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, Instructor
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
Originally from a small town outside of Defiance, Ohio, Megan first decided to come to Findlay to attend the University of Findlay on a golf scholarship. 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…We give them the tools to accomplish feats, build confidence, and grow in not only their art but in life!” Megan is the lead instructor for the Therapeutic Department at Awakening Minds. She is also the Program Director and Volunteer Coordinator, in charge of creating, staffing, and overseeing Awakening Minds’ programs.
"I find it very interesting how art in general and our painting techniques can increase cognitive function and re-maping through the release of dopamine and whole brain synchronization. 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- Community Relations Director, 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.
Born and raised in Findlay, Ohio, Brittany attended Bowling Green State University and graduated with a Bachelor degree in Art Education. She is a licensed art educator focusing in 2D studies and printmaking. Before coming to Awakening Minds, Brittany worked in schools and programs throughout the area not only in art but as a tutor, aide, and substitute teacher, giving her experience with all ages and abilities. She says of her teaching style, “I run my art room much like my own studio, learning right alongside my students, challenging them and myself to create without hesitation." In addition to teaching, Brittany is the Community Relations Director, responsible for the outreach and communication with all agencies, clients, and parents of Awakening Minds’ programming. She also manages social media marketing and assists with bookkeeping and payroll.
"During my time in college my art professors would say, 'I loved teaching art and some days it didn’t even feel like a job.' That was my goal out of college and exactly what I got when I started working at Awakening Minds Art. I am surrounded by passionate people that continuously challenge me to learn new things each and every day. I have grown as an educator, administrator, director, and so much more because of the opportunities Awakening Minds Art has provided me. " -Brittany Daniels
Emily Sullivan- Development Director, 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, Ohio. 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 Terra State and Owens Community Colleges. When Emily found Awakening Minds Art 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 mind and body. I am so happy to work in a place that celebrates that!” In addition to teaching, Emily is the in-house grant writer and directs the operations and development of the Findlay Headquarters Studio.
Courtney Breitigam- Leipsic Studio Manager, 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.
DeAndra Ridenour- Lima Studio Manager, Instructor
Joined AMA in July, 2018 Early Childhood Education, Rhodes State College- 2014
DeAndra lives in Lima with her son, Devin. She taught day care for five years and then ventured into the Special Needs realm when she worked at the Center for Autism and Dyslexia in Lima and later lead her own classroom at LACCA in Lima. She worked at Camp Robin Rogers as the Arts & Crafts counselor for a summer and then began working with adults with special needs as an Employment Specialist at Marimor Industries and later taking over the Receptionist position. She enjoys children of all ages, reading and listening to 90’s Alternative. She is a dedicated mother, daughter, and friend. DeAndra first heard of AMA while working at the Center for Autism and Dyslexia in 2014 and instantly fell in love with the idea of the organization and has been seeking employment there since. “I learned about AMA right out of college and once I learned what they did, it became a dream job for me.”
Jessica Neic- 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
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."
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.
317 S. Main St. Findlay, Ohio 45840
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