Meet our
Georgia Hands & Voices
Board of Directors
"What works for your child is what makes the choice right."  
Deshonda Washington: Parent
Advocacy Support & Training Director, Georgia Hands & Voices

Deshonda has a background in training and design which has led her to the position of Parent-
Advocacy Lead on the Board of Directors for GA Hands & Voices. Having a child with a hearing loss
has prepared her for a lifelong journey of advocating for the needs of her daughter, Lauren. She is
passionate about supporting Deaf/Hard of Hearing families across the state of Georgia. Deshonda
has been trained as an educational advocate through the Hands & Voices Advocacy Support and
Training (ASTra) program; she participates on the H&V HQ ASTra committee and has presented these
supports around our state. Her ultimate goal is to empower parents of children with disabilities and
ensure our Deaf/Hard of Hearing children reach their highest potential. Deshonda is married with
three children Ashanti, Lauren and Lorenzo Jr. and resides in Marietta, GA.  She truly believes in the
Hands & Voices motto,
“What works for the child is what makes the choice right.”

Terri Patterson: Parent
Chapter Support Director, Hands & Voices Headquarters

Terri and her husband have two children, Molly, and Riley, who was diagnosed with bilateral profound
hearing loss at 2 months. They live in Acworth, GA. Terri has worked as a Parent Educator for Babies
Can’t Wait and has coordinated several family events and workshops for her district’s early
intervention program, as well as for the organization. She is also involved in both local and state Early
Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) task forces, as well as many other initiatives and projects
such as the Georgia Pathway to Language and Literacy and Let Georgia Hear. Terri presents on
various topics around raising a child who is D/HH and leadership at local, regional and national
conferences. She also participates on the Georgia Team for the National Deaf Ed. Summit, hosted by
PEPNet 2.

Yvonne N. Graham: Parent

Yvonne and her husband have one daughter, Gabrielle (3) and are expecting Baby Graham this
spring.  Gabby, who was diagnosed with bilateral severe/profound hearing loss, discovered after
failing the newborn hearing screening. After confirming that the hearing loss was genetic, Yvonne’s
mission was to get involved with the Deaf/HOH community. She wanted to understand and advocate
for Gabrielle and all children and parents of children with hearing loss. Yvonne also has an aunt who
is Deaf, and this would give her the opportunity to educate her extended family and do away with the
wives’ tales of what causes hearing loss.  Yvonne was previously very active with Arkansas Hands &
Voices Chapter and, after relocating to Georgia, she made it her mission to immediately get involved
with the Hands & Voices Chapter in Georgia.  Yvonne currently works in Human Resources for
Compass – USA. She received her undergraduate degree in Agribusiness Management from Alcorn
State University and her Master’s in Business Administration from Webster University.

Elaine Thagard, Ed.D.
Board Secretary

Elaine received her doctoral degree in education from Samford University. Her dissertation topic was
Pragmatic Language in Students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing: A Search for Correlation with
Success in the General Education Environment. She received her master’s degree in educational
audiology from Emory University and her bachelors in speech and communications from the
University of GA. She was a classroom teacher of students who are deaf and hard of hearing for 20
years at both the Atlanta Speech School and in the Cobb County School District. She was a Supervisor
of Special Education for the Cobb County, Georgia School District for fifteen years supervising the
Deaf/Hard of Hearing Program, the Visually Impaired Program, Community Based Vocational Skills
Training Program, Audiology Services, and the Adapted Physical Education Program.  She is currently
a Program Specialist in the Division for Exceptional Students at the Georgia Department of Education

Ellen Rolader, MA/Deaf Education

Ellen and her husband, Rob, live in Marietta with 1 daughter, Mariellen, 15.  Their other 2 children,
Jenna, 25, lives in Oklahoma and Kyle, 27, is married and lives nearby in Atlanta.    Ellen was born
profoundly deaf and raised orally in Atlanta.  She attended private schools with after school
auditory/oral training at the Atlanta Speech School. She graduated from the Lovett School and
completed her BA degree in Early Childhood Education at the University of Georgia.  Upon graduation,
she attended Gallaudet University where she began learning sign language and obtained a Masters
in Deaf Education.  For the last 30 years, Ellen has worked with deaf/hard of hearing children ages
birth to high school in various educational settings with experience using all communication
methodologies. She has taught children in mainstreaming programs using the aural/oral, total
communication, and cued speech communication methodologies, as well as in schools for the deaf
using ASL in bilingual-bicultural programs.   Her strongest focus has been in Early Intervention,
working with parents of young deaf and hard of hearing infants/toddlers who use any communication
methodology to be actively involved in their child’s education, particularly in their child’s language and
literacy development.   She is currently the Outreach Coordinator for the State of Georgia’s Relay
service that provides free and accessible telecommunication services to people who are deaf, deaf-
blind,  hard of hearing, late-deafened and/or speech disabled.   

Clare Sullivan, MEd.  
Board Advisor

Clare is recently retired from her position as the Education Program Manager of Georgia Parent Infant
Network for Educational Services (Georgia PINES) via the Department of Education. She is now a
Part-Time Instructor for Georgia State University and a Georgia PINES Parent Advisor  She has many
years of experience working with deaf and hard-of-hearing children and families including state
residential programs, state day school programs, local education programs and Georgia's Universal
Newborn Hearing Screening and Intervention Program. Helping families realize their child's potential
is her passion. Her favorite past-time is hiking in the mountains or any National Park.

Dr. Frank Nesbit
Board Advisor

Frank Nesbit is the Georgia Department of Education’s consultant for programs for students who are
Deaf and Hard of Hearing. He has worked with deaf students in schools since 1987, with experience
that includes employment at Gallaudet University, Atlanta Area School for the Deaf, and as a teacher
and administrator within local school systems. He holds professional certification as a Teacher of the
Deaf, as an Educational Interpreter, and as a Director of Special Education with a Master’s degree in
Deaf Education and a Doctorate in Management of Programs for Children and Youth. His federally
supported professional learning projects focus on improving the achievement of all students who are
deaf and hard of hearing.