Founded in 2009 by Sarah Crisp Established as a 501c3 Nonprofit Organization in July 2011 Awakening Minds Art originally was a part of the nationwide organization called Art Without Boundaries. In 2010 Sarah Crisp decided to break away from the organization and build the program independently to fit the needs of the community. AMA originally began as a traveling program, working only in student's homes, schools and nursing homes. When the program began to flourish Sarah decided to find a home for the program in downtown Findlay. The studio has had three "homes" since this decision was made, landing in the heart of downtown Findlay on Main Street, next door to Marathon Petroleum Corporate offices. AMA also is housed in Shawnee, Lima inside Bittersweet Farms. Awakening Minds Art provides a place for people to be themselves and not judged. Therapeutic Programs are carefully designed for special needs individuals of all ages, as well as Educational Programs for all walks of life! The organization, that started with one instructor, has since grown to three full time employees and seven part time employees. There is a Program Director (Megan Hall) and an Educational Director (Brittany Daniels) that keeps the organization running smoothly.
Sarah Crisp- Founding Executive Director, CEO
Founded Awakening Minds in April, 2009 BA of Psychology from The University of Findlay, 2008 Certification in Behavior Tools, PCMA 2011
Sarah Crisp is the founding director of the nonprofit organization Awakening Minds. The organization was created in 2009 in Findlay, Ohio after Sarah saw the need in the community for therapeutic programming, with no restrictions, to children and adults with special needs. Originally, Sarah is from Spencerville, Ohio which is a small farm town near Lima, Ohio. As a child, art was Sarah's primary outlet that led her to the nick name "A-C" which stood for "Arts & Crafts". Art made Sarah feel calm, complete and accepted, which is a huge driver in the creation of programming at Awakening Minds Art. Throughout her high school years, Sarah was on the track & golf teams, competition Cheerleading squad and led the Yearbook Committee. The University of Findlay is what drew Sarah to Findlay, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Sarah later earned a certificate of competence from PCMA (Professional Crisis Management Association). Through several years of observing and being mentored by professionals in Occupational Therapy and Behavior Analysis, Sarah found the world of special needs to be natural for her to understand. Today, Sarah’s team at Awakening Minds is made up of professionals ranging from Behavior Specialists, Occupational Therapy mentors and students, Art Therapists, Music Therapists and licensed educators to make up the well-rounded organization that shares knowledge and experiences with each other, creating a power team for special needs individuals. The staff working for Awakening Minds Art make it possible for Sarah to live and breathe her vision every single day.
Megan Hall- Program Director
Megan Hall joined AMA in June, 2012. Bachelors of Art Education 2010 University of Findlay Bachelors of Studio Art 2010 University of Findlay Minor in Art History 2011 University of Findlay
Megan is a transplant to Findlay, Ohio originally from a small town outside of Defiance, Ohio. She first decided to come to Findlay to attend the University of Findlay and play golf for the Oilers. Graduation led her to a job working with Children on the Autism spectrum for 5 years where she worked her way up from being a classroom aide to a classroom teacher. It was in these 5 years that she grew her passion for working with children with special needs. “I have always used art as a personal outlet and I think that is why I was always implementing art into my general education classes I taught to children with special needs. Art was used as a multi-faceted tool in my classroom. To learn, as incentive, and as a way to build trust, connection and understanding. When I found Awakening Minds Art it kind of just clicked and the organization was a natural fit for me. My passion to share art with anyone who wants to experience it is what keeps me coming to work every day. I get to see firsthand the impact the arts can have on all ages and abilities throughout their lifespan. I think that’s what I love most about art. It is all encompassing, it can be whatever the individual needs it to be and it is ever evolving throughout a lifetime. I’ve watched individuals over the past five years flourish with AMA programming. We give them the tools to accomplish feats, build confidence, and grow in not only their art but in life!”
"I find it very interesting how art in general and our painting techniques can increase cognitive function and remaping through the release of dopamine and whole brain sychronization. I've witnessed first hand how whole brain stimulation and sustained attentive focus have brought a client from being somewhat unresponsive at the beginning of the session to the end of a session being 'reawakened'. I see motor control improve, receptive and expressive language, memory and motor planning all change in sessions, especially within the nursing homes. It all makes sense how painting, which naturally triggers dopamine release, increases these things."
Brittany Daniels- Educational Director, Licensed Visual Arts Instructor
Joined AMA January, 2015 Bachelors degree at Bowling Green University, Bachelors of Fine Arts, Art Education, Licensed in Visual Arts Education, Ohio AMA Homeschool V.A. Instructor, traveling instructor.
"I was born in Findlay and attended Bowling Green State University until 2014 when I graduated with a bachelors degree in Art Education. I am a licensed art educator focusing in 2D studies and printmaking. I am very excited to work with such an amazing program that allows me to teach what I love. I've worked in schools and programs throughout the area not only in art but as a tutor, aide, and substitute teacher, having experience with all ages and abilities. I continually challenge myself to learn and grow as an educator and AMA is another great experience to do so. As an artist I like to explore materials, ideas, and techniques, finding the possibilities endless. I run my art room much like my own studio, learning right along side my students, challenging them and myself to create without hesitation."
"I love AMA because of the students, families, and co workers that help me grow as an art educator each and everyday."
Jayne Hilvers- Lima Manager/Instructor
Jayne Hilvers joined AMA in October of 2012. One on one and group instructor, Paint & Partake Instructor. Specilaizing in painting, scrapbooking and crafts. Jayne is a Lima native. She resides there with her husband, Tom. She is the mother of three grown boys, Jeffrey, Michael and Nathan. Jayne is a West Central Ohio Autism Community Board Member and was hired as a teaching assistant in 2004 for Allen County Educational Service Center. "I was first introduced to Sarah Crisp and AMA when she started painting with the students in my classroom at The Great Day Academy (ACESC Autism Unit) in Lima. I instantly knew that I needed to be more involved with this wonderful program. Jayne now works at Pathway To Success (ACESC ED/ALT Program). Art is one area I feel that we can connect with our students. Art knows no limits or restrictions. It allows the student to express themselves without judgement. I believe that God calls all of us to do things in our lives and I truly believe that He has called me to work with AMA. I have been given the opportunity to work with such a wide range of wonderful people. I love AMA because of all the blessings I have received by working with some fantastic families and individuals."
Emily Sullivan- Education Instructor
Joined AMA in May, 2017 Bachelors of Fine Arts, 2009, University of Dayton Masters of Fine Arts, 2012, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Emily is from Bowling Green. She earned her degrees in the fine arts, specifically for painting. After graduating and moving back from the St. Louis area, she began teaching art and art history classes at the college level. When Emily found AMA in 2017, the change in careers made sense. “I began teaching at AMA to continue my passion for art and to spread an appreciation for the arts to as many people as possible. Art is an important part of everyday life, not just as an outlet for emotions or as a way of expressing ideas, but as a way to improve your body, mind and soul. I am so happy to work in a place that celebrates that!”
Courtney Rettig- Therapeutic Instructor
Joined AMA in May 2017 Bachelors of Psychology 2017 Bluffton University Minor in Art 2017 Bluffton University
Courtney has been a local for all her life. She grew up in the country near Bluffton, and went to Cory-Rawson High School. She is very familiar with Findlay since her mom has owned Generations Salon & Spa in town for years. She attended Bluffton University until July 2017 and received a major in Psychology and a minor in Art. She has experience with special needs from when she worked at Blanchard Valley Industries. This is where she discovered that working with special needs was her calling. Although she loved working with special needs, she had the desire to work with her artsy side. This led her to Awakening Minds as she was graduating college. She sees this job as her dream job because it combines two things that she loves the most: Helping Others and Art. Courtney is excited for her career to take off at this studio.
Jessica Neic- Therapeutic Instructor- Sensory & ABA Focused programming
Joined AMA June, 2015 "I have been working with people with special needs for about 10 years. My first job in this field was at a summer camp in Cleveland working specifically with kids on the Autism spectrum. Prior to that summer, I had never really been around people with Autism and/or special needs. After two summers at the day camp, I knew that I wanted my career path to head in the direction of this field of work. After the second summer at camp, I found a job as an in-home ABA tutor for a 4 year old with Autism. This is where I learned about ABA and discovered that I truly loved working with these kids one-on-one. Currently I work as a behavior technician by day at Gold Leaf Behavioral Services, and as an AMA instructor by night at Awakening Minds Art. I have had challenging moments at each job in various situations, but never have I left either job without an overwhelming feeling of joy that is unique & cannot be found anywhere else. I love working at AMA so much because it truly gives me the opportunity to help individuals tune into their most creative sides. My students are able to benefit mentally & emotionally in a structured, learning environment. Because of AMA, I am responsible for these successes in people & I am grateful to be a part of it." -Jessica Niec
Gavin Becher- Facility Programming, Group Programming, Paint & Partake
Joined AMA September, 2015
"Art has always been my go-to when it comes to expression. Instead of journals, I had sketchbooks. After years of art classes in my hometown of Defiance, OH, I ventured to California in pursuit of a Graphic Design Career. Very quickly I realized my passions lay within the fine arts field instead of in the digital realm. There is something, almost Primal, about the energy transfer of putting paint down on canvas. In the day and age of instant gratification, fine art is fulfilling and helps us remember the benefits of patience and self-driven work. Art has always helped me make sense of myself and the world around me. I love Awakening Minds Art because it gives everyone with any or no technical skills in the art field the chance to experience the joy of creating."
Julie Burget- Facility Programming, 1:1 Programming, Group Programming
Joined AMA July, 2016
Julie is a 2009 graduate of Findlay High School and a 2014 graduate of the University of Cincinnati with a Bachelors of Science degree in Fashion Design. She has several years of experience working in the fashion industry and has studied abroad in Florence and Paris. While in Cincinnati she taught art classes at the Kennedy Heights Art Center. She is currently studying to get her Masters of Public Administration and TESOL certification from Bowling Green State University, where she also works as a Teacher's Assistant. She teaches a variety of classes for AMA, including one on one therapy, nursing home therapy, and parties.
Angela Mierzejewski- Lima & Findlay Instructor
Joined AMA December, 2016
2013 Graduate from Bowling Green State University with a BA degree in 2D Studio Art with a primary focus on Printmaking and Drawing and a minor in Psychology. "I have 5 years experience working with adults and students with disabilities, I also work for Marimor Industries Employment Services as a Job Coach and have used my creative talents to help people land the job of their dreams. Art Therapy has always been a strong interest for me and working with AMA will allow me to connect therapeutic art into the community. Art brings out the best possibilities and capabilities in everybody and AMA truly helps others discover those talents. I am very excited to be part of the AMA team that is helping others discover and strengthen their art abilities."
AMY FOLEY, Heartstring Melodies MMT, MT-BC (Owner/Director) Amy is a Board-Certified Music Therapist and the owner/director of Heartstring Melodies,LLC. She loves coming to work every day to combine her passion for helping others and her love of music in her rewarding career as a music therapist. Amy received her Bachelor of Music Therapy degree from Eastern Michigan University. She completed her music therapy internship at the Monroe County Intermediate School District in Monroe, MI working with individuals with special needs ages 2-26. Upon the passing of her board examination, Amy began working at a private center for school-aged children with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities in Cincinnati. While working, she completed her Master of Music Therapy degree at Georgia College & State University, specializing in individuals with special needs. Amy currently works with the Center for Autism & Dyslexia to provide music therapy services. Amy grew up in Findlay and is excited to bring music therapy services back to her hometown area. Amy’s primary instrument is flute, although she enjoys playing guitar, piano, and singing as well. She currently serves as the Vice President for the Association of Ohio Music Therapists and looks forward to spreading information about music therapy throughout Northwest Ohio. Amy is also on the Task Force for Ohio to pursue formal recognition of the profession of music therapy within the state. Amy is a Board-Certified Music Therapist and the owner/director of Heartstring Melodies,LLC. She loves coming to work every day to combine her passion for helping others and her love of music in her rewarding career as a music therapist. Amy received her Bachelor of Music Therapy degree from Eastern Michigan University. She completed her music therapy internship at the Monroe County Intermediate School District in Monroe, MI working with individuals with special needs ages 2-26. Upon the passing of her board examination, Amy began working at a private center for school-aged children with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities in Cincinnati. While working, she completed her Master of Music Therapy degree at Georgia College & State University, specializing in individuals with special needs. Amy currently works with the Center for Autism & Dyslexia to provide music therapy services. Amy grew up in Findlay and is excited to bring music therapy services back to her hometown area. Amy’s primary instrument is flute, although she enjoys playing guitar, piano, and singing as well. She currently serves as the Vice President for the Association of Ohio Music Therapists and looks forward to spreading information about music therapy throughout Northwest Ohio. Amy is also on the Task Force for Ohio to pursue formal recognition of the profession of music therapy within the state. www.heartstringmelodies.com
Meet the Board of Directors
Missi Edwards- Board President
Kim Harless- President, Financial Liason
Kim started with Western & Southern Life in January 1999 and has been with the company over 18 years. "I Obtained my Series 6 license (ability to sell investments), my Series 26 license (ability to manage people who sell investment products) and received my Life Underwriters Training Council Fellow (LUTCF) designation in 2 years. (The program is supposed to take 4 years). I am a top Financial Advisor out of over 1,900 in the United States for Western & Southern and have held the following positions: financial advisor, registered advisor, regional trainer, sales manager and agency manager. I am the first in my company to obtain the National Social Security Advisor (NSSA) designation, an expert in retirement planning and wealth distribution, and am licensed in both Ohio and Florida. I am the Associate Director of The Buckeye Chapter of Synergy International, and aMember of the Board of Directors for the Marblehead Peninsula Chamber of Commerce. I am a Columbus Biz TV Host, the show's name is Covering All The Angles Of Financial Security: It's Not Just About The Numbers. I have been married for 7 years to Scott Harless, 2 step children and 1 grandson. I am a part time care taker for my Mom who has Alzheimer's. I am a 2008 Graduate of Hancock Leadership and a past member and Ambassador of the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce. Past Big Sister of The Children's Mentoring Connection of Hancock County formerly known as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and lastly, I was 2nd Runner-up of The Miss Ohio Pageant 2000 taking home the title of Miss Congeniality of The Miss Ohio Pageant 2000."
Charles Lightner- Vice President
Charles Lightner Vice President
Tamera Rooney Strategic Planning
Crystal Rinker Governance Chair
Mary Dible Board Member
Tony Morman Board Member
Missi Edwards Board Member
Jennifer Aldoy Board Member
Details about Kathy Rayle
Awakening Minds Art, founded in 2009, is a nonprofit organization. THE MISSION: To provide therapeutic, educational and developmental programs to all ages & abilities.
THE VISION To create affirming, all-inclusive spaces where people have the confidence to develop into the best version of themselves. Awakening Minds works towards building skills that help people not only feel success within our community, but to be successful throughout their lives.
515 S. Main St. Findlay, Ohio 45840
“AMA is Ally’s ‘HAPPY PLACE’! She loves to paint, draw and sculpt, but it is more than just art for her. Ally is developing social skills, better hand-eye coordination, increasing her fine & gross motor abilities and showing pride in her accomplishments. Her work is truly amazing, but the new skills and confidence she gains while at AMA is the true reward!" -Lesley R. (Ally’s Mom)
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