Meet the Kindering CHERISH Team

Julie Fisher
Julie FisherCHERISH Program Manager

Julie is originally from IN, but has lived in the Seattle area for most of her adult life. She got her start in Seattle doing crisis intervention work and then outreach and engagement in homeless shelters. After receiving her MSW from the University of Washington in 2001, Julie has focused her work on trauma-exposed children and families. She worked with foster children in Snohomish and Whatcom Counties as a Connections Specialist on a project that assessed child well-being when parent and caregiver relationships are supported and encouraged. After studying under attachment therapist Deborah Gray and others, Julie earned a certificate in Foster & Adoption Therapy from Cascadia Training. Since 2006, she has been part of the CHERISH™ program and currently serves as its manager. Julie, with the help of Kindering’s amazing team of clinical social workers, is involved in replicating CHERISH in other Early Intervention settings. Since 2013, she has been humbled and awed by all that she’s learned from other therapists (OTs, PTs, SLPs, and Educators) who have trained with her to provide CHERISH services at their agencies. Julie is always eager to talk with anyone who feels passionate about improving the lives of foster children and impacting systems and policies. In her spare time, Julie can be found laughing and playing with her family and friends. She’s especially engaged when playing scrabble or euchre (a Midwest card game), eating tasty food, or exploring something or somewhere new.

Mara Calhoun
Mara CalhounCHERISH Clinical Social Worker and Program Development Officer

Mara has lived most of her life in the Northwest and is deeply committed to supporting the lives of young children and their families in the community. She began her early intervention career at Kindering as a paraeducator and FRC, later returning as a CHERISH Clinical Social Worker after completing her MSW at the University of Washington. Since receiving her MSW in 2006 she has worked in educational, medical, mental health and child welfare settings providing her a cross-systems perspective helpful in her CHERISH role of program development and systems advocacy. She has been Clinical Faculty at the CHDD, holds graduate certificates from the University of Washington in Infant Mental Health and LEND (Leadership and Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities) and is an Equity Facilitator for King County. In her spare time, she enjoys coaching soccer, volunteering in the neighborhood, spending time with family and friends, and raising two great kids.

Jennifer Gears
Jennifer GearsCHERISH Program Coordinator

Jennifer received her MSW from the University of Hawai`i, after studying Social Work and Psychology for her Bachelor’s degrees at the University of Washington in Seattle (where she was born and raised). Through school, volunteering, and work experience, Jennifer values the countless opportunities to learn from a variety of organizations that offer services to families, supporting the unique challenges and valuing the incredible strength of children and their caregivers. Jennifer has found passion for working with families who care for children with special needs, and supporting caregivers as they nurture the next generation. She is also passionately committed to confronting inequities in services and opportunities for systemically oppressed communities in order to create a more inclusive network of support that comprehensively addresses challenges and acknowledges the incredible strengths of families and individuals that make up our community. Now with CHERISH at Kindering, Jennifer enjoys connecting with families in the dependency community and providers, and the many opportunities for learning and growth this provides. While practicing mindfulness, she tries to incorporate humor and music into all aspects of life.

Erin Graham
Erin GrahamCHERISH Family Resources Coordinator

Erin, born and raised in Tacoma, WA, graduated from Central Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in Law and Justice, with minors in social services and family studies. Erin has volunteered as a victim advocate for a local domestic violence organization and has spent several years as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for children in Pierce County. She found her love for helping children and families after college and has been an employee of Kindering since 2015. Erin is committed to connecting with families in dependency and assisting them along their unique journeys. She is committed to helping families navigate dependency and connect them to local resources. In her free time, she likes to spend time with her family and friends, kayak, and cook.

Dianna Zaorski
Dianna ZaorskiCHERISH 3-5 Clinical Social Worker and Manager

Dianna is originally from the East Coast but has called the Pacific Northwest home for the last 20 years. She began her professional career in the for-profit sector which enabled her to travel extensively and experience an array of cultures. Dianna’s passion for social justice and volunteer work with homeless women and children ultimately led her down the path of social services. Dianna has a bachelor’s degree in sociology and graduate degrees in communications and social work. After obtaining her MSW from the University of Washington in 2007, Dianna spent ten years at a private child-placing agency as a social worker, clinical supervisor, and social services director, where she served children in foster care and their families. She has completed the Attachment and Trauma Focused Certificate Program and is a Bringing Baby Home Certified Gottman Educator. Eager to return to direct service work with families, Dianna joined Kindering in 2018 as a CHERISH Clinical Social Worker and Manager of the CHERISH 3-5 program. In her spare time, Dianna enjoys spending time with family and friends, cheering her son on at soccer games, traveling, reading, and listening to music.

Kaya Wynn
Kaya WynnCHERISH Clinical Social Worker

Kaya grew up in the Seattle area and did her undergraduate studies in Educational Theater at New York University. She then worked for two years as a second grade teacher in both general and special education while earning her Master’s degree in Early Childhood and Special Education in New York City. Kaya’s work as a school teacher illuminated her passion for the developmental, social, and emotional needs of youth. As a result, she chose to transition into the field of Social Work and earned her Master’s degree in Clinical Social Work (MSW) from Smith College. During her MSW training she had the opportunity to work with families at Sound Mental Health Child and Family Services in Tukwila. Kaya then worked with troubled youth and families on the Child and Adolescent Inpatient Units at the Institute of Living in Hartford, Connecticut. It was in her internship in Hartford that Kaya found her calling to work with families and support caregiver-child relationships. Kaya enjoys integrating play into her work and through her training has developed a love for working with children and their caregivers.

Sarah Branson
Sarah BransonCHERISH Infant Mental Health Therapist

Sarah was born and raised in Wisconsin and has been passionate about caring for marginalized groups and catalyzing systemic change for over a decade. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in Psychology with a minor in At-Risk Child and Youth Care. Throughout internships and early jobs, Sarah began working as a teacher and paraeducator with children and adolescents who had behavior challenges due to histories of trauma and developmental delays. After working overseas with women and children who had been trafficked and sexually exploited, Sarah moved to the PNW to pursue a Masters in Counseling Psychology from The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. She has since worked as a mental health counselor with children, teens, and adults in school and office-based settings in South King County. Through years of further study and working as a nanny for infants and toddlers, she developed an interest in fostering resilience and healing through the Caregiver-Infant dyad. Outside of CHERISH, Sarah enjoys visiting family, cooking tasty food, discovering new places, and reading in her hammock.

Aileen Villapudua
Aileen VillapuduaCHERISH Family Resources Coordinator

– More info coming soon! –

Carmen Rodriguez
Carmen RodriguezCHERISH Clinical Social Worker

Carmen Is a native of the North West and received her MSW from the University of Washington in 1992.  Carmen is passionate about providing clinical services to families utilizing a culturally relevant, racial equity lens. Prior to receiving her MSW she completed a BFA at the Cornish Institute in Visual Art. Carmen is certified in Child Parent Psychotherapy and is an endorsed Infant Mental Health Therapist.  Carmen has worked in Early Childhood Education, Mental Health and Medical Social Work settings. Carmen also enjoys mentoring students and has been a Practicum Instructor for University of Washington, Seattle University and Washington State University. Carmen likes to spend time with family (especially fur babies and human grandson) and friends and enjoys reading, spending time outdoors, exploring new restaurants, making jewelry and traveling.

Emily Edmiston
Emily EdmistonCHERISH Program Planner

Emily grew up in the Puget Sound area, and attended Seattle University for her undergraduate studies. After serving as an AmeriCorps member, she obtained her MSW from the University of Washington in 2007.  Within her graduate studies, Emily focused on administration practice and also, more recently, completed a certificate in nonprofit management from the University of Washington. She has worked in program administration at health advocacy and affordable housing nonprofits and spent many years working in academic program management and operations at the University of Washington.  With an interest in developing, implementing, and supporting systems and processes for greater impact and functionality as well as approaching work with an equity lens, Emily joined Kindering in 2019 as the CHERISH Program Planner.  In her spare time, she enjoys spending time outdoors with family and friends, getting lost in a good book, cooking, and traveling to new places.

Becca LeafMeeker
Becca LeafMeekerCHERISH 3-5 Infant Mental Health Therapist

Becca was born and raised in Eugene, Oregon. She received her Bachelor’s in Social Work from the  University of Washington, and went on to receive her Master’s in Social Work at Simmons University in Boston, MA. Most recently Becca worked for a Washington State child placement agency, licensing and supporting foster families. Becca joined Kindering in 2019 as a CHERISH Clinical Social worker. In her free time she enjoys camping, gardening, learning ceramics, and spending time with friends and family.