Dr. John K. Waddell
Prior to joining Via Hope, Dr. Waddell enjoyed a successful career in higher education as the President of several public and private colleges and universities. He has lived experience in mental health advocacy and recovery through the advancement of mental health services for students, faculty and staff. Dr. Waddell has a long track record of delivering significant financial and fundraising results including millions in grants, gifts and in-kind contributions. As Dr. Waddell served in organizational leadership positions, he worked diligently to establish institutional relationships with key federal, state, city and county elected officials.
Some of his previous civic, leadership and professional engagements include serving as a Delegate at the United Nations Durban III World Conference on Human Rights and as a Board Member for the White House Initiative for Historically Black Colleges and Universities under President George W. Bush.
Dr. Waddell is a graduate of the Harvard University Institute for Educational Management (IEM) in Cambridge, MA and holds a Doctorate degree in Higher Education Administration from Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL. He also holds a Master’s (Student Personnel) and Bachelor’s (Secondary Education) degrees from the University of South Carolina. After college, Waddell completed an Internship in the Office of U.S. Senator Ernest F. Hollings (SC) in Washington, DC.
Sandra D. Smith, Ph.D.
Dr. Smith comes to Via Hope from a Recovery Community Center in Dallas, Texas where she served as the Associate Director. She has vast experience in higher education administration and secondary education with an unwavering commitment to the highest educational standards in order to support and encourage today’s youth and adults. She is a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor Intern, a Certified Peer Recovery Support Specialist, and most recently became a SAMHSA GAINS Center trainer for “How Being Trauma-Informed Improves the Criminal Justice System Responses.” She holds a Master of Science in Administration from Central Michigan University and a Ph.D. in Human Services from Capella University. She is a published author of a book on her true life story titled “Choices.” Her dissertation on support services was chosen for republication by Scholars Press (international dissertation clearing house), in 2014, due to its relevance in societal need for support services. She is a Reentry Advocate based on her own lived experience.
Amanda is a social worker using her clinical field experience and her lived experience with mental health challenges to promote person-centered practices in behavioral health care. Coming from direct social work practice and administrative leadership within the public MH system, she joined Via Hope in 2014, where she now serves as Recovery Institute Manager. In this role, she oversees the development and delivery of organizational change programs, which include statewide initiatives to support the implementation of person-centered planning, peer support services, and trauma-responsive work environments. With a passion for participatory learning methods, Amanda routinely facilitates collaborative learning events both within and outside of Via Hope programs. She has called Austin home since 2000 when she moved from Louisiana to obtain a Master’s degree at UT. Outside of work, you may find Amanda with her family hiking the Barton Creek Greenbelt or enjoying live music.
Christina Carney is a creative warrior with a passion for social justice and healing. She spent several years working in Syracuse, NY as an advocate for survivors of domestic and sexual violence before moving to Austin, TX in 2012. Christina became a Mental Health Peer Specialist in 2014, working at Austin State Hospital for three years. As a peer support specialist, she brought several art and healing events to the hospital, offering a space for persons served to share their talent, creativity, and voice. She is also involved in the community as a performance artist, activist, and organizer. Christina now coordinates the Peer Voice Project for Via Hope, along with hosting Community Connections, a monthly webinar for Peers. She’s also been able to explore a new passion at Via Hope: Curriculum writing. Christina has created and co-created several trainings, including: Group Facilitation, Healing-Centered Peer Support, Telling Our Stories, and Diversity & Inclusion.
Maisha Barrett spent most of her life in the New Orleans area. She began her college degree at Loyola New Orleans and finished at St. Edward’s University in Austin. She has spent ten years in the nonprofit sector in fields that address trauma. These include mental health, domestic violence, and sexual violence. She is passionate about education and considers herself a lifelong learner. Her educational background includes music therapy, psychology, women’s studies, and art. She is passionate about social justice, healing, and making the world a better place through all forms of art and expression. She enjoys a good story, keeping her hands busy with art, and long conversations on her porch. She is currently the Training Coordinator at Via Hope.
Bobbi Duncan-Ishcomer (they/them) is a queer, two-spirit, Autistic MHPS and has been with Via Hope since 2016. Prior to their time at Via Hope, they served as the Vice President of OCD Texas and still enjoy occasionally facilitating Austin’s local OCD support group. Bobbi has a degree in Linguistics and Russian Language from The University of Texas at Austin and did their thesis work on Language and Identity in Disability and LGBTQ communities. When not working, Bobbi loves hammock camping with their wife and dogs, turning lumber into furniture, memorizing esoteric geography facts for their trivia team, and playing a half-elf druid/sorcerer in Dungeons & Dragons. Bobbi is currently the Program Specialist at Via Hope. They make the internet work.
Cynthia Simons was born in Plano Tx but has spent the majority of her life around Austin, Tx. Her passion for civil rights and equity in education stems back to the age of 15 when she graduated high school at the age of 15 and attended the University of Texas at San Antonio. That passion has since been fueled by a firsthand view of the justice system. She comes from The Texas Center for Justice and Equity where she served as the Women’s Justice Director and worked on local and state level policy issues in Texas. In her role she also coordinated a coalition of folks interested in moving the needle forward in social justice. With that experience she brings innovative solutions and excellent relationship building wrapped in trauma informed care to Via Hope. She is the proud mother of three children and wishes to lead by examples of inclusion and uplifting historically marginalized communities for her family and community. Cynthia is a relentless advocate, activist and organizer uplifting the unique collateral consequences and intersectionality of American Systems. She currently serves as the Apprenticeship Program Manager at Via Hope.
Ta’Kisha Nicole Moore, a New York native, graduated from Georgia State University with a Bachelors in Sociology. She has been engrossed in peer work for the last 6 years as she has overcome her own mental health battles. Mental Health recovery is near and dear to her heart. She holds the Recovery Support Peer Specialist, Mental Health Peer Specialist, and Peer Specialist Supervisor Texas certifications. Some of her hobbies include embellishing and clothing design, decorating, rug tufting, sewing, baking, candy making, and furniture makeovers. She’s been married for 20 years and has five children.
Nori Hubert holds an AA in Creative Writing from Austin Community College and a BA in English from the University of Texas at Austin. Her adventures in the nonprofit world began as a staff writer for a small music magazine, a content writer for AIDS Services of Austin (now Vivent Health) and, most recently, the founder and co-editor of an independent online zine. She has spent time as a volunteer at Austin State Hospital and has written on topics related to work and bipolar disorder and mental health challenges affecting the LGBTQ+ community. Nori is passionate about dismantling the stigma that exists around persons living with mental health and substance misuse challenges and believes that reclaiming our own narratives sets us free. In addition to her mental health advocacy, Nori is also an active member of the Austin writing and Pagan communities and enjoys reading, collecting tattoos, baking (usually with some kind of edible flower), cross-stitch and singing along to her favorite rock opera soundtracks. She is also the proud pet parent of a Bourke parakeet and three cats who supervise all of her activities.
Amy has been working in the Peer Movement in the State of Texas for almost two decades. She most recently was the C.E.O of Resiliency Unleashed an international training and consulting company focusing on the development and implementation of peer services. She has extensive experience in the peer support sector. She previously started the first peer support program in the state hospitals in Texas, was a peer support worker in a community mental health agency and was also the Program Coordinator for a transitional peer residential housing project funded through the 1115 waiver program. Amy is a peer, and family member, with both mental health and addictions experience. She is a certified peer specialist facilitator, Advanced Level Wrap facilitator, ASIST trainer, WHAM facilitator. Amy was previously Chair of the PAIMI Council in Texas and on the US National Disability Rights Board. Amy is a lover of life and all that is possible for human beings.
Miranda joined Via Hope as the Recovery Institute Program Coordinator in 2021. She provides communications support, coordinates activities, and assists with evaluation efforts. She’s deeply committed to peer support, trauma healing, and harm reduction policies and practices. She has a Masters degree in social work from the University of Texas at Austin and, in her free time, she practices krav maga and kickboxing and spoils her rescue dog.
Sara started her career with The Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1978 and retired in 2020. She worked in the Accounting Department as the manager for 20 years, then started the first Internal Audit Department and worked for another 20 years. Sara had an open-door policy with all staff and enjoyed learning about their areas of the museum—it gave her the opportunity to see wonderful exhibitions and she loved hearing what visitors would say about them! Now retired, but still working, Sara loves spending time with her children and grandchildren.