Miriam Mohamed – Chapter Director
Before joining ONCAC, Miriam Mohamed served as Coordinator of Kids’ Place, Licking County’s accredited child advocacy center, and Kids’ Team, a multidisciplinary team that responds to child abuse, from November 2012 until December 2016. As a member of Kids’ Team, she provided case coordination and victim advocacy services to all child victims and their families. Miriam previously served as the Program Director of Girls Inc. of the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area before moving overseas to volunteer with the Education Development Center on a United States Agency for International Development-funded youth development program. Miriam received a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies from Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana.
Lisa DeGeeter – Vice-President
Executive Director, Harcum House
Leigha Shoup – Vice-President
Director, Child Advocacy Center of West Central Ohio
Leigha is the Director of the Child Advocacy Center of West Central Ohio with Crime Victim Services in Allen County. She is a Registered Advocate through the Ohio Advocate Network. She holds a Master’s of Science degree in Applied Behavior Analysis from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale as well as a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Hearing, Speech, and Language Sciences from Ohio University. She has over 10 years of experience working with children and adults living with developmental disabilities. She is the current secretary for the Northwest Ohio Rescue & Restore Coalition and is the chair of the education and awareness sub-committee for the Hancock County Chapter of the Northwest Ohio Rescue & Restore Coalition.
Leigha’s passion is to help bring awareness and services to children, adults, and communities to help provide a holistic healing approach to advocacy.
Amy Fornshell – Secretary
Manager, Child Advocacy Center of Warren County
Amy has been the manager of the Child Advocacy Center of Warren County since 2015. During her first year, she successfully worked at moving the center to a larger, centralized space in the county which has allowed for growth and more accessible services to the Warren County community. Her mission has also been to build stronger relationships within the community so that children can be better served and not slip through the cracks.
Amy received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Colorado at Denver in 1993, and her Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology from Morehead State University in 1995. She has had over 15 years’ experience working with children and their families in various settings, including school-based counseling, transitional housing, and outpatient counseling. Her passion for the work a children’s advocacy center does, arose from seeing the impact repetitive trauma had on child victims she worked with as a Registered Play Therapist. Amy finds it a privilege to be a part of a movement which is effective at addressing child abuse through intervention and prevention. She is a trained facilitator of Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children program, training nearly 200 people a year in this program. She looks forward to being a bigger part of the ONCAC community while serving on the board.
Rhonda Wurgler – Treasurer
Executive Director, Children’s Center of Medina County
Rhonda currently serves as the Executive Director of the Children’s Center of Medina County. At the Center, she has launched a number of successful programs and events, including facilitating the effort for the Center to obtain status as a nationally accredited Child Advocacy Center with the National Children’s Alliance. As a result of her work at the Center, Rhonda has won recognition and a number of awards, including the 2014 Paul Harris Fellow Award from Rotary International. Prior to work at the Children’s Center, Rhonda worked in Medina County as a Deputy Sheriff, Volunteer Firefighter and as a board member with a number of organizations. Her current list of organizations where she serves as a committee member, participant or board member include, 100 Plus Women Who Care, Medina County Family First Council, Medina County Coalition Against Human Trafficking, Domestic and Sexual Abuse Coalition, the Columbus-based Ohio Network of Child Advocacy Centers and as Chair of the Youth Advisory Consortium. Rhonda holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration, both from University of Akron, and certificates in bookkeeping and Microsoft Access Database management.
Vanessa Stergios – Member at Large
Director, Tuscarawas County Child Advocacy Center
Vanessa Stergios has been the Director of the Tuscarawas County Child Advocacy Center since 2012, assisting the organization to achieve National Children’s Alliance Accreditation in January of 2016. Vanessa has spent most of her career specializing Child Abuse, Trauma and community collaboration. Prior to coming to Tuscarawas County, Vanessa was the Director of the Traumatized Children’s Task Force and the Director of the Children’s Network, both in Stark County and has worked in a number of child serving systems including Children’s Services , with local school districts, Juvenile Court and the medical facilities of Akron Children’s Hospital and Aultman Hospital. As an active member of ONCAC, Vanessa has served as the Chair of the Membership Education Committee since 2014. Vanessa holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Counseling from Walsh University and is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, Licensed Social Worker, and a Certified Adoption Assessor through the State of Ohio and is also a Forensic Interviewer. Vanessa has launched several ground breaking programs including: the first- of- its- kind in Ohio, Tele-medicine program with Akron Children’s Hospital and Tuscarawas County; the Latino Youth Advocate program with Latino Cultural Connections; and provides leadership with the local Tuscarawas County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force. Vanessa has presented at local, State and National levels on the Tele-Health Medical Program and on the topic of Children who have been traumatized. Vanessa is looking forward to serving the Membership of ONCAC as a Board Member at Large during this expansion and development of ONCAC.
Julie Oates – Member at Large
Executive Director, The Child Protection Center
Julie Oates is the Executive Director for The Child Protection Center of Ross County, a Child Advocacy Center and coordinates services for children and families impacted by sexual and physical abuse. The Child Protection Center is a 501 c3 and serves the South Central Ohio region. As a trained forensic interviewer and professional clinical counselor with Supervisory endorsement, she brings a diversity of strengths to her current role in child advocacy. In 2013, Julie co-founded and serves as chairperson of the Ross County Coalition to End Human Trafficking. Prior to her current position with The Child Protection Center, Julie served as a child and adolescent therapist in a community mental health center and a mental health technician for an inpatient psychiatric unit. Julie obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, earned her Master’s of Education in Clinical Counseling and is currently attending Ohio University for her Doctorate in Counselor Education. In addition to her various roles at The Child Protection Center, Julie works as an independent trainer and consultant with foster care agencies. Likewise, she provides on-going educational services to area schools, foster care agencies, and local community organizations. She is a recognized presenter on a local, state, national level, and international level.
Jody Richter – Member at Large
Law Office of Jody Richter, LLC
Jody Richter, after achieving top scholastic status through her educational levels, received her Juris Doctor from The Ohio State University, Moritz College of Law in 1998 and was admitted to the Ohio Bar in 1999. Her career includes serving as Assistant Licking County Prosecutor in Newark, Ohio, where she was an active member of Licking County Kids Team. Her tenure also included addressing Marketing and Compliance concerns in a privately owned medical products company; as well as, legal representation and corporate compliance for a multimillion-dollar medical management company serving in excess of 200 employees over a 30 state territory. Her determination and dedication to ‘make a difference’ has returned her to Newark where she currently maintains a private practice. Her strong work ethic and passion to work with youth is demonstrated profoundly as she serves as a Court appointed Guardian ad Litem for Licking County Common Pleas Court, Juvenile and Domestic Relations Division; dealing with situations from neglect and abuse to family solidarity. Jody proudly accepted her appointment to ONCAC and will strive to help ‘make a difference’.
Paula Sawyers – Member at Large
Licking County Prosecutors Office
Paula Sawyers has been an attorney for over 23 years. For the last three years, she has served as an assistant prosecutor with Licking County for the last 3 years. During this time, she has prosecuted numerous child abuse cases. Paula has also worked as in-house counsel for both Stark County Department of Job & Family Services, Children Protective Services, and Wayne County Children Services, where she prosecuted the child abuse and neglect cases for those counties, and served as the Chief Assistant Prosecutor, Juvenile Division, for the Summit County Prosecutors Office. Paula also served as a magistrate for the Ashtabula County Juvenile Court for several years, and worked as a legal consultant for the Geauga County CASA program. Throughout her career, Paula has been actively involved in the CAC’s of all of these counties, including being involved in the founding and formation of the Wayne County CAC. She has provided numerous trainings locally, countywide, and statewide on legal issues involving child physical and sexual abuse and the prosecution of these cases.
Colleen O’Connor – Past President
Coordinator, Summit County Children’s Advocacy Center
Colleen O’Connor is the coordinator of the Summit County Children’s Advocacy Center which is located within the Children at Risk Evaluation (CARE) Center at Akron Children’s Hospital. Her responsibilities include maintaining interagency cooperation and coordination in the case management and review of child sexual abuse allegations that occur in Summit County. Utilizing her B.S. degree in Secondary Education from The University of Akron, Colleen also provides education on Human Trafficking, Shaken Baby Syndrome and is a trained facilitator for the “Stewards of Children” child sex abuse prevention program. Employed by Children’s Hospital for over 35 years, she has been in her current position since the launch of this program in 2000. Colleen is a founding member of ONCAC, has held several offices and has served on many committees.