through elevating the voices of military family members to educate and advise military service organizations, Department of Defense and public officials.
All children receiving special education are entitled to a free appropriate public education.
The data shows there are systemic problems with special education for military families across the US and the trend is many school systems are not providing the required standards of education.
We founded the non-profit Partners in P.R.O.M.I.S.E. in February 2020 to elevate the concerns of military special education students and their families to ensure they have the same access to an education as civilian students.
Partners in PROMISE is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that serves as a representative voice for our Exceptional Military Family Members (EFMP). We are led by active duty military spouses, with boots on the ground that give us insights into the complexity of special education. Our team is comprised of Special Education advocates, Special Education attorney, former EFMP staff, educators, researchers and journalists who help to inform and educate our community. Most of our staff have personal experiences with special education, ranging from those at the beginning of their special needs journey to those of us who have been in the special needs community for over 19 years.
Michelle Norman is the Executive Director and Founder of Partners in PROMISE, a non-profit organization focused on educating, advising and advocating for exceptional military families and their education. She is a Navy spouse of over 25 years and mother of a 18 year old daughter with cerebral palsy and many other medical diagnoses. After years of successfully advocating and winning multiple legal cases to ensure her daughter receives the minimum education required by law, Michelle realized that she was not alone. After seeing a gap in support, the Virginia Beach resident has become a passionate advocate for all military children with special needs and their families.
Michelle graduated with a degree in Petroleum Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and worked as an Environmental Engineer civilian with the US Navy until her daughter was born prematurely. Her problem-solving background as well as her desire to do the right thing has resulted in top-level changes over the last few years within the Department of Defense Exceptional Family Member Program and State Disability communities.
Michelle has been recognized for her military family advocacy efforts with the 2022 Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) Changemaker Award, William and Mary PELE Law Clinic Kayla Bower Advocacy Award, 2020 Heroes at Home Military Spouse of the Year Award for Hampton Roads and 2019 AFI Navy Military Spouse of the Year Award.
Jennifer Barnhill is the Chief Operating Officer of Partners in PROMISE, a freelance writer with a focus on military family advocacy, Navy spouse and mother of three.
Her reporting has been featured in Military.com, We Are the Mighty, Military Spouse Magazine, Military Families Magazine, TheMilitaryWallet.com and The War Horse. She serves on the National Military Spouse Network Day of Advocacy Steering Committee. In 2022, she earned her Master’s of Public Administration, with a concentration in nonprofit management from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
Her passion for the military family community brought her to Partners in PROMISE in March 2020. And she brings that passion to all she does to help the EFMP community.
Meagan Consedine is an Army veteran, active duty Army spouse and mother of two. Her youngest child was diagnosed with autism at age 4. As a highly mobile family, they have experienced first-hand the challenges of transferring an IEP to a new school. Meagan has worked in the private sector as a business development operations manager and a proposal manager. She has a Master of Public Policy (MPP) from Oregon State University, with a concentration in social policy, and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Notre Dame. In addition to her professional experiences, Meagan is also an active Family Readiness Group (FRG) volunteer.
A proud military wife of 19 years, Tricia was named the 2012 Armed Forces Insurance Navy Spouse of the Year for her advocacy efforts in support of military children. As a former educator, she is passionate about connecting families to resources that alleviate the hardships associated with frequent moves throughout a military career.
Prior to volunteering with Partners in PROMISE, Tricia gained more than five years of experience working with national nonprofits in volunteer and program management. She has also held leadership roles with various organizations including the PTA, school advisory committees, and other community organizations. Tricia has been a featured writer for Military Families Magazine, GI Jobs, and Military Spouse Magazine.
She earned a Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Science from Wilmington University and a Master of Science in Human Services from Capella University. Tricia resides near Naval Trauma Training Center at USC, Los Angeles, California with her husband and four children.
A proud wife to an Army Aviator, Crystal has served the military community in many capacities over the last 20 years and is committed to serving until and beyond her soldier’s retirement. She strongly believes in serving military families and the surrounding community at each duty station.
In 2014, her oldest son was diagnosed with a rare speech disorder and Autism. Two years later, her youngest son was diagnosed with the same speech disorder. These diagnoses thrust her family into the Special Needs and Special Education community. Driven by her passion to help, Crystal went back to school and focused her research on Civil Rights, Disability Rights, and Special Education Law.
Crystal works as a paralegal, advocate, and legal analyst in Special Education Law. She is deeply committed to policy changes to advance Disability Rights and serves as an Instructional Assistant at The George Washington University.
Mary is a Navy Spouse and mother of 3 children, one of whom was diagnosed with ADHD. Mary knows firsthand what it’s like to endure the stressors and lack of support when it comes to the Exceptional Military Family Program. Mary recently graduated from Regent University with a Master of Arts in Law with a concentration in Criminal Justice. She has a passion for helping others and being a voice for those who have a hard time being heard.
Carla Wyrsch is a Marine Corps’ spouse and mother of two. She has devoted her career to educating and advocating for children with disABILITIES. Her experience spans a variety of settings, including residential treatment facilities, military bases, public schools, and the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Learner School for Autism. In addition to her work with children, she enjoys providing coaching sessions to both professionals and parents in the areas of behavior modification and other best practices.
Hilary Laxson, a former Coast Guard spouse of 12 years, has been in the military community since 2000. She graduated from the University of Denver in 1999 with a BSBA in Finance and obtained a graduate level paralegal degree in 2000 from University of San Diego.
She spent time in California, Georgia and Hawaii as a Coast Guard Family member. She has a child with severe dyslexia and other learning disabilities in high school. She’s the parent volunteer for Decoding Dyslexia Military for Georgia and actively involved in advocacy for active duty families in the State of Georgia. Last February, she attended “Say Dyslexia” Day in order to help bring more attention to dyslexia in the State of Georgia. She runs a parent support group on Facebook called Warrior Parents of Dyslexics for parents all over the USA who need help navigating the world of dyslexia. When she’s not helping parents with dyslexic children she works full time as an online business consultant and business manager.
GRACE E. KIM is the principal attorney with The Law Office of Grace E. Kim, P.C. Her practice is focused on Special Education and Education Law, to include issues involving the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), restraint and seclusion, school discipline, and higher education issues. Ms. Kim has been working on behalf of children with Special Needs since 2002 as a mother of a Special Needs child. This led her to become an attorney dedicating her practice to representing families of Special Needs children with legal and education-related issues. She earned her B.A. degree from Nyack College, her M.A. degree from Alliance Theological Seminary, and her J.D. degree from the George Mason School of Law. Ms. Kim lectures on Special Education Law and related topics for various local and national organizations and bar associations. She is also an Air Force spouse and a board member and co-founder of Partners in Promise, an education and advocacy non-profit group working on behalf of military special needs children. Ms. Kim lives in Virginia with her husband, Air Force Chaplain Lt. Col. Joshua Kim, her daughter, Karis (13) and her son, Josiah (19) who is on the Autism Spectrum with co-morbid conditions and other neurological and physical disabilities. In her free time she enjoys running marathons, singing opera, exploring different cultures through travel, books, and cuisines, and spending quality time with friends and family.
Jennifer Dane is a veteran of the United States Air Force who served as an intelligence analyst focused on geopolitical relations, terrorism, and threat vulnerability issues. Jennifer currently serves as the Executive Director of the Modern Military Association of America – the nation’s largest non-profit organization working to advance fairness and equality for the LGBTQ military and veteran community.
She has earned a diversity and inclusion certificate from Cornell University, an associate degree in Intelligence Studies from the Community College of the Air Force, a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Bethel University, a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice from Arizona State University, Master of Arts in Educational Policy from The Ohio State University and is a Public Policy and Social Change PhD student at Union Institute and University.
Jennifer also has a wide range of diversity, equity, and inclusion, consultancy and training experience having worked with the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Uber, Synchrony, Capgemini, HBO Max, NBCComcast, the National Diversity Council, and various organizations and people. She is passionate about her commitment to leaving the world a better place than it was before she was born.
Alyssa Picchini Schaffer is a marathon-running, novel-reading, coffee-drinking, afternoon-nap-loving scientist. She is passionate about addressing significant problems in science by combining broad perspectives and attention to detailed scientific inquiry. She is a Senior Scientist and Administrative Director for the Neuroscience Collaborations at the Simons Foundation.
Before joining Simons, Alyssa was the Scientific Director of TEDMED, an independent licensee of TED focused on science, health and medicine. From 2010-2012, Alyssa was a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She is also a Columbia University Alumna, earning her PhD from the Pharmacology Department. Her research passion lies in understanding the biological basis of psychiatric disease. While at Columbia, Alyssa investigated the cell biology, fate specification, and environmental regulation of neural stem cells in the adult brain. When not dabbling in Italian, she loves to focus her energy on empowering underprivileged teens, salsa dancing, running, and yoga.
Shannon DeBlock is a proud Navy spouse for the past 16 years and a mom to 2 boys. Her youngest son was diagnosed with autism at 16 months old. His educational needs have been difficult to meet across duty stations partially due to the severity of his disability and the lack of support and accountability from the public education entities responsible for educating him.
Shannon teamed up with 3 other military spouses in 2019 after a 2- year legal battle with Poway Unified School District in San Diego, CA where the district sued her 11-year-old son to remove educational supports that he had been receiving for the previous 5 years at a prior duty station. She co-founded the non-profit, Partners in Promise, and subsequently the PROMISE ACT in an effort to support fellow military families with educational challenges for their special needs children and bring change to lawmakers.
Kaci McCarley is an active duty Army spouse and mother of a 14 year old son with Down syndrome. After gaining her undergraduate degree in special education and working as a teacher for several years, she joined Goodwill of the Olympics and Rainier Region as Director of Disability Services where she had opportunity to support military students transitioning from K-12 education into adult services.
She became an advocate for students with disabilities after seeing the tremendous stress military families endure during times of transition, and the lost instruction that negatively impacts academic achievement and development. Kaci currently works for the Military Child Education Coalition who champions quality, inclusive education opportunities for all military-connected children.