Deanna Whittle, CEO, The Emerge Center
Dr. Natalee Menge, Executive Director, Clinic Operations, The Emerge Center
Linda Brown, Executive Director, The Emerge School for Autism
Shelton Jones, Executive Director, The Emerge Foundation
Click on each tab below to view The Emerge Center’s staff by department.
Deanna Whittle, BSN, MBA, PMP, CLSSG
Chief Executive Officer
Deanna Whittle joined Emerge as Chief Executive Officer in June of 2019. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Southeastern Louisiana University and a Master of Business Administration from the LSU E.J. Ourso College of Business. She is a certified Project Management Professional through the Project Management Institute and has a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Green certification. A Baton Rouge native, Deanna brings extensive experience from multiple sectors of the healthcare field to Emerge.
She is a skilled operations leader with over 30 years of experience in both the inpatient and outpatient healthcare settings. The breadth of her expertise and experiences extends over a wide area of administrative, clinical, and operational functions.
She began her career in healthcare as a neonatal nurse at Woman’s Hospital and has since served in several senior executive level leadership roles for multiple organizations, including Ochsner Home Medicare Corporation, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, and Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System. Prior to joining Emerge, she served as vice president of the southern region for The Innovation Institute, a healthcare innovation company comprised of six Catholic health systems focused on transforming healthcare delivery for all patients.
Deanna is excited to serve the children and families of our community through the Emerge Enterprise which includes The Emerge Center, The Emerge Foundation and The Emerge School for Autism, the first charter school in Louisiana for children with Autism. She is inspired by the dedication and compassion of Emerge’s staff and board members and welcomes the opportunity to serve the community at Emerge. She looks forward to advancing both the mission and vision of the Emerge enterprise in order to empower children with autism and individuals with communication challenges to achieve independence.
Dr. Natalee Menge, CCC-A
Executive Director, Clinic Operations
Dr. Natalee Menge joined the Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation team as Lead Audiologist in June of 2008. She is certified by the American Speech Language and Hearing Association and is also a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology. She received her bachelor’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Texas Christian University and her Doctorate in Audiology from Louisiana State University Health and Sciences Center in New Orleans. After five years seeing patients, in December, 2013 Dr. Menge assumed the role of Director of Operations and Administration, putting her clinical knowledge to use managing the daily operations of the clinic. In March of 2018, Dr. Menge assumed the role of Clinic Director. She continues to be involved in the daily operations of the clinic, working side by side with staff and families to ensure exceptional patient care while also managing the clinic’s human resources department and providing insight on clinic revenue. As part of the senior management team, Dr. Menge works alongside our CEO/Executive Director in business matters that impact the Center. Dr. Menge, mother of 2, enjoys outdoor activities with her family and cheering on her favorite football team, the New Orleans Saints.
Human Resources Generalist
Whitney Gaines joined Emerge as Human Resources Generalist in 2020. She received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Marketing from the LSU E.J. Ourso College of Business Administration. Whitney has over 15 years of valuable Human Resources experience across multiple professional environments. Her career in Human Resources began as an Executive Team Leader of Human Resources for Target Corporation. Seeing and experiencing the full life cycle HR process during this role at Target and her subsequent roles at Robert Half International, Cardinal Health, Battelle, and White Star Market, all continued to build her HR foundation of knowledge. As a married mother and business professional with two daughters, Whitney feels her most recent role as co- owner, HRBP and Operating Partner for White Star Market, solidified her desire to make meaningful investments and lasting relationships in her community. Whitney states, “Being a leader, connecting people, and serving the community are all such important roles to model for future generations. These are all aspects of my job and they truly excite me. I am thrilled to be a part of Emerge’s future.”
Addie Andrus, M.S., BCBA
Director of ABA Services
Addie is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Licensed Behavior Analyst. She received her master’s degree in Educational Psychology from Georgia State University in 2011. From 2006 to 2014, she completed her training at the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta, Georgia working in the Language and Learning clinic, Brief Behavioral Intervention program, and Severe Behavior Day Treatment Clinic. Addie joined the Emerge team in 2014. She is passionate about providing high quality ABA services to increase the communication and daily living skills of children with developmental disabilities. Her favorite part of her job is working with parents to expand their child’s communication skills and seeing the progress that the children make during their time at The Emerge Center.
Kelsey graduated in 2014 from Southeastern Louisiana University with a Bachelor of Science in Communication Science and Disorders, as well as a minor in Psychology. She joined the Emerge team in January of 2016 as a part-time Registered Line Technician and became full-time in May. In June of 2017, she became a Lead ABA therapist. She is currently working towards her master’s degree in applied behavior analysis through McNeese State University. Her favorite part of the job is communicating with the parents and seeing the progress the children make each day.
Amy graduated from Louisiana State University with a Bachelor of Science in Communication Disorders in 2018. She joined the Emerge team as a full-time Registered Line Technician in December 2018 and became an Advanced RLT in May 2019. She plans to go back to school and pursue her master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis. Her end goal is to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Her favorite part about at Emerge is seeing the progress the children make each day.
Alexis Wiley Hebert, M.A., BCBA, LBA
ABA Program Manager
Alexis began working as a group therapy aide at Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation in May 2012. After graduating from Louisiana State University with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Disorders, she joined The Emerge Center staff full-time as a Registered Line Technician. She graduated from McNeese State University in 2018 with a master’s degree in Psychology with a concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis. While completing her intensive practicum supervision hours, Alexis worked as a Lead ABA Therapist and RLT Trainer. She became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Licensed Behavior Analyst in 2019. Alexis’ favorite part of the job is seeing the progress each child makes while at Emerge.
Sydney Lombardo, M.Ed., BCBA
ABA Program Manager
Sydney received her master’s degree in Education in Applied Behavior Analysis in 2018 just after joining the Emerge team as a full time Registered Line Technician. While working on gaining fieldwork experience hours, she moved to Lead RLT in 2019, then took the board exam in December 2020. She began working as an ABA Program in 2021 and is looking forward to continuing her career in the field of ABA and early intervention at Emerge.
Heather Lyons, Advanced RLT
Heather graduated from Southern University with a Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation Services and Disability Studies in 2016. She joined the Emerge team as a Registered Line Technician in September of 2018 and became an Advanced RLT in August of 2020. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Social Work. Her favorite part of the job is watching her kiddos becoming independent reaching new milestones everyday.
Laura Owen, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA
ABA Program Manager
Laura is originally from Benton, Louisiana. She received a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology – Health and Physical Education from Louisiana Tech University in 2015. While getting her add-on credentials as a Special Education Teacher at Louisiana Tech, she began working at Behavior Development Services which provided Applied Behavior Analysis to children and young adults with a wide variety of developmental disabilities. Working at the clinic led to her decision to pursue her Master’s Degree in Special Education at Louisiana State University with the goal of becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She joined The Emerge Center’s ABA team as a part-time Registered Line Technician in August of 2016 and became a full-time Registered Line Technician in May of 2017. In November of 2017, she became a Lead Registered Line Technician. Laura passed her Behavior Analyst certifying board exam in March of 2019 and began working for as an Autism Program Manager in May of 2019. Laura’s favorite part about working with young children is the light and energy that they bring to her life on a daily basis.
Mary Grace Santa Cruz
Mary Grace graduated from Louisiana State University with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She joined the Emerge team as a Registered Line Technician in July of 2018 and started working as an Advanced RLT in May of 2019. She hopes to continue her education in Applied Behavior Analysis and someday become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Her favorite part about working at The Emerge Center is interacting with the children and seeing the progress that they continue to make every day.
Nicole Sicomo, M.A., BCBA, LBA
ABA Program Manager
Nicole graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 2017 and she has been working in ABA ever since. She joined the Emerge team in August 2019 as a Registered Line Technician and became the Lead RLT Trainer in May 2020. Nicole graduated with her Master’s Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis with an emphasis in autism in May 2020. She became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Licensed Behavior Analyst in Fall 2020. She loves being able to work with children and help them reach new goals!
Jolie Soileau, Lead RLT
Jolie graduated from Louisiana State University in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in communication disorders and sciences. She joined the Emerge team in June of 2019 as a full-time registered line technician. She is currently working towards her master’s degree in applied behavior analysis at St. Edwards University. Jolie was promoted to Lead RLT in April of 2021. Her goal is to become a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst in 2022.
Ambriel Spain, M.Ed, BCBA
ABA Program Manager
Ambriel is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Licensed Behavior Analyst in the state of Louisiana. She earned her master’s degree in Special Education focused in High Incidence Disabilities and Applied Behavior Analysis from Nicholls State University. She completed several years of field work as a lead ABA therapist. During the 2019 – 2020 school year, as a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst, she was the acting Lead Instructor in an ABA based classroom for clients receiving transitional services. Ambriel is passionate about serving her clients in a meaningful way.
Katherine Tarver, Lead RLT
Katherine graduated in May 2020 from Louisiana State University with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and a minor in Psychology. She joined the Emerge team in July 2020 as a Registered Line Technician and was promoted to Lead RLT in April 2021. Currently, Katherine is working towards her Master’s Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis and gaining fieldwork experience in hopes of becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Her favorite part about working at Emerge is the positive environment and seeing the progress that each of the children have made.
Joy Wade, Lead RLT Team Trainer
Joy graduated from Southern University with a BS in Rehabilitation Services in May 2020. She joined the Emerge team in June 2020 as a Registered Line Technician, became an Advanced RLT in February 2021 and is currently the Lead RLT Trainer. She is currently pursuing her certificate in ABA with the goal of becoming a Board Certified Assistant Analyst ( December 2021). Her favorite part about working at The Emerge Center is engaging with the children and seeing them reach their goals.
Brooke Walls, M.Ed., BCBA
ABA Program Manager
Brooke graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (UL) in 2018. She recently graduated with her Master’s in Psychology with a focus in ABA from McNeese University in December 2020. Brooke passed her board exam in March of 2021 which certified her as a BCBA. She joined the Emerge Team in June of 2020. Brooke has been an RLT for over 4 years and a Lead for the last 7 months. Her favorite part of the job is watching the kiddos grow and being able to see how much progress they make every day.
Rebekka Weisflog, M.A., BCBA
ABA Program Manager
Rebekka graduated in 2017 from Louisiana State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She joined Emerge in August of 2017 as a Registered Line Technician and became a Lead RLT in May of 2019. Rebekka is currently working towards her master’s degree in Psychology with a concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis. She has the goal on becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analysis. Rebekka is originally from Germany. She moved as an professional Aupair to Baton Rouge in 2010 after finishing her Occupational Therapy degree in Germany.
Nicole Stockstill, CCC-A
Director of Audiology
Nicole B. Stockstill joined the Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation in 2013. She is a clinical audiologist who has worked in the Baton Rouge Community since 1998. She received her undergraduate degree from Louisiana State University and her Master of Science from University of Southwestern Louisiana. She holds a Certificate of Clinical Competence with the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and is currently licensed to practice audiology in the state of Louisiana. Nicole specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss and hearing disorders, hearing aid selection and fitting, and hearing loss prevention. Nicole currently hosts numerous educational seminars for industrial, educational, and medical professionals in our clinic and in the community. Nicole is a native of the Baton Rouge area. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, outdoor sports, and cheering for the Tigers and Saints! As an active volunteer in the community, church, and school, the desire to give back to the community brought her to The Emerge Center. Providing the gift of hearing to the residents of Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas, in combination with spreading awareness and education about hearing loss and hearing loss prevention in the community, have been a driving force in helping Nicole advance Emerge’s mission. Nicole’s belief is that education is the key to everything!
Margaux Antoine, Audiology Extern
Margaux graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi in May of 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology. She is currently a Doctor of Audiology student at the University of Southern Mississippi and will graduate in May of 2022 after completing her externship at The Emerge Center. Margaux is a proud New Orleans native. After being in Mississippi for the last seven years, she is happy to be back in Louisiana cheering on her favorite football team, the New Orleans Saints. Margaux’s clinical interests include electrophysiological testing, diagnostic testing for both the pediatric and adult populations, and hearing aid fittings. Her favorite part of Audiology is building relationships with patients and families and guiding them through the process of improving their hearing and communication needs.
Jane Morton, PhD, BCBA-D
Director of Research and Design
Dr. Jane Morton joined Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation in January of 2012. She is a licensed psychologist and a doctoral-level Board Certified Behavior Analyst with a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia. Previously, Jane was the lead psychologist for the Local Autism Team with the Office for Citizens with Development Disabilities in the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. Dr. Morton completed her pre-doctoral and post-doctoral training at the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta, Georgia, in positions including the Pediatric Feeding Disorder Clinic, the Severe Behavior Clinics (Day Treatment and Outpatient Clinics), and the Language and Learning Clinic. Dr. Morton has extensive training working with children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders in the areas of assessment and treatment of language development, and assessment and treatment of problem behaviors (including aggression, self injurious behavior, and noncompliance). She also has experience working with children with severe food selectivity and food refusal. Parent training and teacher consultation are also part of Dr. Morton’s training.
Emily Olinde Boudreaux, Ph.D.
Dr. Emily Olinde Boudreaux is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in the assessment and treatment of children. She received her doctoral degree in clinical psychology from Louisiana State University and completed a pre-doctoral internship and post-doctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. In 2013, she started joined the team at the Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation. Dr. Boudreaux works with children with autism spectrum disorders, developmental delays, behavioral challenges, hyperactivity, learning/ academic problems, anxiety, and mood disorders. She and her husband, Brad, have three children. Dr. Boudreaux loves working in collaboration with children and their families to help them reach their full potential.
Behavorial Health and Research Assistant
Aeran Melancon joined Emerge as the Behavioral Health and Research Assistant in April of 2021. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biology with a concentration in Medical and Allied Health Sciences from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 2019. She previously worked in a pathology lab for over two years and plans to go back to school to pursue a Master of Science in Genetic Counseling. Her favorite part of the job is working with a collaborative team to ensure the best experience for our families. In her free time, she loves refereeing soccer, which she has done since 2013, and spending time with her cat and two dogs.
Georgia Shaheen, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychology Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr. Georgia Shaheen joined the Emerge team in August of 2020 as a postdoctoral fellow under the supervision of Dr. Emily Boudreaux and Dr. Jane Morton. She received her doctoral degree from Louisiana State University and completed her predoctoral internship through the pediatric track at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital within the University of Tennessee Professional Psychology Internship Consortium. Dr. Shaheen has trained across a variety of settings such as pediatric hospitals, specialty pediatric clinics, outpatient and community mental health clinics, an adolescent psychiatric inpatient hospital affiliated with The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and private practice. As a result, she has experience in the assessment and treatment of youth and families spanning a number of referral concerns. Dr. Shaheen is committed to assessing and treating the whole child by providing empirically supported intervention and evaluation through a compassionate, strengths-based, and culturally sensitive lens.
Elizabeth Casey, LOTR
Liz is from New Orleans and joined the Emerge team in August of 2017. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Saint Leo University of Florida in 2011. She earned her master’s degree in Occupational Therapy from The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences in St. Augustine, Florida in 2017. During her clinical fieldwork rotations, Liz gained experience in a pediatric outpatient clinic treating children with various developmental and physical disabilities along with providing services in the Early Steps Program. Also, at an outpatient neuro-rehab facility, she treated patients diagnosed with strokes, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and other neurological conditions. Liz has 14 years of experience teaching swim lessons to typically developing children as well as those with special needs. She has been volunteering with a special needs swim team in the New Orleans area since 2003 and found her love for working with children diagnosed with Autism and other disabilities through the Jo-Jo’s Hope swim lessons and team. Elizabeth is passionate about working with children and their families to achieve their goals while fostering children to gain independence in activities of daily living, play, and socialization.
Laura G. Devillier, MOT, LOTR
Laura joined The Emerge Center in September 2015. She earned her undergraduate degree in Psychology at Louisiana State University in 2007. In 2010, she earned her Masters of Occupational Therapy from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center and has specialized in pediatrics since then. She enjoys working with outpatient and school based intervention of all ages and diagnosis. Laura has had continuing education training in Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, feeding disorders, and Handwriting Without Tears. She is passionate about working with children and their families promoting independence in various environments.
Bailey Hagan, MOT, LOTR
Bailey joined The Emerge Center in October of 2020. She is a Lafayette native and earned her undergraduate degree in Kinesiology at The University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 2018. In 2020, she earned her Masters of Occupational Therapy from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in Shreveport. She gained pediatric experience during her fieldwork rotation at an outpatient pediatric clinic where she worked with children with a variety of diagnoses including Autism Spectrum Disorder, developmental delays, and sensory processing disorders. She also completed a fieldwork rotation at a psychiatric hospital in Providence, Rhode Island where she worked with patients experiences Bipolar Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, anxiety, and other diagnoses. Bailey is passionate about helping children reach their highest potential and having fun along the way.
Dawn Jason, MSOT, LOTR
Originally from Galveston but a high school graduate from the Baton Rouge area, Dawn received her undergraduate degree in Family and Child Studies from Louisiana Tech University in 2010 and earned a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from Washington University in St. Louis, MO in 2013. Dawn first joined the Emerge team in April 2014. After three and a half years, she left to work as a travel OT, practicing in a variety settings primarily with adults. She returned to The Emerge Center in August 2019 and enjoys being back in the pediatric world. Dawn has received additional training in, and is passionate about, treating individuals with feeding disorders, motor planning difficulties, visual-perceptual delays, Autism, Sensory Processing Disorders, and traumatic brain injuries. She has become a NeuroNet Certified Provider. She uses her experience as a Certified Child Life Specialist to work with both the child and their family to achieve success. Dawn enjoys the chance to help children reach little and big milestones that promote greater independence and increased participation in daily life activities.
Jasmine Littles, LOTR
Jasmine is a native of Louisiana and joined the Emerge team in June 2020. She attended Spring Hill College in Mobile, AL where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Psychology in 2017. She earned her master’s in Occupational Therapy from The University of Washington in Seattle in 2019. She gained pediatric experience during her fieldwork rotation at an outpatient pediatric clinic where she worked with children with a variety of diagnoses including Autism Spectrum Disorder, developmental delays, and sensory processing disorders. She also completed a fieldwork rotation at a hospital where she treated patients suffering from spinal surgeries, strokes, brain injuries, and other diagnoses. During her free time in graduate school, Jasmine enjoyed volunteering with Doctor for a Day, a program to teach minority children about different careers within the medical and rehabilitation fields. Jasmine is passionate about occupational therapy and has wanted to be an OT since her brother was diagnosed with autism when she was seven years old. She finds joy in helping children to meet their goals and succeed in all environments so that they can live their fullest lives possible.
Jocelyne Olguin, MOT, LOTR
Jocelyne is originally from the North MS/Memphis area and joined the Emerge team in August 2020. She completed her undergraduate studies in Kinesiology, Exercise Science at Mississippi College in 2017 and earned her Master of Occupational Therapy degree from the University of Mississippi Medical Center in May 2020. She gained invaluable pediatric clinical experience during her fieldwork at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, where she worked with children with a variety of diagnoses including cerebral palsy, medically complex, down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, sensory processing disorder, developmental delay, infant CVA, and neonatal abstinence syndrome. In school, she also assisted in the design of two sensory trails for pediatric hippo therapy programs. Her second fieldwork was at an inpatient rehab facility in Memphis, TN where she gained knowledge and skills in working with adults with neurologic and orthopedic conditions. Jocelyne is fluent in Spanish and hopes to use this skill and her occupational therapy career to help individuals in the Spanish-speaking community receive the health and therapy services they need. Over the years, Jocelyne has spent time interacting with kids in the clinic, inside the classroom, and out in the community. The compassion, patience, encouragement and enthusiasm needed to work with children and their families is what draws Jocelyne the most to the pediatric population, and she is excited to help the children of Emerge achieve success in their daily occupations of learning, growing, and playing!
Meg Sprunger, CCC-SLP
Director of Speech and Language Therapy Services
Meg joined the staff of Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation in 2007. Her clinical interests include working with children with apraxia, autism spectrum disorders, and other speech-language delays. She is recognized for “Advanced Training and Clinical Expertise in Childhood Apraxia of Speech” by the Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America (CASANA). She also completed Hanen certification and has led parent training workshops based on their “It Takes Two to Talk” program. In addition to working with children and their families, Meg enjoys supervising university students and mentoring young speech-language therapists in their early career years. An Indiana native, Meg completed both her Bachelor and Master Degrees in Speech-Language Pathology at Indiana University. She started her professional career in 1987 in Philadelphia, where she joined a large rehab staff at a teaching hospital. She held supervisory and administrative positions in conjunction with her clinical work, serving as a Clinical Specialist and later as Assistant Director of Speech-Language Pathology. Meg moved to Baton Rouge with her family in 1995. Since 2003, she has focused her clinical work in early intervention, both home-based via the Early Steps program and clinic-based at the Baton Rouge Speech & Hearing Foundation. The speech-language pathology team is committed to helping each child develop that most basic aspect of human life, the ability to communicate. We honor each child’s unique needs and treat each child with respect, knowing that children learn best when they are in a trusted, warm and loving environment. We believe that an evidence-based, integrated approach to therapy best serves the children entrusted to us.
Jordan Barbay, CCC-SLP
Jordan joined Emerge in December 2015. She currently holds her Louisiana Speech-Language Pathology License and American Speech-Language and Hearing Association’s Certificate of Clinical Competency. Jordan earned her bachelor’s degree in Communication Disorders from Louisiana State University in 2011, and she received a Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Southeastern Louisiana University in 2013. As an undergraduate, Jordan completed a clinical practicum at The Emerge Center’s former location, Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation, where she worked with children with Childhood Apraxia of Speech. Jordan completed her Clinical Fellowship Year while living in Chicago doing Early Intervention in the home setting. Jordan has a special interest in early intervention and autism spectrum disorders. She loves seeing the kids grow and learn how to communicate and interact with others.
Elizabeth Bergeron Breaux, CCC-SLP
Elizabeth is a native of Thibodaux, Louisiana who earned a bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Louisiana State University in 2018, and a Master of Communication Disorders from LSU Health Sciences Center in 2020. As an undergraduate, Elizabeth joined the Emerge team as a Registered Line Technician for two years before completing her graduate degree. Following graduation, she became a full-time Speech-Language Pathologist, providing speech and language services in both the group and individual setting to preschool aged children. Elizabeth’s passion is working with the pediatric population to advance their functional communication in all environments. She enjoys collaborating with the other disciplines and caregivers to develop individualized treatment plans and target the unique needs for each child. Her favorite part about her job is watching the children grow, interact with their peers, and have fun.
Selene B. Black, M.S. CCC-SLP
Selene joined Emerge in August 2020. She currently holds her Louisiana Speech-Language Pathology License and American Speech-Language and Hearing Association’s Certificate of Clinical Competency. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Louisiana State University in 2010 and received a Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Southeastern Louisiana University in 2014. As an undergraduate, Selene completed a clinical practicum at The Emerge Center’s former location, Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation. She also worked as a Speech-Language Pathology Assistant at the Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation during the time between her undergraduate and graduate studies. Selene has a special interest in early intervention and group-based therapy.
Sarah Brunet, CCC-SLP
Sarah is a native of Texas who has lived in North Dakota, Indiana, and Virginia while growing up. She got her Master of Arts in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Louisiana State University in 2008. Having worked at Emerge as an undergraduate and while completing a graduate clinical practicum, Sarah joined the Emerge team full-time in June 2008. As a speech language pathologist, Sarah enjoys supervising undergraduate university students and conducts evaluations as well as group and individual therapy. She enjoys working with kids of all ages and abilities. Sarah’s favorite part of her job is seeing the children’s smiling faces everyday and assisting them in meeting their full potential.
Kayla Buchardt Braud
Speech-Language Pathology Assistant
Kayla is an Illinois native that received her Bachelor of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Southeastern Louisiana University in 2015. She joined the Emerge team in February 2016 as a Registered Line Technician and has been serving as a Speech-Language Pathology Assistant since April 2016. Kayla is licensed by the Louisiana Board of Examiners for Speech-Language Pathology and is able to provide treatment under the direction of a SLP. As a licensed SLP-A, Kayla serves as a substitute therapist in group and individual therapy. Additionally, she assists with therapy groundwork and collaborates with the Speech-Language Pathology team to provide them with support on a regular basis.
Marci Drumm, CCC-SLP
Marci is a Speech-Language Pathologist who became part of the Emerge team after a 27 year career in the local public school system as a diagnostician and school-based therapist. She received a bachelor’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Louisiana State University and a Master of Communication Disorders from LSU Medical Center Allied Health Program in New Orleans. She holds the Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and a teaching certificate from the Louisiana State Department of Education in Speech and Hearing Therapy. At Emerge, Marci conducts evaluations and provides speech-language therapy for all age children. Her favorite part of her job is having a positive impact on children and their families who come to the Emerge Center for assistance. She could not think of a more enjoyable way to use her knowledge and expertise to serve the greater Baton Rouge community.
Maria Garcia-Giese, CCC-SLP
Maria, a bilingual Speech-Language Pathologist, joined the Emerge team in 2015. She received her bachelor’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Carlow University in Pittsburgh and a Master of Arts in Speech-Language Pathology from Louisiana State University. She joins our team after retiring from the local school system with more than 30 years of experience where she worked with children of all ages as a diagnostician and school-based therapist. She holds the Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and a teaching certificate from the Louisiana State Department of Education in Speech and Hearing Therapy. At The Emerge Center, Maria conducts evaluations for all age children and adults, and all evaluations of Spanish speakers. Her favorite part of her job is being part of a multidisciplinary team where realizing the child’s maximum potential, helping families, and serving the community are the primary goals.
LeThu Nguyen, CCC-SLP
LeThu was born and raised in Baton Rouge. She completed her undergraduate degree at LSU in Communication Disorders and Sciences. In 2019, she earned a Master of Science in Communication Disorders from ULL. LeThu knows that recognizing each child’s “teachable moments” is important in order to enhance their communicative experiences. She is highly motivated to encourage meaningful communication within each interaction.
Madison Passmore, MS, CCC-SLP
Madison is putting down roots in Louisiana after a life-time of moves in a military family. She attended the University of Mississippi from 2014 – 2020, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders and a Master of Science in Speech Language Pathology. She joined the team at Emerge as a full-time Speech-Language Pathologist to finish out her clinical fellowship and begin her career. Madison has always had passion for working with the pediatric population and has a special interest in helping neurodiverse children. Her favorite part of her job is finding the joy with each child and turning fun into learning. She especially enjoys helping parents learn to communicate with their children through play.
Mary Ann Sessums, M.Ed., SLP
Mary Ann is a licensed Speech and Language Pathologist with thirty years of experience. She received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. She holds a teaching certificate and is certified by the State Department of Education in Speech and Hearing Therapy, Deaf and Hearing Impaired, Hearing Impaired Preschool, and Reading. Mary Ann has an Advance Level of Sign Communication Proficiency and received specialized training from The Alabama Ear Institute’s Auditory Verbal Mentoring Program in Birmingham. After 30 years at the School for the Deaf she retired, but soon found she missed working with young children with challenges in speech and language, and she joined the staff of The Emerge Center in August of 2014. Mary Ann considers it a privilege to work with the young children and their families at The Emerge Center, who share the philosophy that “every child is a precious gift.”
Madeline Spustek, MS, CCC-SLP
Madeline is a native of New Roads, Louisiana who joined the Emerge team in June 2019. She attended the University of Louisiana at Lafayette from 2013-2019, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Communicative Disorders and a Master of Science in Speech Language Pathology. Following graduation, she joined the team at Emerge as a full-time Speech-Language Pathologist, providing both group and individual therapy services to preschool aged children. Madeline has always had a passion for working with the pediatric population and has a special interest in Autism Spectrum Disorder and early intervention. Her favorite part of her job is collaborating with other disciplines in order to address the unique needs of each individual served. She especially enjoys witnessing the growth in each child as they learn to communicate and interact with others.
Suzanne Trahan, CCC-SLP/A
Suzanne is dually certified as an Audiologist and a Speech-Language Pathologist. She worked at the Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation for 14 years in the 2000’s. After several years of providing Early Steps therapy through her own agency, she returned “home” to The Emerge Center in January of 2014. Suzanne conducts evaluations for The Emerge Center three days a week and sees Early Steps clients in their homes and child care centers two days a week. Suzanne’s special focus throughout her career has been developing language and listening skills for children who have hearing loss of all degrees. Her fluent sign language skills have been useful for deaf children, as well as children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Childhood Apraxia of Speech, Down Syndrome, or other challenges which benefit from a visual system of communication. She has also studied and implemented the use of the Picture Exchange Communication System with multiple children who are non-verbal. Suzanne considers it a privilege to be the first professional that some parents interact with as they begin the journey of discovering their child’s strengths and weaknesses in the areas of engagement, play, speech and language.
Emily Quint, MS, CCC-SLP
Emily joined the Emerge team in March of 2021. She currently holds her Louisiana Speech-Language Pathology License and American Speech-Language and Hearing Association’s Certificate of Clinical Competency. Emily earned her bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Louisiana State University in 2017, and she received a Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Southeastern Louisiana University in 2019. She completed her Clinical Fellowship Year while living in Houston working with the pediatric population in a small, privately-owned clinic. Emily loves working directly with each child’s parents, as she is a firm believer that carryover activities play a key role in helping children progress toward their goals. Providing therapy to little ones is where her heart is, and she especially enjoys working with children diagnosed with receptive/expressive language disorders, articulation and phonological disorders, and autism spectrum disorder. Emily looks forward to coming to work each day and watching her kiddos’ faces light up as they interact with each other during their individual and/or group therapy sessions.
Taja White, MS, SLP-CF
Taja’ is a Louisiana native who joined Emerge in July 2021. She is a proud Ragin Cajun who attended the University of Louisiana at Lafayette from 2013-2021, where she earned both her bachelor’s degree and Master of Science in Speech Language Pathology. During her college career, she had the joy of working with the pediatric population and providing early intervention services. Taja’ loves incorporating music and play into meaningful experiences that can translate into a child’s everyday environment. Her favorite part of her job is witnessing and encouraging growth and the team collaboration.
Kimberly joined The Emerge Center in October 2016. She has over 12 years experience working with local nonprofits in the Baton Rouge area. For the past seven years, she has been working in the field of serving families through information, resource and referral. This is an asset which she feels will be beneficial to the families at The Emerge Center. Kimberly’s favorite part of her job is meeting with the families and ensuring them that at The Emerge Center our families are top priority. In her spare time, Kimberly enjoys watching her husband grill on the patio, laughing and dancing with her three children as they try to keep her up-to-date on the latest dance moves, spending time with family, bird watching and replicating her favorite pins from Pinterest!
Administrative/ Human Resources Assistant
Meredith is a native of Indiana who relocated to the Baton Rouge area in 2014. She majored in Fine Arts with a minor in Art History at Indiana University. After spending 10 years working in retail management, Meredith decided to make a career shift and joined the Emerge team in late 2015. She supports many departments within the organization, bringing her knowledge and experience in management to help support and staff the Children’s Development Center team. Meredith’s favorite part of her job is interacting with the families and seeing the impact that therapy is making in their lives.
Doug joined The Emerge Center in January 2019. Prior to this he worked in public accounting for over 6 years. He graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University with a degree in Accounting. He enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter, going to the movies, and watching LSU and the New Orleans Saints.
Administrative & Reception Specialist
Leslie is a native of central Louisiana. She graduated from Louisiana State University at Alexandria in 2015 with Bachelors of Science in Psychology. Leslie joined the Emerge team in August 2015 as a Registered Line Technician. She now is the Business office Receptionist. She moved to New Roads on False River in 2015, which was a dream come true because she loves the water. She loves to swim and go boating with the family. Her other hobbies include fishing and hunting during deer season with her dad.
Medical Billing Specialist
Renee Sheets joined the Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation in July of 2013 part-time to assist with the medical billing charges. Due to the tremendous growth into The Emerge Center, she accepted a position as Medical Billing Specialist in February of 2014, being responsible for data entry processing of daily medical billing charges. She previously worked at Our Lady of the Lake and Lake Primary Care Physicians for over ten years as a Billing Coordinator, Patient Service Representative, and Medical Front Office staff. Renee has three children and enjoys spending time with her two grandchildren. She enjoys Evangelism ministry and encouraging women with biblical principles. Her future dreams and goals are taking mission trips to Africa and Mexico.
Medical Office Specialist
Tear joined the Emerge team in October 2019 as a temporary staff member and took on a full-time roll in February 2020. She obtained an associate’s degree in Business Administration and plans to return to Southern University to complete the second half of her bachelor’s degree. Tear enjoys watching football, spending time with her family, crafting, and Louisiana culture and food. Her goal is to utilize the knowledge and skills obtained from her education and experience to excel in her career and personal life.
Medical Office Specialist
Miriam is a native of Ethel, LA, and joined The Emerge Center in August of 2016. She obtained a Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation Services and Disability Studies in 2010 from Southern University. Miriam has gained several years of experience in the medical field and business management. She enjoys working as a team, helping others in a professional setting, and performing a variety of job assignments. In her spare time, she enjoys singing, listening to music, and spending time with her family and friends.