Meet the current members of the OEC Parent Cabinet.
Kaitlyn Heffernan, Stratford
Kaitlyn is a mom of three. She joined the Parent Cabinet after being motivated by a parenting course to apply for opportunities like this one. Kaitlyn is a stay at home mom, so setting a good example for her daughters as a parent leader is very important to her. Kaitlyn received her associate degree in early childhood education. Having children of her own, OEC is all the more important to her. She will be accepting a position on her children’s PTSA board this spring. In her spare time, Kaitlyn enjoys hiking with her daughters. Email Kaitlyn.
Bianca Shinn-Desras, Stamford
Bianca joined the Parent Cabinet because she wants to ensure that the different voices in her community are being heard loud and clear about early childhood issues. She wants to amplify those voices. For Bianca, the most important issue is ensuring equitable access to child learning spaces, including cost, which should not be a barrier that prevents young children from accessing services. In her spare time, Bianca enjoys indoor gardening. Email Bianca.
Steven Cousin, New Haven
Steven is a dad of two, ages 8 and 4. He joined the Parent Cabinet to increase the flow of communication between the parent community and the services and programs that are provided by the Office of Early Childhood. He is particularly interested in the Childcare Licensing Application Process. Steven is a Pastor of Bethel A.M.E. Church in New Haven and serves on the New Haven Fire Department Board of Commissioners, as well as the Executive Board of the CT Anti Defamation League. In his spare time, Steven is a league bowler. Email Steven.
Symone Maguire, Hamden
Symone is a mom of two, ages 5 and 3. She joined the Parent Cabinet to be a resource for parents, to discover new resources, and to play an active role in deciding new pathways for ECE in Connecticut. Symone and her family have personally benefited from OEC’s Birth to Three services. She is a member of her children’s elementary school PTA and the Hamden Partnership for Young Children, while actively looking for additional ways to be involved in her community. In her spare time, Symone is an avid sports fan, specifically of football, volleyball, and figure skating. Email Symone.
Nicole Broadus, Waterford
Nicole joined the Parent Cabinet because she hopes to make a difference in communities and for families throughout Connecticut. She recently served as the District Wellness Manager for New London Public Schools where she helped bridge the gap between schools, communities, and families. Nicole found her calling working with young people — from preschool to high school — as she hopes to motivate, encourage, and embrace young people everywhere. While Nicole is a busy member of her community, nothing keeps her busier than mothering two little boys, ages 6 and 10. Her first and most important priority will always be her children, who she hopes will be the kindhearted, empathetic, compassionate change makers she teaches and encourages them to be. Email Nicole.
Ruth-Ann Bucknor, Middletown
Ruth-Ann is a mom to one daughter. She joined the Parent Cabinet because she wants to be the change she wants to see. Ruth-Ann wants to take action to contribute a change to issues affecting children and families in her community. She also joined to elevate the voices of families in Connecticut. She and her family have utilized OEC services, including Home Visiting (Nurse Family Partnership), Birth To Three, and Care 4 Kids. She is active in the Sisters in Motherhood in her community. In her spare time, Ruth-Ann enjoys helping others, spending time with her family, and shopping. Email Ruth-Ann.
Marinda Monfilston, Cromwell
Marinda is a mom of a 3.5 year old. She joined the Parent Cabinet to advocate for parents to have equitable access to resources. Marinda’s daughter is enrolled in a School Readiness preschool program, and early child care and education programs are important to her. She is a board member for the Connecticut Women and Education Legal Fund and a member of the Greater New Haven Women United Chapter, the New Haven Club of the National Association of Negro Business, and the Professional Women’s Club’s Inc. In her spare time, Marinda enjoys reading — she read 146 books during COVID. Email Marinda.
Caitlin McNamara, Manchester
Caitlin is a mom of two children, ages 6 and 3. She joined the Parent Cabinet because she has a unique perspective, having worked in daycares, Birth to Three, and as an early childhood specialist. She’s also had first-hand experience in Birth to Three programming. She brings a parental and professional lens to the Cabinet and community connection. Caitlin volunteers with the Manchester Early Childhood Collaborative and the PTA at her children’s elementary school. In her spare time, Caitlin enjoys hiking with her family and visiting the playgrounds in their area. Email Caitlin.
Carla Abdo-Katsipis, West Hartford
Carla is a mom of two children, ages 3 and 8 months. She joined the Parent Cabinet because she wants to effect positive change for Connecticut families and the institutions that support them. Her family has participated in programs such as Home Visiting (Nurturing Families) and Birth to Three. Carla is also a facilitator at the Parent Leadership Training Institute. In her spare time, Carla enjoys cooking, swimming, and spending time with her family. Email Carla.
Krysta Chambers, West Hartford
Krysta is a mom of two, ages 11 and 4.She joined the Parent Cabinet to help parents access resources and improve services for working families in Connecticut. She navigated the system independently to obtain resources for her oldest (who is on the Autism Spectrum) and for her youngest, who needed supports but didn’t qualify. She is a supporter of Birth to Three and affordable childcare through subsidized high-quality child care centers and Care 4 Kids. Krysta is a Pre-K Special Education Teacher, and she participates in community youth outreach. In her spare time, she enjoys being with her family. Email Krysta.
Christina Augliera, Torrington
Christina is a mom of two sons, ages 13 and 10. She joined the Parent Cabinet to elevate parental voice and further advocacy efforts of parents and families in her community. Since her younger son is on the autism spectrum, Christina’s introduction to autism services was through the OEC’s Birth to Three programming. Christina is the director and founder of non-profit Torrington Area Families for Autism (TAFA). She is also on the Northwest Connecticut Regional Early Childhood Alliance (RECA) and the Northwest Connecticut Regional Parent Advisory Council (RPAC). In her spare time, Christina loves to craft. Email Christina.
Maria Del Pilar Vargas, Danbury
Maria is a mom of three. She joined the Parent Cabinet to bring the voices of her diverse Danbury community forward. Maria has been working with families with young children as a Parent Educator in the Greater Danbury community for 25 years. She is part of the Danbury School Readiness Council, a Positive Discipline facilitator, a CDA Council Professional Specialist, Pyramid Model Master Cadre and is a life coach for YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program. She works for United Way of Western CT as an Educational Coach for Licensed Family Child Care Providers. As a bilingual, bicultural American, she understands the complexities families experience when entering children into early childcare programs. In her spare time, Maria loves spending time with family and traveling. Email Maria.
Joshua Vaughn, Naugatuck
Joshua is a father of four. He joined the Parent Cabinet because he wanted to share his voice from a father’s perspective and to be a part of positive change for Connecticut families. Joshua is especially concerned about access to child care and the significant decrease in the number of child care providers during the pandemic, which has and continues to affect many parents. He is a part of CT Partnership for Children, the Naugatuck DEI Committee, and the ECE Parent Policy Table Planning Committee. In his spare time, Joshua enjoys time with his family. Email Joshua.
Ivoni Montes, Wethersfield
Ivoni is a mom to three children. She joined the Parent Cabinet because she wants to help new immigrant parents that are unfamiliar with the programs available to them, like she was when she first arrived in this country. Ivoni participates in the Wethersfield Early Childhood Collaborative (WECC), Crianza con Carino, and Parents Leading the Way to Social Emotional Learning program. In her spare time, Ivoni enjoys listening to music and exercising at the gym. Email Ivoni.
Casey Russo, Meriden
Casey is a mom of six children, whom she homeschools. She joined the Parent Cabinet to bring parent voices to the state level; and help get families what they need, with a focus on equity and justice. While her family hasn’t utilized OEC programs, they use state programs (WIC, EBT, Husky). Casey is a member of her church’s Racial Justice Team, as well as a member of the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice. She is also a founding member and administrator of the Connecticut Homeschool Alliance In her spare time, Casey loves finding new books at the library to read. Email Casey.