We are an experienced team of creative arts therapists, teaching artists, recreation therapists, and gerontologists. Through our extensive knowledge of holistic quality of life and the seven wellness domains, we cultivate joy, engage curiosity, and foster personal expression. Our goal is to increase your loved one’s or client’s quality of life through therapeutic activity that is purposeful and meaningful.
Each team member is a seasoned therapeutic activity specialist with a range of experience to serve every individual, client, or group. We are passionate about working with people living with memory loss (including those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia).
Kari Rogenski, RDT, MA, LMFT (#102199)
Director of the Hummingbird Project
BA Theatre Performance, University of Lethbridge; MA Counseling Psychology Drama Therapy, California Institute of Integral Studies
Kari’s love of elders began as a child and spending time with her grandparents was a joy. Grandma’s house was always Kari’s favorite place to be.
Kari combined her passion for eldercare and the creative arts by becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist and registered drama therapist working with elders. She brings well over a decade of experience to her role as Director of The Hummingbird Project and co-creator of Joyful Moments: Meaningful Activities to Engage Older Adults. She is a proud advocate for the importance of finding and embracing joy throughout life. She has presented to both professional and public audiences locally and nationally about Quality of Life and Life Enrichment for older and disabled adults, including several presentations for the Alzheimer’s Association, the Aging Life Care Professional Association, and the North American Drama Therapy Association, among others.
It is Kari’s creative and professional approach, as well as her warm personality, that allows her to connect with clients and engage them in meaningful therapeutic activities. Kari’s passion for theatre has been infused into her education and career. She has expertise in facilitating drama therapy techniques including improvisation, monologue writing, and play reading. Some of her favorite activities to share with older adults include expressive arts such as life story collage, art appreciation, touch drawing, creative storytelling, legacy projects, and more.
San Francisco and Peninsula
Meredith Eden, RDT, MA (2), LMFT (#116558)
Hummingbird Project Manager – SF and Peninsula
BA Drama, San Francisco State University; MA Counseling Psychology, California Institute of Integral Studies; MA Drama Theory and Devised Performance, San Francisco State University
Meredith has over ten years’ experience working in the theatre world and has transitioned over the last four years into using her skills for therapeutic forms of expression. She has interned at California Pacific Medical Centers’ SNF unit and Alzheimer’s residential facility. Meredith is honored to be a part of Sage, where she is enthusiastic about working collaboratively on the collective goal of quality of life for the elderly population in our community. Since childhood, she spent many hours at her grandparents’ community, which built awareness of the wisdom and stories the elder population embody. She received her Bachelor’s in Drama (Performance) from San Francisco State University where she went on to complete her Master’s in Drama Theory with a concentration in Directing and Devised Theatre. She holds a second Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology (Drama Therapy) from California Institute of Integral Studies. She is furthering her education and training through the Developmental Transformation Institute for drama therapy based in New York. Meredith’s training in improvised and devised theatre is a catalyst for her passion of creative approaches to achieve rich quality of life for both her clients and the community she serves. The heart of her practice is to think outside of the box while attuning to the desires, interests, and needs of her clients.
Katrina Zosseder, BA, BM
BA Anthropology, Lawrence University; BM Vocal Performance, Lawrence University
Katrina’s goal is to bring joy to older adults through compassionate interaction and creative engagement with music. Using her background as a professional musician and work with older adults in choirs and in community settings for over 10 years, she strives to help people find joy in the little things. Katrina has conducted anthropological studies on a range of topics and uses these skills to help clients further explore their interests and pursue lifelong learning projects. Katrina’s kind, empathetic personality also helps her find a connection with people.
Keesje Fischer, BA
BFA Painting, Utrecht School of Fine Arts, The Netherlands; BA, Pomona College
Keesje comes to the field of Aging through caring for her grandmother and volunteering in her New York nursing home as a TimeSlips storytelling facilitator. She has worked as an Activity Specialist in skilled nursing facilities and Assisted Living Residences for more than 8 years, most recently as Activities Program Manager for Memory Care Unit of Rhoda Goldman Plaza. Encouraging creative expression is inspiring, fun, and surprising, too. In her work with elders, Keesje loves that she learns something every day.
Kim Peloso, MPH
BS Adult Health/Wellness, University of South Carolina; MPH, University of South Carolina
Kim has more than 15 years of professional experience working with seniors and spent ten years as a volunteer coordinating an Intergenerational program in her community. She has served as Director of the Alzheimer’s Special Care Center in Columbia, SC, The Alzheimer’s Activity Center in San Jose, CA and the Ruth Ann Rosenberg Adult Day Healthcare Center in San Francisco, CA. Kim has hands-on experience working with older adults, as well as experience in program development, staff training, consulting, and management.
Kim’s outgoing and warm personality allow her to freely connect with seniors, quickly building a trusting relationship. Her passion lies in guiding memory-impaired individuals through all aspects of daily life. She has a special focus on maintaining familiar routines and creating opportunities for participation in pursuits that are meaningful to the individual.
Miyoko M. Nida, MA
BA Ethnic Studies/Asian American Studies, San Francisco State University; MA Counseling Psychology with specialization in Expressive Art Therapy, California Institute of Integral Studies; Certificate in Digital Design and Production, SFSU, College of Extended Learning
Miyoko has worked in the mental health field for ten years, including work with older adults in private residencies, group homes, and skilled nursing facilities. As an Activity Specialist, she is excited to engage expressive arts, creativity, and multiculturalism to provide enriching quality of life services. Miyoko supports individuals in creative ways in which words may not be the primary form of communication. She is a doctoral student in Transformative Studies at CIIS. Her research focus uses a transdisciplinary approach to intergenerational trauma and the arts.
Sonia Shell, BA
BA Humanities, New College of California
Sonia has worked many years in an adult day care setting with clients who are developmentally disabled, physically frail, or have dementia. She has also spent many years teaching and performing on guitar, cello, and banjo. She has recorded and toured with several bands and is currently in a Bossa Nova Duet. She brings her joy of music to Sage. Sonia is a credentialed teacher of Alexander Technique, and has spent many years working in a physical therapy setting. She loves writing, poetry, travel, animals, kids, and of course elders!
Madeline Williams, BA
BA Theater Arts, Greensboro College
Madeline found her calling in eldercare after the passing of her grandmother, who was also her best friend. After leaving a job in sales, she took on the role of Life Enrichment Manager at a Bay Area memory care community. She wanted to give other community members the same quality of life she was able to provide her grandparents. The most rewarding aspects of her position were the one-on-one interactions, from tailored outings to creating portraiture. She has seen the joy a customized experience can provide. At The Hummingbird Project, Madeline looks forward to devoting herself to personalized eldercare with a passionate, like-minded team.
Samantha Ryder, MA, LMFT (#120234)
BA Geography, Geographic Information System (GIS), University of Washington; MA Counseling Psychology with specialization in Expressive Arts Therapy, California Institute of Integral Studies
Samantha started volunteering and later working with elders in skilled nursing facilities and home care as a teenager and became passionate about providing individualized and compassionate care to enliven and support people in their later stages of life. Samantha’s love for and practice of visual arts, playback theatre, and the power of all arts in psychotherapy have hugely influenced her stance and practice as a mental healthcare professional. Working as an Expressive Arts Therapist trainee and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with families, groups, and individuals across the lifespan, Samantha brings her passion for creativity, storytelling, meaning-making, identity exploration, and strengthening relationships to her role as an Activity Specialist with The Hummingbird Project. Over the past 10 years, Samantha has facilitated creative arts grief and loss support groups for adults, children, and teenagers, and worked with dependent adults and elders in various settings. She brings a deep empathy and warm attitude to her work with individuals and emphasizes a whole-person approach to one’s sense of well-being and quality of life. Samantha especially loves collaborating in enacted, visual, and written story making, art creation, nature appreciation, and body-mind awareness with clients.
Stephanie Navarro, MA
BS Studio Art, New York University; MA Transformative Art, JFK University
Stephanie finds meaningful connection in her passion for creativity and helping others, especially in person-centered care. She believes that the creative process can be a vehicle for positive change as well as contributing to one’s overall well-being.
Stephanie likes to explore various art mediums such as painting, clay, collage, and found objects in engaging others, and believes that there is no wrong way to do art. She enjoys learning from her clients’ life experiences and encourages all methods of creative self-expression.
Dominique Mirabella, BMUS, MT-BC
BMUS Music Therapy, Arizona State University
Dominique has a passion for using music and other creative expressions to enrich the lives of older adults. Her focus has been providing quality of life services for hospice and palliative care clients in nursing homes, adult daycare facilities, skilled nursing facilities, and in-home settings. In her academic career, Dominique combined her love for music and supporting others by pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy and minor in Business. She started and directed the very first music program at her local YMCA camp in her home state of Colorado, which brought music-based activities to hundreds of children. At YMCA, she also volunteered and offered coping mechanisms through music for a handful of bereavement camp programs for grieving children. She later found a passion for drumming and received her certificate in HealthRhythms to lead group empowerment drum circles. Dominique is a board-certified Music Therapist. She sings, plays piano, ukulele, guitar, and percussion instruments. Her old-soul personality and energetic spirit help her easily connect with the community around her.
Alex Dvorak, BA
BA Psychology, University of San Francisco
Alex has always found joy in being with older adults and learning from their wisdom. Since 2013, she’s felt honored to work with older adults in a variety of ways, both professionally and as a volunteer.
Alex comes from a visual arts background and is currently pursuing licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) with a focus in Expressive Arts Therapy. She joined The Hummingbird Project in 2020 after several years of working with older adults in telehealth, caregiving, and assisted living. Alex enjoys working with older adults to create a space of joy and expression. Through a safe relationship and a comfortable therapeutic space, Alex holds space for meaningful activities that increase a sense of well-being, focus, and self-assurance. Alex finds purpose in creating moments of meaning with her clients, and bears witness to clients finding purpose and joy through the arts.
Mindy Creson, MA, MSW
Hummingbird Project Manager – East Bay
BA Social Work, California State University Chico; MSW Social Work, UC Berkeley; MA Theology and Ethics, Fuller Theological Seminary
Mindy’s warm and playful nature allows her to develop authentic connections to others, especially those living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. She was actively involved in caring for her grandmother and mother, both diagnosed with forms of dementia, experiencing firsthand the need for a person-centered approach to care. Mindy has a passion for engaging older adults in creative experiences that provide opportunities for joy, self-expression, and meaningful connections with self and others. Mindy’s expertise as a social worker and experience with a variety of creative arts has shaped her strengths-based approach to engaging older adults. Some of her favorite activities to share with older adults include creative storytelling, collage, nature walks, Laughter Yoga, art appreciation, and exploring a variety of spiritual experiences.
Julie Chervin, MA, CELS
BA Political Science, California State University Northridge; MA Counseling Psychology, Holy Names University
All of Julie’s life experiences have led her to the calling of helping to ensure that elders’ quality of life is maintained to the fullest. A musician throughout her life, Julie is certified with Music & Memory to bring personalized music playlists to elders and has trained in the Village Song method of facilitating Music Circles for elders. She is also a Certified End-of-Life Specialist (CELS) through Teaching Transitions. Julie has always loved spending time with elders and believes that intergenerational interaction, lifelong learning, and sharing music, stories, and expressive arts are some of the keys to sustaining vitality as we age.
Michelle Jacobs, BS, CTRS
BS Recreation Administration with a focus on Therapeutic Recreation, California State University Chico
Michelle’s (aka Misha) dedication to improving the quality of life of those around her began in her early days. She grew up helping in her mother’s special education classroom on her days off from school. Misha has always been passionate about working with people with different abilities, animals, and being outdoors. Her patience, creativity, empathy, and genuine spirit help her to connect with the clients she serves. Misha does not believe in “dis”abilities, but rather “different” abilities.”
Katie Giampa, MS, CTRS
Program Coordinator, Activity Specialist
BS Recreation, Parks and Tourism Management, Pennsylvania State University; MS Parks and Recreation Management with a concentration in Therapeutic Recreation, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Katie has worked with children and adults with developmental disabilities, older adults, and people who have experienced traumatic brain injuries for over a decade. She has a wide range of experience in outdoor activities, aquatics, community integration, travel, movement, and adaptive exercise. She is passionate about providing individualized person-centered interventions as a means to maintain and enhance the quality of life of those with whom she works. Katie believes strongly in the words of Dr. Patch Adams: “You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.”
Lori Rotolo, MA, RDT
BA Theatre and Education, Hunter College; MA Drama Therapy, New York University
Anyone who knows Lori has heard her share at least one of her grandmother’s famous “stories.” As the most influential person in her life, Grandma was Lori’s main role model for embracing life with joy, love, and humor. It was through this special relationship that Lori developed a respect for and appreciation of storytelling to connect with and bring joy to others.
Lori is a registered drama therapist and licensed creative arts therapist. Over the past 20 years, she has worked with a variety of populations with diverse needs and abilities: older adults with multiple cognitive and physical disabilities, children with mental health needs, and adults in treatment for alcohol and substance abuse. Lori’s ability to fully engage in the present moment with spontaneity and humor gives others permission to join in, tapping into their own innate ability to “play.” Her passion is to witness how creative arts, storytelling, drama, movement, and music activities create a bridge for individuals to express themselves and experience joy and connection with others.
Alicia Harris, BFA
Activity Specialist – Sacramento
BFA Painting and Drawing, University of Utah
Alicia’s love of art and variety started at an early age while growing up in the Middle East, surrounded by a diversity of ethnicities and artistic cultures. The desire to focus that energy into working with seniors with dementia started soon after Alicia’s grandmother, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, moved in with Alicia’s family.
Now Alicia has over 19 years of experience that includes volunteering with hospice and the Alzheimer’s Association as well as working in Adult Day programs, Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing Facilities. She also managed a Memory Care Community for over 10 years.
Alicia believes that some of the most profound and meaningful lessons she has learned have come from people who are living with dementia. She highly values what they have to offer the world. She is both determined and excited to help find the individual bridges that help older adults connect with life and defy their mental or physical concerns.
Jennifer Verdu, BS, CTRS
BS Nutritional Science, San Jose State University
In 2008, Jennifer began working at Masonic Homes of California’s Skilled Nursing Facility as a Recreation Leader. She’s a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist and Senior Fitness Instructor with almost 12 years of programming experience. Jennifer has worked as Lifestyles Manager for Acacia Creek CCRC and managed all aspects of the lifestyles programs. She has spent the last few years working as an Activity Coordinator for Avenidas Rose Kleiner Adult Day Health Center. Jennifer’s ultimate goal is to create purposeful programs that enrich the lives of seniors.
Rita Canny, MPS, ATR-BC, LMHC
Hummingbird Project Manager – Los Angeles
BA Art History, Mills College; MPS Art Therapy and Creativity Development, Pratt Institute
Rita’s first experience in eldercare was in high school when she volunteered to spend time visiting residents at a care facility in Playa Vista, California. Over time, she developed an understanding of these elders—their deep reflections and feelings and their needs for self-expression. Rita is a registered, board certified Art Therapist and Licensed Mental Health Counselor (11022). She has presented on Art Psychotherapy, Art Therapy Program Development, and Water Color Painting in Memory Care for the New York Art Therapy Association, New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, Laguna Honda Hospital, and others. She also served as the Director of Public Relations for the Northern California Art Therapy Association for three years. Rita is honored to bring 16 years of experience to the Hummingbird Project. She is committed to her own creative process as a mixed media artist. Her wide knowledge of materials and techniques, combined with her creativity, enables her to provide highly personalized approaches to meaningful activity with her clients. She enjoys working expressively with others through activities such as adaptive art, book making, art and music appreciation, gardening, and sensory oriented play. She brings an empathic and playful approach to her work that supports her ability to engage clients and build trusting relationships.
Susan Martelino, MA
Hummingbird Project Manager – Seattle
BA Psychology, Upper Iowa University; MA Marriage and Family Therapy, St. Mary’s University of Minnesota
Susan’s close relationship with her surrogate grandmother taught her to treat older people with care and respect—and fostered her interest in working with elder men and women. She also discovered the wisdom each elder person holds as they share their experience and knowledge and believes they should be recognized for the great teachers they are. Susan’s favorite activities to share with her clients include movement, sensory stimulation, life stories, and tapping into their unique interests to maintain who they are.