Independent Living Specialist
Assist and support consumers in meeting their community-based living goals. ILS connect consumers to services through information & referral. ILS encourage self-advocacy, teach independent living skills, help identify housing options, assist with job searches, and provide peer mentoring. ILS are involved in youth transition activities as well as assisting consumers who want to transition from institutional living into the community.
Mariah ReevesIndependent Living Specialist
Mariah was born and raised in Central Nebraska. She has 4 children and 5 grandchildren. Mariah was diagnosed with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis an autoimmune Liver Disease at 39 years of age, which required her to undergo a Liver Transplant. After becoming disabled and dealing with the day to day challenges of living with a physical disability, she wanted to work with individuals that were going through some of the same struggles that she had to face with her disability. Mariah also wanted to share her story to offer encouragement to individuals that have a disability. Mariah started working with Independence Rising in February 2017. She works in multiple programs with Independence Rising. Her primary positions are in the Independent Living and Family Support Programs. Before she started working with Independence Rising, she worked as a Preschool Teacher and an After-School Program Site Director. Mariah has her Associates Degree in General Studies, one Year Diploma in Family and Consumer Science with an emphasis in Early Childhood Education. She has completed trainings in Mental Health First Aid, the Systems of care series: Trauma-informed Training, Helping Victims and their Advocates Normalizing the Grieving Process.
Jamie SchwedaIndependent Living Specialist
Jamie is a Wyoming native and graduated from Gering High School in 1979. Jamie has worked over 40 years in retail, administrative offices and customer service. Jamie was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in May of 2006 which resulted in being confined to a wheelchair. Jamie lived in a nursing facility for 4½ years. Jamie realized she didn’t belong there and transitioned into the community. Jamie has lived independently for the last 9 years. Her new “normal” taught her the importance of self-advocacy. As an ILS, Jamie helps others living with a disability understand the importance of speaking up for themselves. Jamie is working to hosts Empowerment Within, a monthly cross-disabilities support group, and serves on the Patient Advisory Council for the Acute Rehabilitation Unit at Regional West Medical Center. Jamie has recently joined the Tri-City Active Living Advisory Committee, this committee looks for areas in the Scottsbluff, Gering and Terrytown communities to improve the safety for individuals that are walking, biking or anything else with wheels. Jamie recently purchased a modified, hand-controlled van with a ramp and is enjoying the freedom it gives her to drive. Jamie lives in Gering with her cat Baxter. Jamie takes pride and joy in her son, daughter and two grandsons, who all live in Wyoming. Jamie is a HUGE sports fan.
Sue BrittIndependent Living Specialist
Sue has worked for Independence Rising as a Receptionist and Independent Living Specialist since September of 2018, along with her late husband Mark who passed away in November of 2019. Sue takes advantage of training opportunities including Mental Health First Aid, Teen Mental First Aid, Dementia Training, and Parent Leadership Training. Sue is also a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Sue has completed Peer Support Specialist training and is preparing for testing. Sue provides support in the Gothenburg office for Independence Rising’s family peer support program, FAME (Family, Advocacy, Mentoring, & Empowerment.)
Duane KrolikowskiIndependent Living Specialist
Duane was raised in Wood River Nebraska and has been a resident of Grand Island for the last 15 years. He is a graduate of Central Community College (Human Services/Counseling) and Doane University (Human Relations). Duane is dedicated to serving his community. He has previously worked at Boys Town, Boy’s & Girl’s Club, and Grand Island Public Schools. He works as an Independent Living Specialist with Independence Rising and has been since June 2019. As a person who’s been disabled all of his life, one thing Duane finds joy in is helping bring independence to men and women of the disabled community.
Connie ParrotSupport Staff
Connie worked at Cozad Police Department as a dispatcher, Pump and Pantry, and at Nebraska/Plastics for 15 years. She stated that Nebraska Plastics was a great job working as a supervisor for 14 years, but also a challenging job. Connie likes to go fishing and loves animals. She is 64 years old and loves her job at Independence Rising because it gives her something to get up for each morning.
Erika RichardsIndependent Living Specialist
Erika is currently an Independent Living Specialist, Functional Family Facilitator, and is currently being certified for a Peer Support Specialist. She currently resides in Gothenburg, NE with her 9-year-old son. Erika is currently finishing her classes and hours to become a Provisional Drug and Alcohol Counselor. She is certified in Adult Mental Health First Aid. Erika is currently the Western Coordinator for People’s First of Nebraska. Erika’s passion for those struggling with any disability has only grown as the days go by – Erika has seen the biases that occur in this world and has become an advocate on behalf of those whose voice has been taken. Erika has experience in advocacy from her personal life, her Non-Profit Organization, The Gothenburg Giving Closet, working with those in addiction and newly in recovery, and for those who have reached out for help via the hotlines, she is partnered with. Erika is from Ohio and a Buckeye fan. Erika enjoys spending time with her 9-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter. Erika enjoys anything outside as well as spending time with Olive, their adopted puppy. Erika is an avid book reader and is always looking for ways to expand her knowledge.