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SPAN Who's Who


Debra Jennings, SPAN Executive Co-Director for National Projects and Parent Leadership Development.

Debra leads SPAN's national efforts promoting the capacities of the approximately 100 Parent Training & Information Centers and Community Parent Resource Centers assisting families with children with disabilities in each state, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam and Palau.  These projects provide Parent Centers with the information and materials that support their individual parent advocacy efforts and systemic improvement activities across disabilities and across age spans from birth to 26.  Debra's experience as an advocate and leader includes organizing and supporting grassroots parent advocacy organizations and efforts around general and special education issues.  She joined SPAN in 1997 to lead its “Parents Engaged in Public Policy Project.”  On several state and national advisory committees, Debra is committed to ensuring that the voices of parents/families and communities are not left out of discussions of policies and practices impacting children and families.  Debra is a graduate of Northwestern University with a degree in Economics and has completed coursework in business, finance, public administration and non-profit management at the Kellogg School of Management and Seton Hall University Center for Public Service.  Debra’s eclectic professional experience prior to joining SPAN in 1997 includes construction, economic development, finance and constituent affairs.  Debra also served on a local school board.    She is the mom and first advocate of two daughters, one of whom received special education services and the other who participated in Title I Basic Skills.  Both are college graduates.  She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a middle school administrator.

Diana Autin, SPAN Executive Co-Director; Co-Director, National Center for Family Professional Partnerships; Co-Director, Navigating Excellence Parent Center Assistance and Collaboration Team (NE-PACT) and REACH for Transition; Director, National Center for Parent Leadership, Advocacy, and Community Empowerment (National PLACE)

Diana is an attorney who has used her legal knowledge to help train and support parents and parent leaders as advocates for their children and families as they navigate the education, health, mental health, child welfare, and other systems.  Diana brings the voices of parents, families and communities to the table on numerous state and national advisory committees on health and education including the NJ Council for Young Children and the Advisory Boards for the Center for IDEA Fiscal Reporting and the Center for Educational Equity/Equity Assistance Center.  She is on the Board of the National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health and the NJ Alliance of Family Support Organizations, and serves as a Wisdom Council Member for the National Center for Cultural Competence.  Diana is a graduate of University of Michigan Law School and studied economic development and management/organizational leadership at Columbia University as a Revson Fellow.  Diana has participated in several national leadership programs including serving as an Advocacy Institute Senior Leadership Fellow.  She was a Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow at Harvard Law School.  She is the adoptive mother of four children, from diverse cultures, ranging in age from 26 to 42 years old, including one who is currently attending graduate school.  She is also the proud grandmother of an 11 year old.  A Cajun and Native American, Diana is deeply committed to cultural reciprocity and language access.