disabilities about all sorts of topics. Staci is going to college for special education and elementary education. She is also going for a minor in Women’s & Gender Studies. Staci loves to teach and advocate. Staci loves to advocate for the rights of all people, but especially for the rights of disabled people and women. Staci is involved in lots of local and national disability groups. In her free time, she likes to read, blog, travel, listen to music, and volunteer at her local Children’s Hospital.