START Project

The START Project of the Statewide Parent Advocacy network serves families of children with special education needs, educators, schools and  districts,

·        Offers workshops and technical assistance to schools, districts and parent groups to improve family-school collaboration
·        Assists families and district personnel in establishing and supporting parent groups, 
·        Promoting increased family involvement to school personnel, 
·        Promotes the benefits of and best practices in inclusion of students with disabilities with their typical peers to the maximum extent possible, 
·        Informs parents and educators of best practices inTransition to Adult Life, and 
·         Provides resources and assistance to parent leaders of special education parent advisory groups.


Myriam Alizo
e-mail address: [email protected] 

Myriam Alizo has been working at SPAN since the year 2003 as a Parent Group Specialist under the START Project, helping to develop and support Parent Groups in the area of special education in the counties of Bergen, Essex, Hudson and Union. Myriam is also part of the New Jersey Statewide Parent to Parent, covering the northeast of the state.

Myriam sits on the Special Education Parent Advisory Council in her local school district, and is a member of the Steering Committee of the Bergen Chapter of ASPEN  (Aspergers Syndrome Education Network), and has made presentations in English and Spanish on IDEA, Basic Rights and Parent Professional Collaboration, Parent Involvement in the Special Education Process, Key Changes to the Special Education Law, Engaging Immigrant/LEP Families in School, Ensuring Effective Services to Immigrant &/or LEP/ELL Children & Families, etc.

Prior to working at SPAN, Myriam worked for over three years as a Family Support Coordinator & Parent Trainer in Parent-to-Parent of Miami, Florida, an organization dedicated to assist and advocate for parents and their children with special needs. Myriam has two daughters, and early on became very involved in their education as they struggled with learning difficulties and the complexities of acquiring language skills in a bilingual family/school environment.

Myriam Alizo has a B.S. in Electronic Engineering from Universidad Simon Bolivar in Caracas, Venezuela, and has been residing in the United States since 1989.

Dianne Malley is the START Project Director. Dianne has a Master of Fine Arts from the State University of New York at Buffalo. After completing her studies she lived in Los Angeles where she was the Art Director of an art center for adults with developmental disabilities. After working in Los Angeles she took a position as Assistant Professor of Art and Gallery Director at Clarion University of Pennsylvania. She has also been an active artist exhibiting around the country.

In 2001, Dianne relocated to Collingswood, New Jersey to be closer to her family in the Philadelphia area and to spend more time raising her three daughters. Her oldest daughter, Carissa has Down syndrome and a rare heart-lung condition called pulmonary hypertension. Carissa attends the Collingswood Middle School. Dianne has been a strong advocate for her daughter to be included in school and the community.

Dianne helped to start the Special Needs Family Support Group in Collingswood. 

Cecilia Raubertas is the START Bi-Lingual Parent Group Specialist covering the Southern region. Cecilia brings a wealth of experience, compassion, and enthusiasm to this role. She has strong communication skills to work with a diverse community. Born and raised in El Salvador, she came to NJ and completed her BA degree in Communication at Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ. In addition she has earned 30 credits in advanced level Spanish courses. She has experience working for the private sector and the State as a World Language Teacher. She has taught students with different learning styles and abilities as well as those with challenging behavioral difficulties. Cecilia is the proud mother of a now 22 year old daughter with Down Syndrome. Through the years, she has had enormous opportunity to learn and practice advocacy as well as help guide other parents navigating the special education system. She wants to empower Spanish speaking families and encourage them to be involved in their children's education.


Michele Tyler is a graduate of Queens College with a degree in communications. Once receiving the diagnosis of autism for her youngest son, she redirected her interest and studies to helping him. Michele has worked in the mental health system in NJ, which expanded her knowledge by providing information and support to families. Michele took the Span Resource Parent training through the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network and is currently employed by SPAN as the Southern Region Parent and Professional Development Staff Trainer and is a Parent Group Specialist for the South on the START Project.

Monique Dujue Wilson, our new Parent Group Specialist on the START Project has over twenty-year’s experience in community, education and disability advocacy. She is a results oriented leader with a record of successful collaborations with various stakeholders. Monique is experienced in recruiting, training and motivating with a leadership style that facilitates success. Monique’s son who has a dual diagnosis, Intellectual Disabilities as well as Mental Health, has successfully advocated for her son navigating through the maze of several systems from Early Intervention, Special Education, Transitioning to Adult life and the Behavioral Health Care Systems. Khary still lives at home, but alternative housing options and long-term planning is now the focus for this young man who is successfully carving out a life in the community; directing his course through “REAL Life Choices.” Monique is also the Family Resource Specialist for Camden County and a per Diem Trainer for Central and Southern Counties with SPAN. Monique can be reached at [email protected]

Tatsiana DaGrosa is a new Parent Group Specialist for the South under the START Project in Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and Salem counties. Tatsiana also works with SPAN on the Superstorm Sandy Resiliency Project in Atlantic County. Tatsiana is bi-lingual (Russian and English). Born and raised in Minsk, Belarus, Tatsiana moved to the USA in 2002 to continue her education in restaurant and hotel business. She earned her Master's degree in Hospitality Management from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 2012. Tatsiana has one child, Mark. Tatsiana’s advocacy journey in special education began when Mark was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of 5. Today Tatsiana is an Autism New Jersey Ambassador and a PTO member in the Egg Harbor City school district. Tatsiana also serves on the Regional Family Support Planning Council #9 for Atlantic County. She is a "Partners in Policymaking" Graduate, Class of 2013, from New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities. Tatsiana believes in strong partnership between families and schools to help all children reach high levels of social and academic achievement. She also believes that all families, schools and communities have something great to offer and learn from each other.

Brenda L. Figueroa is our new Parent Group Specialist. Brenda also works as a Family Resource Specialist for Passaic County and is the Northeast Regional Bilingual Parent Associate for NJ Parent to Parent. She is bilingual (English ? and? Spanish). In September 2005?,? she moved to NJ from Aguada, Puerto Rico in order to provide her sons with the opportunity to receive a better education. Brenda has two teenage sons with special needs. Her eldest is in the Autism Spectrum and is currently fully included in his home district. Her youngest is in an out of district school where he is mastering his goals. Both her children participate in Special Olympics Sports and in their town’s Street Hockey League. Brenda believes in the power of early intervention, inclusion and educated parents. She has successfully advocated for her sons and is currently teaching them to advocate for themselves. Brenda is currently the co-chair of the Elmwood Park SEPAC.?

Last Updated: 06/02/15