We are an experienced team of creative arts therapists, teaching artists, recreation therapists and gerontologists. Through our extensive knowledge of holistic quality of life 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 both purposeful and meaningful.
Each of our team members is a seasoned therapeutic activity specialist with a range of experience to serve every individual, client or group and we are passionate about working with people living with memory loss.
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 three Grandmothers was always 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 10 years 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, MA, 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 Masters 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.
Jennifer Verdu, 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.
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.
Paul Barron, BFA
AA Arts, De Anza College; BFA Animation and Illustration, San Jose University
Paul believes that recreational activity plays an enormous role in our psychological well being, physical health and overall wellness. He has provided recreational programs for all ages and has a wide range of experience in outdoor activities, aquatic therapy, creative arts, music and movement, gardening, cooking and adaptive exercise. Paul brings 10 years of experience in the Recreation Therapy Service at the Veteran’s Administration in Palo Alto to his role at The Hummingbird Project. His education in the arts — painting, illustration and animation as well as 3D printing — further enrich his broad range of skills and talents. Paul has a calm and reassuring personality; he enjoys tailoring activities to individual’s needs.
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!
Babette Mendoza, BA
BA Health Information Management, DeVry University
Babette has worked with individuals who have cognitive, physical and sensory disabilities. Her outgoing personality helps her develop a person-centered approach to working with all of her clients. She is a Certified California Activities Director and is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Healthcare Services.
As a child, Babette’s best memories were playing outside and being outdoors.Her happy place is being outside. As she puts it, “the best things in life are free; fresh air and sunshine don’t cost a dime”.
Sue Hartenbaum, MA
BA Communication Disorders, California State University, Northridge; MA Communication Disorders, California State University, Northridge
Sue has a unique blend of personal, academic, and professional experience in art, gerontology, and providing care to older and disabled clients in individual and group settings. Her focus as an Activity Specialist is to bring joy to her clients’ lives by providing as much support as possible in the areas of mental, social, emotional, visual, tactile, olfactory, and auditory stimulation. Those who are no longer able to fully function without intervention and support often end up with a reduction in their overall physical and mental function. Sue fully believes that through targeted enrichment, she can help bring back her clients’ ability to participate in their world and greatly enhance their quality of life.
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, AMFT (#108262)
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 Associate 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.
Mindy Creson, MA, MSW
Hummingbird Project Manager – East Bay
BA Communications and Psychology, Rutgers University; MA Counseling Psychology, California Institute of Integral Studies
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, 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
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.”
Krista Harrison, MA, LMFT
Hummingbird Project Manager – Marin
BA Communications and Psychology, Rutgers University; MA Counseling Psychology, California Institute of Integral Studies
With a focus on clients’ strengths and abilities, Krista designs expressive arts With a focus on clients’ strengths and abilities, Krista designs expressive arts and therapeutic activities that help clients reconnect to vital aspects of themselves. Krista believes that stitching meaning into the tapestry of one’s life journey is fundamental to the human condition. She enjoys bringing this perspective into her work with older adults through reminiscing and life review, storytelling, letter writing, poetry, art-making, creative visualization, community outings and acts of service. Krista brings seven years of experience facilitating groups, directing programs and providing psychotherapy for people affected by acquired brain injury at the Schurig Center for Brain Injury Recovery.
Lori Rotolo, MA, RDT
Hummingbird Project Manager – Sonoma
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.
Tiffany Paige Ramirez, BFA
Hummingbird Project Manager – Sacramento
BFA Design, Parsons School of Design
Tiffany applies her 17 years of professional art and design experience to sharing creativity as a means to connect the heart and mind of individuals in their elder years. Moved by the loss of her grandfather to Alzheimer’s, in 2010 she started pursuing her vision to bring the healing properties of art and imagination to the lives of others living with the illness.
She launched and directs Artisan Mind and its affiliate, ARTZ Sacramento —both nonprofits dedicated to offering creative experiences that serve as gateways to accessing lost memories, reclaiming a sense of dignified self, and healing the symptoms often associated with dementia. For more information about Artisan Mind, please visit www.ArtisanMind.org. Today, at the Hummingbird Project, Tiffany continues to be devoted to nurturing creative thinking and inspiration in a way that sparks the very life in the hearts of those she serves. Tiffany is leading the development of The Hummingbird Project’s Sacramento region and is excited to provide clients with enriching experiences that are brimming with purpose, meaning and connectedness.
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.
Rita Canny, ATR-BC, LMHC
Hummingbird Project Manager – Los Angeles
BA Art History, Mills College; MA Art Therapy and Creativity Development
Rita’s first experience in elder care 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.
Victoria Hernandez, MS, CTRS, RTC
BS Kinesiology Exercise Science, California State University Fresno; MS Recreation Administration, California State University Long Beach
Victoria found her passion for helping others while working as a massage therapist over the past 11 years. She volunteered her time at the VA medical center helping veterans with pain management using touch and aromatherapy. At the VA hospital she discovered recreation therapy and decided to leave her hometown to pursue her MS degree in Recreation. Victoria continued to volunteer at her local VA hospital in Long Beach and completed her internship at the Blind Rehabilitation Center helping veterans with vision impairment through therapeutic recreation. She has since found her purpose helping others with varying ranges of ability. Her curious and adventurous personality leads her to discover new hobbies such as sewing, playing music, roller skating, and finding new places to travel. She believes it’s never too late to pick up a new leisure activity or rediscover old ones.
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.