Meet Our Community Ambassadors!
Teresa Lira - Rutherford County
Mi nombre es Teresa Lira. Soy originaria de México. He estado viviendo en Tennessee durante los últimos 20 años. Tengo una licenciatura en Tecnologías de la Información de la Universidad de Veracruz, México. He trabajado como Asistente Legal durante los últimos 9 años y también administro el negocio de mi esposo. Mi esposo y yo hemos estado casados por casi 21 años, tenemos 2 hijas, una de 19 años y otra de 15 años. Nuestra hija menor fue diagnosticada con autismo cuando tenía 3 años. Decidí convertirme en embajadora de Autism Tennessee, principalmente porque quería aprender todo lo posible sobre el autismo y todos los recursos disponibles para mi hija, pero también porque quería ayudar a mi comunidad a dar la mejor atención a sus hijos en el espectro. Recientemente inicié un grupo de apoyo en línea para la comunidad hispana porque sé lo difícil que es cuando se tiene la barrera del idioma y quiero que sepan que estamos aquí para ayudar en todo lo que podamos. Mi objetivo es difundir la concientización sobre el autismo, la inclusión y el apoyo a todos los que lo necesitan.
Translation: My name is Teresa Lira. I am originally from Mexico. I have been living in Tennessee for the last 20 years. I have a bachelor's degree in Information Technology from the University of Veracruz, Mexico. I have been working as a paralegal for the last 9 years and I also manage my husband’s business. My husband and I have been married for almost 21 years, we have 2 girls, a 19-year-old and a 15-year-old. Our youngest daughter was diagnosed with autism when she was 3 years old. I decided to become an ambassador with Autism Tennessee, mainly because I wanted to learn as much as possible about autism and all the resources available for my daughter, but also because I wanted to help my community to give the best care for their kids in the spectrum. I recently started an online support group for the Hispanic community because I know how difficult it is when you have a language barrier and I want them to know that we are here to help in any way we can. My goal is to spread autism awareness, inclusion, and support for everyone who needs it.
Jenna Carlin - Overton/Putnam County
Jenna Carlin is originally from Palm Harbor, FL. She moved to the Upper Cumberland area of TN in 2015. She has a son, age 11, high functioning on the Autism Spectrum. She has a massage therapy business and enjoys pet therapy with her son. They have toy Australian Shepards, horses, and a cat. She became an ambassador in her local community to help fill the need for awareness and acceptance. She is hosting a support group in the area and informational booths.
Whitney Holifield - Wilson County
Whitney Holifield is the Ambassador of Wilson County for Autism Tennessee. Whitney has been serving Autism Tennessee for the last 9 years. Whitney is the mother of two little boys with Autism, Jacob (age 8) and Jonah Lee (age 5).Whitney began her journey serving with Autism Tennessee after her oldest son was diagnosed with Autism at 18 months old. Whitney was looking to educate herself, so that she could support her sons in the best way possible.
She was also looking for a community that didn't think her sons needed to be "fixed", but one that would love and accept them fully as they are. She found that community with Autism Tennessee.
In her time as Ambassador she has taken Autism Tennessee's mission to "Educate, Advocate, and Celebrate" to heart. She has provided Autism Awareness training for the Mount Juliet Police Department, created a sensory friendly parade float to allow kids on the spectrum to participate in the Mt. Juliet Christmas parade, she partnered with Mt Juliet's Fire Department to give children with Autism the honor of escorting Santa himself on the fire truck for a parade. She has also partnered with the Wilson County Fair to support "Special Needs Day" welcoming every single family in attendance to the fair and providing needed resources to the community. Whitney has partnered with local businesses like Burger Republic in Mt Juliet to fundraise for Autism Tennessee.
Whitney also authored a children's book called "Pieces of Friendship: A Letter to My Friends" which is a social story for school aged children, helping them understand how to create friendships with children on the spectrum. She reads this story at schools in Wilson County Schools every year to celebrate Autism Awareness Day.
In her professional life Whitney is a Learning Experience Designer for Amazon, one of America's "Big Five" multinational technology firms. She has been given the honor of setting accessibility standards in learning design within her organization, Ops Tech IT. It is her privilege to partner with learners with varied learning needs to ensure that they have access to learning solutions that speak to their individual and global learning needs.
It is Whitney's mission in life to create a world that understands and welcomes learners like her sons. A world that sees their minds for the amazing gift that they are. She will never stop advocating for people with Autism and their families. She will never stop advocating for her sons. They are her legacy. She is humbled to get the opportunity to serve the Autism community, that she loves so much, with Autism Tennessee.
Crissonya Phillips - Davidson County
Crissonya Phillips is a Tennessee native who have worked in the disability field for 18 years. She and her husband, Glenn, have a son, Jamison on the Spectrum.
Additionally, in 2018, Jamison and Crissonya started The Autism Social & Support Group in the South Nashville area. The groups goal is to spread autism awareness, inclusion, socialization and support.