Beth Keeton, M.A., GHA Principal Investigator
Ms. Keeton will serve as the Principal Investigator for the Center. Beth earned her M.A. from the University of Oregon and is a Certified Benefits Planner. For the last 20 years, Beth has provided extensive training and technical assistance on systems change, customized employment, self-employment, systematic instruction, and benefits analysis. Her work includes the development and implementation of statewide self-employment provider certification programs in Texas and Florida as well as the creation of multiple online benefits training programs promoting financial self-sufficiency through employment and work incentive utilization. She has advised on the development and implementation of self-employment initiatives in Iowa, New York, New Jersey, and Indiana, and worked as an instructor, subject matter expert, and content designer for the Institute for Veteran’s and Military Families self-employment program. Beth served as a national Subject Matter Expert for the WIOA-mandated Congressional Advisory Committee and has led the charge to bring evidenced-based practices to the provision of Customized Employment services, championing the creation and use of the Discovery and Job Development Fidelity Scales. An author of several influential texts, Beth co-authored of Making Self-Employment Work for People with Disabilities, second edition, Brooks Publishing (2014).
Ashlea Lantz, M.S., CRC
Ashlea serves as the Project Coordinator for The Center for Self-Employment. Ashlea’s passion for self-employment stems from her sister Emilea who was denied by VR systems various times due to the impact of her disability and was destined for a lifetime of segregated work until she decided left the workshop to start her own business, Em’s Coffee Co. Ashlea not only has experience in supporting her sister to open her business, but also has experience in supporting people with disabilities in maintaining their business. Ashlea is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, a Certified Benefits Counselor, and has an M.S. in Rehabilitation Counseling from Drake University. During her tenure with GHA, Ms. Lantz has served as the Project Director on multiple broad scale initiatives including the Utah Partnership in Employment Grant Initiative and the Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services Customized Employment project. She has extensive experience in training VRCs and provider agencies and played a key role in the development of GHA’s current online curricula. Ashlea serves as ongoing consultant to Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services program, supporting them to redesign policy, restructure rates, and train VR Counselors in support of best-practice employment service delivery, including enacting quality assurance measures.
Russell Sickles, Training and Resource Development Specialist
Russell honed his self-employment and telecommuting skills while implementing a variety of projects across the US and in Canada. Russell currently serves as the Project Director for Florida VR’s Certified Business Technical Assistance Consultants (CBTACs). He works directly with the veterans with service-connected disabilities in partnership with the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) with Disabilities, organized by Syracuse University. Russell was also one of the first to connect small-business owners with local commercial banks and credit unions for small business compensating balance secured loans, or share-secured loans. These secured loans were the first of their kind to help small-business owners with disabilities “bridge” revenue and funding gaps when pursuing business start-up, and they laid the foundation for the subsequent development of the Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation’s “K-Fund” loan program. He currently offers direct consultation and support to entrepreneurs, VR vendors, and VRCs, beginning with business concept development and onward, through start-up and ongoing business operations.
Corey Smith, M.S., Training and Resource Development Specialist
During the last 30 years, Mr. Smith has devoted his career to changing the employment opportunities and financial self-sufficiency for working age individuals with disabilities. Prior to his time at GHA, he has led three different employment programs in two different states transforming from facility- based services to community integrated employment and piloting a number of Self-Employment initiatives. He has extensive experience as a self-employment Mentor: for the ODEP-funded Start-UP USA project; Director of the Michigan DDC Self-Employment Transformation Project; Facilitator of the Ohio Quick Launch Small Business Development Workshops; and has personally assisted over 40 individuals to research and develop business plans. In his work with GHA he has developed a number of community based low interest revolving loan programs for self-employment in four different states. Corey knows first-hand the opportunities self-employment and telecommuting have to offer employment seekers with disabilities as well as the support’s that VR personnel need in order to fund a self-employment venture. Corey excels at designing virtual trainings that maximize learner participation. Corey will play a key role in content development for the VR professional training curriculum and the short-term trainings and webcasts. Particular areas of expertise include: blending and braiding diverse funding streams and micro-finance, developing comprehensive and sustainable support plans for business owners and telecommuters with disabilities.
Janet Steveley, M.S, Training and Resource Development Specialist
Since 2010, Ms. Steveley has focused on GHA’s self-employment projects. She served as the lead consultant on the Kansas Small Business Technical Assistance & Outreach Center, a 3-year collaborative project between the Kansas Council on Developmental Disabilities and the Kansas Small Business Development Center (SBDC); provided training and consultation to participants of the Entrepreneur Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) in cooperation with the Institute of Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University; and co-authored Navigating Government Benefits and Employment: A Guidebook for Veterans and Those Who Serve Them. She currently serves as the lead instructor for the Texas Certified Business Technical Assistance Consultant (CBTAC) training program, developing curriculum, training, and certifying approximately 60 consultants per year to deliver self-employment services in Texas. Janet is a certified Benefits Counselor and an expert in optimizing public benefits, having helped numerous individuals achieve their employment goals through Plans to Achieve Self Support (PASS).