Meet the Skills For Life Team

Brooke Howard

Clinical Director

Brooke Howard, MS, OTR/L has a Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy from Sargent College at Boston University and an undergraduate degree in neuroscience from Oberlin College. Brooke has been working as a licensed Occupational Therapist since 2005 and at Ivy Street School since 2009. Before coming to Ivy Street, she worked in inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation and supervised the outpatient program at Franciscan Hospital for Children. Brooke also worked as an adjunct faculty in the Occupational Therapy department at Sargent College from 2010-2014. Brooke was a founding member of the transition program at Ivy Street and has continued to grow, develop and support the program since. Most recently Brooke was a founding partner of Ivy Street’s community-based program, Skills For Life where she works in the community with young adults who seek to gain more independence.

Jane Hannafin
Program Director

Jane Hannafin, MS, OTR/L has a Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy from The University of New Hampshire and her undergraduate degree in Occupational Science from The University of New Hampshire. She joined the team at Ivy Street School in 2012 after working at Braintree Rehabilitation Hospital on the Traumatic Brain Injury Unit for several years. From 2012 to 2016, Jane worked in various capacities at Ivy Street, with a specific focus on the transition and vocational programs. Since 2016, Jane has been a founding partner of Ivy Street’s community-based program, Skills for Life where she works in the community with young adults who seek to gain more independence.

Shawna Boesch
Community Coach

Shawna Boesch, BS, CBIS joined the Ivy Street Community in 2012 while completing her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience from Simmons College. Shawna has always been passionate about supporting individuals with unique challenges and needs and has experience in a variety of school and healthcare settings, including hospitals and Alzheimer’s and dementia care facilities. Shawna’s mission at Ivy Street has always been to support all students in becoming self-determined agents of their own life as they transition into young adulthood. Shawna supports the Vocational Department and Transition team in preparing Ivy Street students for gainful employment, continuing education and independent living.

Alicia Dessanti
Occupational Therapist

Alicia Dessanti, MS, OTR/L has a master’s degree in Occupational Therapy from Boston University and a bachelor’s degree in Therapeutic Studies also from Boston University. She has previous experience working with clients ranging in age from birth-22 with a range of disabilities in a variety of settings including: inpatient and outpatient pediatric rehabilitation, a school for students with significant and complex disabilities, and the public school system. Alicia also currently works in a special education program helping teens and young adults prepare for transitioning from school. Her role there has a strong focus on maximizing students’ vocational capacities. Alicia is particularly interested in work with teens and young adults that occurs within their community and home and focuses on increasing their independence and meaningful participation in these environments.

Dafna Goldwasser
Occupational Therapist

Dafna Goldwasser, MS, OTR/L has a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from Boston University and a bachelor’s degree in Therapeutic Studies from Boston University. Dafna is currently working as an Occupational Therapist at Ivy Street School, focusing on the transition-based classrooms. Prior to her work at Ivy Street, Dafna worked in a variety of pediatric and school-based settings in the greater Boston area through Easter Seals of Massachusetts. She also worked for several years in an inpatient rehabilitation hospital in the Washington, DC area, rotating through the orthopedic and TBI units. Dafna is very passionate about working with young adults to develop functional living skills and gain confidence while participating successfully in their community.

Susie Hernandez
Occupational Therapist

Susie Hernandez, OTR/L, has a Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy from Tufts University and a Bachelor’s degree in biology and psychology from Suffolk University.  Susie has been practicing as an occupational therapist since late 2013. She brings experience, having worked with people across all ages (young adults to older adults) with chronic and acute medical conditions within the acute inpatient hospital and home health settings.  Susie’s drive for providing community based interventions to underserved populations has led her to become involved with several local and international non-profit organizations that focus on increasing community engagement and self sufficiency for people with intellectual and physical disabilities.  She is currently volunteering for non-profit Together and Free where she provides remote social and legal support to immigrant families that have been separated at the US and Mexico border.  Susie is passionate about promoting an environment that allows individuals to engage in a manner that is not only meaningful and culturally relevant, but leaves them feeling empowered to lead independent and fulfilling lives within their communities.

Ariel Schwartz
Occupational Therapist

Ariel Schwartz, PhD, OTR/L has been working with Skills for Life since April 2017. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation at Boston University. Her research is focused on transition age youth with intellectual/developmental disabilities. She is particularly interested in community-based intervention. She enjoys helping young adults reach their community living and transition-related goals.




elly kalfus

Community Enrichment Coordinator

elly kalfus is a peer personal organizer who helps people get organized, so they can focus their energy where they want. elly grew up in the Bronx, NY and received a bachelor of arts degree in Literature from Brandeis University in 2013. elly is passionate about improv comedy, mental health, and antiracism, and is committed to challenging the prison industrial complex. elly has a background in criminal justice reform, and received a masters degree in oral history from Columbia University documenting the history of Massachusetts prisoners fighting for their right to vote. In 2019, elly launched her business, Organizing with empathy, informed by her ongoing work to get her life in order, which caters to Neurodivergent clients of all ages. In 2021, elly joined Skills for Life as the Community Enrichment Coordinator, where she facilitates connections between clients and helps clients hold themselves accountable to their goals.


Abigail Schmidt
Community Coach

Abigail joined the Ivy Street School as the Community and College Coach in August 2019, after receiving her undergraduate degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from the University of Vermont. While at the University of Vermont, Abigail worked with a program aimed at supporting students with unique needs in attending college, and became passionate about helping students become autonomous and independent members of their communities. At the Ivy Street School, Abigail works in the transitional department to support students who’s vision includes pursuing higher education, and is focused on making college more accessible for students with diverse needs.