II Projects Sites > Take Charge! > About us > Take Charge Staff

Take Charge Staff

Caren Sax

Bio photo of Dr. Caren Sax

Dr. Sax is Professor and Chair of the Department of Administration, Rehabilitation, and Postsecondary Education and Co-Director of the Interwork Institute at SDSU. In addition to her teaching responsibilities in the M.S. in Rehabilitation Counseling program and the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership/Community College Leadership Concentration, she administers a graduate-level Certificate in Rehabilitation Technology, which she developed with SDSU’s College of Engineering. Dr. Sax also coordinates the Supported Employment and Transition Specialist Certificate. As Co-Director of the Interwork Institute, Dr. Sax directs over $5 million dollars annually in grants and contracts funded through federal and state resources that address the following areas: removing barriers to employment and increasing self-sufficiency for persons with disabilities; technical assistance and continuing education for state agency and community rehabilitation personnel; systems change efforts to improve school-to-work transition services for students with disabilities as they exit the K-12 school system; coordinating supports and services with military families who have children with developmental disabilities; and professional development activities related to assistive technology and universal design. Dr. Sax conducts training for rehabilitation counselors and administrators, community rehabilitation personnel, special educators, and disability organizations in the US and internationally and has published extensively in the disability field. She started her professional career as a special education and transition teacher in Tucson, Arizona.

Kristoffel van de Burgt

Kristoffel van de BurgtKristoffel van de Burgt is the Associate Director of Creative Support Alternatives (CSA).  He has worked for Creative Support Alternatives in multiple roles since September 2000.

Prior to working for CSA, he worked for a New Jersey-based non-profit organization that supported individuals with disabilities for three years. He served as a Direct Support Specialist for individuals residing in group homes.  In addition, he was a Live-In Companion for an individual with a developmental disability in El Cajon, California for three years.

Kristoffel received his Masters Degree in Accounting from San Diego State University and his Bachelors Degree in History from Rutgers University.  He is a member of the San Diego Supported Living Vendor Coalition, Cal-TASH, and the California Supported Living Network.

Melissa Hough

Melissa HoughMelissa (Berg) Hough has been a part of Creative Support Alternatives since 2004. She began as a Support Facilitator, providing direct support to individuals with developmental disabilities who live in their own homes and are active participants in their communities. In the position of Community Living Coordinator since 2005, Melissa seized the opportunity to grow professionally, supervising and coordinating teams while utilizing person-centered planning tools to develop truly individualized services.  Consistent with Creative Support Alternatives’ beliefs, her position continues to include direct support responsibilities.

Prior to working with Creative Support Alternatives, Melissa collaborated with people with developmental disabilities in Northern California, working as a live-in companion for a woman with cerebral palsy.  She simultaneously worked as a Speech and Language Pathology Assistant, providing services to both children and adults. She has also served as an Instructional Assistant for students with Autism, Job Developer, Personal Attendant, and Early Intervention Trainee.

Melissa has a  Bachelors degree in Vocational Education from San Diego State University and is currently working towards her Masters degree in Rehabilitation Counseling at SDSU.  Melissa is a founding member of the local Micro-Business Coalition, as well as a member of Cal-TASH, California Supported Living Network, and the Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental and Learning Disabilities.

Aracely Olmeda

Aracely OlmedaAracely Olmeda did her undergraduate coursework at San Diego State University in which she received a Bachelors in Social Work. After college she worked as a Senior Care Advocate for Cigna Behavioral, where her duties were to discuss eligibility, claims and assist with crisis calls. It was during this time that Aracely revisited the idea of graduate school but did not know what school was the best fit. With the help of her college mentors Aracely was able to pick a graduate program: Rehabilitation Counseling. Long story short, this is her second year in the program and she absolutely adores it.
The Take Charge project allows Aracely to use her course work learned in school and to use in the field. The Take Charge program has been a great experience in learning about transition from school to adulthood. The Take Charge program allows the clients to be an advocate of their future and being a part of that process has been a rewarding experience.

Jonathan Deguzman

Jonathan DeguzmanJonathan Deguzman is a graduate student at San Diego State University in the Rehabilitation Counseling program with a specialization in Cognitive Disabilities. He was born in Olongapo, Philippines and traveled frequently because his father worked in the US Navy.  He has also lived in Alaska and then sunny San Diego.

“I too have a disability, I am a bilateral amputee with all ten fingers and both feet.  I walk using prosthetics to maintain an active lifestyle.  I keep a good sense of balance with family and friends, and I keep myself as healthy as possible.  I do believe that taking care of yourself is the most important goal because you get to be the best of yourself to the people around you.  Working on this Take-Charge project has been a fantastic opportunity to work with my fellow colleagues, staff, the clients and their families.  I can see a huge amount in confidence in our clients and their dedication to controlling their future.  This project has been rewarding and beneficial towards my career as a Rehabilitation Counselor.”

Katrina Larsen

Katrina LarsenKatrina is a first year graduate student in SDSU’s Rehabilitation Counseling program.  She currently is interning at the ARC of San Diego as an Educational Technician where she works with adults with intellectual disabilities. Her area of interest is working with people who have cognitive disabilities. Katrina is new to Person-Centered planning but loves to meet and work with new people.

Tayler Nichols

Tayler NicholsCurrently a Rehabilitation Counseling graduate student at San Diego State University, Tayler earned an undergraduate degree in Psychology at Boston University (BU).  While at BU, she also competed as a Division I athlete.  She has been involved with volunteering for many organizations, especially at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.  She organized a Cancer-Awareness soccer game at BU, with all proceeds to benefit the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.   Her team raised $2000, and hundreds of people attended the game in support of finding a cure for cancer.   In her free time, she enjoys running, playing soccer, and exploring the San Diego area.

In addition to the Take-Charge project, she is working on a needs assessment analysis.  In the analysis, data is collected from government rehabilitation agencies in both Washington D.C. and Oregon then analyzed with particular emphasis on how needs are being met and not being met for the clients the agencies serve.

“The Take-Charge project has been an incredible experience.  It has opened my eyes to how empowerment and positivity can change a clients’ and their families’ perspective.  It is so rewarding to see our clients gain confidence and be proactive about their future!”