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Diverse young and senior female colleagu

ABOUT US

Vision,mision,culture

Vision

We are innovators setting the standard of excellence in disability services. 

Mission

Our mission is to be a trusted partner to our clients and a thought-leader to our peers.

Our agency strives to empower transition-aged teens and adults with developmental disabilities to lead fulfilling lives on their own terms. Our approach combines progressive person-centered practices with compassionate and effective advocacy to help our clients and their families navigate complex service systems, access resources, and coordinate the support they need to achieve their dreams. 

In serving our clients, we develop innovative best practices that we share through our training and consultancy services, so that the greater disability community can learn and benefit from our work.
 

Culture

Innovative Thinkers

We strive to generate better, more creative, and more effective solutions to meet the needs of the individuals we serve.

Resolute Advocates

We are unwavering in our commitment to promoting our clients’ rights, breaking down barriers to access and inclusion, and amplifying the voices of the disability community.

Compassionate

Empathy, kindness, respect, and understanding are woven into every aspect of our work, creating a safe and supportive environment for both staff and clients.

Trustworthy

We value transparency, honesty, integrity, and accountability.

 

Inclusive

Every individual is welcomed, valued, and respected for their unique perspectives, experiences, and contributions.

Collaborative and Joyful

We work together in a supportive and uplifting environment, sharing ideas and resources, celebrating successes, and fostering a sense of community and shared purpose. 

 

ourteam

OUR TEAM

Founder

Sonni Charness
Founder & CEO

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Sonni Charness is the founder of Guidelight Group, where she serves as CEO and works directly with clients throughout its various services. Sonni has more than 15 years of experience serving individuals with developmental disabilities, and specializes in working with transition-aged teens and adults. She is an expert in navigating disability services systems, in particular the California Regional Center system, and employment for people with disabilities.

 

Sonni is a leading voice on the Self-Determination Program in California. Sonni is also the creator and lead instructor of Guidelight Group’s Essential Independent Facilitator Training Program, the only program of its kind in California. Sonni has been a featured expert at the Statewide Conference on the Self-Determination Program, trained the Disability Rights California staff on the Self-Determination Program, and is a regular contributor to webinars, conferences, and other educational presentations on the Self-Determination Program statewide. 

 

Sonni’s work on transition-to-adulthood and employment has been published in the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation and in Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities. She has been a featured expert on several podcasts focused on the disability community, as well as at countless conferences, including the Support Life Conference, TASH Conference, and the Statewide Conference on the Self-Determination Program. Sonni served as a member of the Board of Directors for California APSE, the state chapter of the nation’s leading advocacy organization promoting employment for people with disabilities. Sonni is a Certified Employment Support Professional (CESP), and holds certificates in Person-Centered Thinking and Independent Facilitation. 

 

Sonni obtained her master’s degree in special education at Vanderbilt University, and her bachelor’s degree in child development at Tufts University.

Debra Jorgensen


Director of Training and Innovation

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For over 20 years, Debra Jorgensen has focused her career on advocating for the rights of the disability community, and she carries that same focus to her role as Director of Training and Innovation at Guidelight Group.

 

As a former attorney at Disability Rights California and the Children’s Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego, Debra has deep knowledge of disability, employment, and public interest law and expertise supporting underserved communities. As a consultant, she continued to collaborate with self-advocates, families, providers, and government and other non-profit agencies to identify the needs of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and tackle system reforms to increase access to those services and supports. 

Debra is a member of the Board of Directors for California APSE, the state chapter of the nation’s leading advocacy organization promoting employment for people with disabilities. She is also a member of San Diego's Local Advisory Committee on Self-Determination Program (SDP) implementation and the Cardiac Family Advisory Council at Rady Children's Hospital. Debra is trained in Customized Employment by the Association of Community Rehabilitation Educators (ACRE), Person-Centered Thinking and Independent Facilitation.

Taleen Khatchadourian
Client Coach & Independent Facilitator

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As a parent of a transition-aged teen, Taleen brings a personal touch to her role as a Client Coach and Independent Facilitator at Guidelight Group.  Advocacy is a critical component to her work with clients, focusing on bridging the gap to meet each client’s unique needs.  As a result, Taleen has successfully transitioned numerous clients into SDP and continues to support them and their Circles of Support by creating a collaborative, person-centered environment. 

Since entering the world of the Self-Determination Program, Taleen has taken the stance that “it takes a village” and has shared her knowledge on SDP topics for the regional centers, Disability Voices United (DVU), Foothill Autism Alliance (FAA) and the Armenian Autism Outreach Project  (AAOP).  She has been invited to moderate panels, contribute to focus groups and assist in sharing best practices to FMSs, fellow IFs and other relevant providers and agencies.  

Taleen has had the privilege to sit on the Board of the Frank D. Lanterman Regional Center (FDLRC).

 

In addition to her years of service, Taleen currently serves as a Peer Support Partner and an active member of three parent support groups. She is a parent member of the FAA, and on the Board of Directors for AAOP, where she supports families throughout their journey and helps the community promote an atmosphere of inclusion.  Taleen spent ten years as a leader in supplemental education, contracting with school districts to provide specialized programs, working with families to tackle the effects of learning and developmental delays, supporting them through the IEP process.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Taleen received a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Southern California. She is certified in Person-Centered Thinking and has completed all relevant training for Independent Facilitation in California.  Taleen also holds certifications from FDLRC, DVU, State Council on Developmental Disabilities (SCDD), Autism Society of Los Angeles (ASLA), Council of Parents, Attorneys & Advocates, and Guidelight Group (COPAA) and Parents-Helping-Parents (PHP).   

Tammi Bradley
Client Coach & Independent Facilitator

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As an individual living with a developmental disability, Tammi offers a unique perspective in supporting our clients through lived experience in the areas of independent and supported living, disabled parenting, employment, accessible travel, and transportation.

 

Tammi's passion for life fuels her commitment to work in a disciplined life of service. Helping people realize their potential in a creative and nurturing way is what motivates her to work in this field. Her private sector work experience includes the San Juan Unified School District where she worked as a Special Education Paraeducator. As a civil service employee, she worked for the Board of Equalization as a Statistician, the California Department of Social Services as an Analyst in the IHSS Operation and Technical Assistance Unit, and the State Council on Developmental Disabilities where she worked as a contracted Quality Life Assessment Surveyor. 

 

Tammi has served on several boards including the Board of Equalization’s Disabled Advisory Committee, the Alta California Regional Center’s Board of Directors where she served on their Legislative and Executive Committees, the Association of Regional Center Agencies’ Legislative Committee and Disability Rights California’s Office of Clients Rights Advocacy Advisory Committee. As a Patient Ambassador for Biogen Pharmaceuticals, she traveled throughout the United States presenting to groups of individuals with congenital neurological disorders seeking a costly life sustaining orphan drug and developed a support group for patients navigating the Northern California Kaiser Permanente Healthcare system to obtain that treatment. Additionally, she created and is administrator of the Risdiplam Facebook Group with over 5k members. Currently, she is serving a two-year term as President of the Sacramento United People First chapter, a peer-to-peer run support group for individuals with developmental disabilities.

 

Tammi has an educational background in business and is certified in Person-Centered Thinking and People Planning Together by the Learning Community for Person Centered Practices. She received training and certification as an Independent Facilitator from Progressive Employment Concepts and is an alumna of the Guidelight Group Independent Facilitator Coaching Program.

SungHee Park
Client Coach & Independent Facilitator

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SungHee has led various advocacy efforts at the local, state and federal levels in the United States as well as abroad to improve the quality of life for individuals with developmental disabilities for the past 10 years. SungHee has worked on several developmental disability community projects to successfully develop and implement programs to reduce the gaps in services for underserved English and Korean-speaking communities.

SungHee was a former high-school teacher. Inspired by her son with autism, she decided to change her career to become an outreach service coordinator at a service provider’s agency of the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities until she moved to California in 2017.  She also worked as a consultant to Autism Speaks to support its community-based projects and Global Autism Public Health Initiatives. 

SungHee is currently a member of the Harbor Regional Center’s Self Determination Program’s Local Advisory Committee. She is also an alumna of the Guidelight Group Independent Facilitator Coaching Program. In the past, she served as an advisory board member to the Autism Society of Korea. 

SungHee is fluent in Korean and received her master’s degree in teaching of social studies from Columbia University in New York.
 

Gilda Evans
Client Coach & Independent Facilitator

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Gilda Evans is a Client Coach and Independent Facilitator at Guidelight Group. Her lived experience advocating for her own autistic son for more than two decades, as well as the roles she has had with other organizations in the nonprofit and disabilities realm have given her the skills and perspective to enable the exceptional and informed service we are proud to offer our clients. From person centered planning, to all aspects of the self-determination program, to life coaching and advocacy, Gilda strives to give each client the personal attention and caring ear that they deserve. 

Gilda’s personal journey has inspired her to think outside the box. Her experiences spurred her to create the Autism Resource Podcast, now over 100 episodes strong and a wealth of information for the community. She founded and sits on the Board of Directors of the Autism Resource Project, a trailblazing organization that will centralize numerous resources including services, supports, and products to assist families, educators, caregivers, and all those who support the neurodivergent and disabled populations. She has also been a guest on many other podcasts centering on supporting these populations.

 

Gilda has been a featured speaker, panel moderator and parent group leader for organizations such as Let’s Talk LD, Fantastic Friends and Friendship Circle. She collaborated with the Gift Global Initiative nonprofit to create a unique resource fair for neurodiverse and disabled families. She also designed the curriculum, implemented and led Youth Empowerment workshops for neurodivergent high school students in the Upper Lake School District in northern California. She has worked with the State Council on Developmental Disabilities (SCDD) and took part in their Quality Assessment Project for the Regional Center system.

 

Gilda is a Los Angeles native, and has trained and holds certificates in Independent Facilitation and Person-Centered Planning. She is an alumna of the Guidelight Group Independent Facilitator Coaching Program. She is also proficient in Spanish. 
 

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