Consumer Bios
  • Miss America, Heather Whitestone
  • Mr. Bob Boffa
  • Ms. Kathy Buckley
  • Mr. Jamie Goike
  • Mr. Dan Hansen (XII)
  • Ms. Regina and Ms. Davina Hicks
  • Mr. Mitchell Levitz
  • Mr. Mark McClellan
  • Mr. Willie Moody
  • Mr. Travis Moore
  • Ms. Cynthia Reneť Outman
  • Mr. Jim Rew and his son Dan
  • Mr. Jeff Ridgeway
  • Mrs. Susan Statum
  • Mr. Michael Tedder
  • Ms. Eloise Woods
  • See Consumer Leaders Papers
    • Miss America of 1995, Heather Whitestone, was the very special guest for Transition VI. Using the platform issue "Anything is Possible" to motivate youth, Miss Whitestone said, "I really believe the most handicapped person in the whole world is a negative thinker. . .It is our responsibility to overcome the barriers which prevent us from reaching our dreams. As a profoundly deaf woman, my experiences have shown me that the impossible is indeed possible." Heather attended public school in Alabama where she graduated with a 3.6 GPA. An accomplished ballerina with 15 years of dance training, she enchanted the pageant judges with her ballet routine. Although Heather could not hear the music, she counted the beats in her head and synchronized her dance moves to reflect changes in pitch. Heather created and implemented the STARS Program (Success Through Action and Realization of your dreamS), which she delivered at Transition VI. (See her keynote paper herein.)
    • Mr. Bob Boffa was the banquet speaker for Transition VII. He is the father to Christopher, who at that time was a 17 year old special education student at Birmingham's Gardendale High School. Since 1982, Mr. Boffa and his wife Bobbie have been training and employing people with disabilities. They linked their business, Gardendale Jewelers, with their son's high school work program for students with special needs . As a management consultant/speaker, Mr. Boffa had conducted programs for NASA and Hilton Hotels on motivation for increasing production. He has served as the Birmingham Chairman for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and has been honored  with national recognition from the Service Jewelers Association for his Humanitarian Efforts. From 1992-1995, he was a member of Alabama's Special Education Advisory Panel (SEAP).
    • Ms. Kathy Buckley was the opening speaker at Transition XIII. A successful comedienne, actress, inspirational speaker, and author of a best-selling book, If You Could Hear What I See, Ms. Buckley has received acclaim for her PBS special, "No Labels, No Limits," and has won numerous awards for her script-writing and performance. She received recognition from the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army for her outstanding efforts toward disability employment awareness. She offers special insight into the ups and downs of the journey to a successful career and a full, rewarding life.
    • Mr. Jerimie Goike was the banquet speaker at Transition IX. A sample of his own words:

    "I would like to begin by dedicating this special day to my parents who were determined not be ignored and never give up. And to my grandmother who broke my silence and got me to talk. I was diagnosed with autism at eighteen months . . . Although I was in special ed. most of my life I did get to participate in regular classes and after school programs. My school was very helpful in making adjustments for me to be able to participate in a class or program offered by my school . . . I believe what has helped me the most is catching it early enough and going through early intervention. You really have to play your part and be supportive which can be very valuable in a child's progress. Everybody's in it together and it's like a team, that's one thing I remember most about the program. . . . After graduating high school I got involved with Vocational Rehab. I spent some time in Talladega studying electronics and then I got a computer and taught myself how to use some of the Microsoft Office Programs . . . Right now, I'm currently employed with the Alabama Dept. of Rehabilitation Services as a telephone operator . . . I moved to Birmingham from Anniston to be on my own and have access to transportation. I've lived successfully on my own for four years . . . I've had a wonderful life and I wouldn't change a thing." (See his full banquet presentation herein.)

    • Mr. Dan Hansen, along with his friend Brian Burrows, was the banquet speaker at Transition XII. One quickly learned from his self-portrait that he is indeed a most outstanding individual. A sample of his own words: "I was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy at the age of 5. By the age of 9, I went into a wheelchair. By the age of 13, I had two rods placed along my spine, and at 18 I went on a ventilator. In 1991, I graduated from El Camino high school in Sacramento, California. From there, I received an AA degree at American River Junior College in general education. Through a lot of hard work, less than two years ago, I graduated from California State University, Sacramento, in public relations. About 5 years ago, I decided that I wanted to share my story of having muscular dystrophy with as many people as possible, so I wrote a book about my life. The title is Let the Flame Within Burn Brighter.
    • Ms. Davina Hicks and Ms. Regina Hicks are twin sisters, known as the 'Dancing Duoí from Tuskegee, who performed at Transition VII and Transition X. Born with Down Syndrome, they represented Alabama's Very Special Arts (VSA) at the International Festival in Brussels, Belgium. Prior to that, they performed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. Recently, the twins were invited to Florida's Magic Kingdom where they danced at the Dockside Theater at the Walt Disney Village. It was the love and support of their family that helped Regina and Davina embark on this wonderful journey when their talent for dancing was first discovered at an early age. And, what a remarkable family! In 1994, for example, the Hicks were Alabama's Special Olympics Family of the Year. The mother, Lillie R. Hicks, is Assistant Chief of Nutrition and Food Services at the Veteran's Administration (VA) Hospital in Tuskegee. The father, Lee Otis Hicks, is a retired Nursing Assistant at the VA Center in Tuskegee. The oldest brother, Dr. Michael Hicks, is an Oncologist at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, MI. The youngest brother, Reverend Anthony Hicks, is an engineer with the Federal Aviation Administration in Los Angeles, CA.
    • Mr. Mitchell Levitz, a national celebrity, is no stranger to the Alabama Transition Conference. He was the keynote speaker for Transition V, and what an impact he made. Two years thereafter, he conducted an all day preconference workshop entitled "Students Planning their own Future." Mitchell is co-author of the prize-winning best seller, Count Us In: Growing Up with Down Syndrome. Among his 46 television and radio appearances, he has been a special guest on such programs as Jane Pauley's NBC Date Line and the Larry King Show. Also, he has been acknowledged in over 70 newspapers, magazine articles and book reviews including USA Today, Psychology Today and People Magazine. (See his keynote paper herein.)

    Mitchell Andrew Levitz was born on April 10, 1971, to Jack and Barbara Levitz, and grew up in Cortlandt Manor, New York, with his two younger sisters, Stephanie and Leach. Shortly after birth, he was diagnosed as having Down's Syndrome. The pediatrician recommended placing him in an institution. This was dismissed by his parents, who chose to raise him at home, providing him all of the opportunities to reach his full potential. Mitchell's birth led his parents to establish the Parent Assistance Committee on Down Syndrome, one of the first such support groups in the nation.

    Mitchell graduated with a regular diploma in 1991, and received awards for his community service, school service, and academic achievement in business education. As well, he earned a varsity letter for soccer. As for his religious education, he became a Bar Mitzvah at the age of thirteen, chanting Hebrew prayers and leading services. He participated in regular summer camps, Boy Scouts, and the American Youth Soccer Leagues with his peers without disabilities.

    In 1992, he was invited to give a Congressional Testimony for the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee on Disability Policy. In 1993, he appeared in the Woolworth Corporation's documentary film EMPLOY*ABILITY: Integrating People with Developmental Disabilities into the Workplace. And, in 1994, he delivered the guest address to the New York State Legislature for New York State's Disabilities Awareness Day. He enjoys travel and has visited Israel, Spain, and Puerto Rico with family, and toured Canada, Hawaii, California, and the Midwest with a social club for young adults with learning disabilities. Also, he enjoys downhill skiing, water skiing, ping pong, tennis, reading the newspaper, and watching sports.

    • Mr. Mark McClellan was a keynote banquet speaker at Transition I and X. His impact was felt at Transition I, in that his presence established the tradition of including consumers as an integral part of the annual conference. At that conference, Mark, a consumer advocate from Birmingham and leader in Alabama's People First movement, spoke at the banquet and was everyone's favorite. He received a spontaneous standing ovation upon completion of his presentation, which focused on the need to recognize youth with handicaps first and foremost as "People First," as well as the need to recognize their right to decision-making, problem-solving and self-determination. He also was part of a consumer panel at the 10th anniversary (Transition X). In addition to these two leadership roles, Mark has been a familiar face at most of the annual conferences. He is a much welcomed participant.
    • Mr. Willie Moody has been a regular entertainer at the Alabama Transition Conference. In fact, he has performed at Transition VIII, IX, X, and XVI. He sang the national anthem at the conferenceís 10th anniversary. Willie, blind since the age of two, has never been one to allow a disability to stop him from pursuing a dream. He was mainstreamed in regular schools since preschool and, at the young age of 7, his recognized talents earned him the opportunity to open two shows for Ray Charles. He has since become an accomplished pianist, vocalist, lyricist, and composer.

    Willie has been a Very Special Arts participant in Georgia since 1977. In 1988 and 1990, he received Georgiaís Young Soloist Award and represented the state as a nominee for the Itzhak Perlman Award, a national competition through the Very Special Arts Network, which recognizes the talents and achievements of artists of exceptional musical abilities. In 1989, Willie represented Georgia at the International Very Special Arts Festival in Washington, D.C. At this event, he performed as a featured artist with Pearl Bailey at the Gospel Sing Out, and sang with Kenny Rogerís chorus on the White House lawn.

    • Mr. Travis Moore was the banquet keynote speaker at Transition III and part of a panel at Transition X. Clearly, his message as a consumer gave professionals serious reason for reflection. The following words are but a window to his recorded and published story on that occasion: The transitions that individuals have to go through to be their own advocate is what you [professional stakeholders] need to learn. I don't know which positions most of you are in, if you are in teaching, or if you are in guidance, or if you work for the state, or work with a student or a parent. But, I can tell you that each person with LD is different. Each one learns on their wave length. Thank you for letting me share My Story with you tonight." What a dynamic speaker he is!

      Travis Moore was diagnosed as having dyslexia and hyperactivity (Attention Deficit Disorder) in the 2nd grade and it was not until the 6th grade that he learned to read . . . his greatest problem through the years was with credibility: because of how he looked and appeared, no one believed the degree of the impact of his disabilities . . . His transition from high school to college was remarkable. At AUM, he provided assistance to other students with disabilities, as well as shared his school experiences with audiences of professional organizations and other groups . . . As a recent college graduate, he knows his special needs and necessary accommodations, and is prepared to enter the job market serving as his own advocate. In his keynote address, Travis highlighted his personal experiences of growing up with a disability, and told of the strategies he has learned on his own in coping, compensating, and achieving. (See his banquet paper herein.)
    • Ms. Cynthia Reneť Outman: Ms. Outman, the banquet speaker at Transition XVI, was a wonderful addition to the program. She graduated with honors and a traditional diploma from Chamblee High School in 1996, and three years later earned a diploma in Education Paraprofessional Training from DeKalb Technical Institute. She has been the recipient of many honors, including President Clintonís Award for Educational Excellence and the Atlanta Alliance on Developmental Disabilitiesí Outstanding Individual Achievement Award. Since January 2000, Cynthia has served as a Preschool Paraprofessional through Georgiaís DeKalb County Board of Education.
    • Mr. Jim Rew and his son Dan: Mr. Jim Rew, banquet speaker at Transition XIII, is married to Sherleen Kyle Rew and they have two sons, William and Daniel. A graduate of the University of Alabama with a Masters degree from Auburn University, Mr. Rew has taught history for 25 years and serves as the Drug Prevention and Safe School Program Coordinator for Opelika City Schools. Mr. Rew trained in behavior modification for autistic children and is a founding member of the Autism Society of Alabama. His son Daniel, diagnosed with autism at 3, was in the 10th grade at the time of the banquet.
    • Mr. Jeff Ridgeway was the banquet keynote speaker at Transition XV. Mr. Ridgeway is the former president of People First of Alabama and currently serves as chairman of the Lead Team for that organization. A resident of Mobile, he has worked at Brunoís on Azalea Road for over ten years and moved into his first apartment a week before his 30th birthday. A native of Athens, Alabama, Mr. Ridgeway works with people with disabilities to show them that in order to make change in their lives "they themselves must learn to speak up and lay claim to all the rights afforded them in the Constitution."
    • Ms. Ann Roberts was a teen who attended the Alabama Transition Initiativeís summer camp for outstanding high school students with disabilities. Its purpose was to make empowerment a reality by providing the campers with leadership and self-advocacy skills. During "Camp Week," students stay in dormitories at Auburn University and participate in "college life." In her success story that is presented herein, Ann writes "There were many experiences at camp for me, learning how to live in a dorm for college life, getting up and going to classes in the morning, and sometimes coming back to the dorms. After that week I was really hoping to get a self-advocacy group going . . . [After camp] I came back, talked to my resource teacher, and she was really hoping to get one started also . . . I wish I could stay with the group for about a year to see how it goes, but I am graduating this year. I want to be an elementary school teacher . . . I would definitely use my transition and self-advocacy skills on the children so they can grow up to feel like they are important and that they can talk to teachers about their needs. As of this writing, Ann had completed several successful years as a student at the University of North Alabama as a special education major. (See her success story herein.)
    • Mrs. Susan Statum was the special keynote banquet speaker at Transition V. At that time, she had two children who had severe disabilities, one of whom was 19 years of age and had a severe/profound level of disability. Mrs. Statum's beliefs and actions are best reflected in her philosophy. In her own words: "There is nothing that can be taught in a segregated classroom that cannot be taught in a regular classroom. But there are many things that can be taught in a regular classroom that cannot be taught in a segregated classroom." And, as she so genuinely states in her 1994 story that appeared in the Child Times in Alabama, "There is a heretofore un-acknowledged place in the world for our children and we need to claim it. The current movement toward full inclusion gives us a hope that no other generation of parents of children with disabilities has had; the hope that when our children are grown they will be accepted as full members of the human community. We are luckier that we thought."
    • Mr. Michael Tedder was the banquet keynote speaker for Transition IV and an invited panel member at the 10th anniversary (Transition X). Michael had spoken to many Civitan Clubs, as well as churches, schools, TV, radio, organizations, and many other groups. And what a remarkable story he had to tell! Clearly, his message as a consumer gave the audience a serious reason for reflection. The following words are but a window to his recorded and published story on that occasion: " . . . Our special education students deserve a chance to continue to strive to overcome and achieve . . . to learn to cope with the challenges of their adult life. We ought to have that chance to use our abilities to the fullest, and a chance to prove that we are survivors too. We may not make it as far as some, but we do expect you to give us the chance to achieve . . ." This leadership role also was important to him. In his published letter to Dr. Browning, he said: "I would like to say what a wonderful learning experience it was to be a part of the Transition Special Education Conference Meeting. I also learnt just how much those teachers and others want to help students like myself. Without their concern many of us would not be where we are today. It has been six years since Michael acknowledged his appreciation for this opportunity. We are truly excited to have him as a special part of this yearís anniversary program and thus have the opportunity to learn from him Ďonce again.í (See his success story herein).

    Michael was in and out of hospitals for seven years. And, in and out of Clinic after Clinic after Clinic, such as Crippled Children's, Hearing, Orthopedic and Urology. One doctor told the parents, "Michael will never make it beyond his 10th birthday." Another doctor said, "Michael would never be able to communicate so that others could understand him." So, what happened? In 1991, over 200 students participated in the national PTA Reflections Program with art or creative writing renditions of "If I Had A Wish." Michael was one of five winners chosen. In the 1992 Special Olympics, he placed 1st in the long jump and 2nd in the 50 meter sprint. That same year, he was chosen to become a Special Olympic recruiter for the State of Alabama. As a Career Exploration Center student, he and his coach were interviewed by radio station WLBI concerning Special Olympics. He placed first in a regional bowling tournament that same year.

    After joining the Gardendale High Speech and Drama Club and becoming a member of the school's Concert Choir, he learned that he was the only Special Education student involved in these activities. He wrote the high school principal and asked if he could address the entire school about opportunities that he hoped would be available to the Special Education students. Listen to part of his presentation that he broadcasted throughout the school shortly thereafter. "On behalf of all Special Education students, I would like the chance to speak to all GHS students on the topic of Special Education . . . Most of you know if you spend your time working on your abilities, your disabilities become unimportant. We hope to have that chance to use our abilities here at GHS. A chance to prove that we are survivors, too. Although we may not make it as far as some, we do expect to be given the chance to try.

    Mike ended his banquet presentation with these words:

    My determination has given me the opportunity to do many things that no one ever thought I could. At age 4, I was told by a neurospecialist that I would never speak more than three or four words at a time and would never be able to communicate with others . . . I have overcome that obstacle and many more. With your help and acceptance, we all can surpass our goals."
    • Ms. Eloise Woods was the very special guest for Transition II, and an invited member of the consumer panel at the 10th anniversary (Transition X). Clearly, her message as a consumer gave the audience serious reason for reflection. The following words are but a window to her recorded and published story on that occasion: When I went to school, I thought I was going get me a job when I got out of school. It didnít work out the way I thought it would. I donít want the people in the high school to go through like I had to go through. I donít want them to suffer. When they get out of school, I really want them to get a full time job." And add to that her words on that day: "Donít give up. Try: Donít ever say, "Well I cannot." Always try your best. It [may] take longer, but try. Donít give up. . . . We may learn slow but we can do it too."