Meet Our Community Ambassadors!
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.
Lori Hodge - Clarksville/Montgomery County
Lori was born and raised in Clarksville. She has worked as a Nurse Practitioner for over 10 years and currently lives in Adams with her husband, Mitch, and two children. She discovered Autism TN after her son, Weston, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder when he was four years old. It didn’t take long for her to realize she identified deeply with the mission of the organization which is to advocate, celebrate, and educate. She has served as Ambassador for Montgomery County since 2022 and is excited to be a part of growing the local group, Spectrum Families of Clarksville. She is passionate about empowering parents and equipping them with the resources they need to advocate for their children. One of her favorite quotes for this journey is, “Believe in your child so much that the world thinks you are crazy. Then believe more” (author unknown). As a native of Clarksville, she feels blessed to connect with new people and create a community of inclusion and acceptance within her hometown.
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.
Teresa Lira - Rutherford County
Teresa Lira es una de las embajadoras comunitarias de AutismTN para el condado de Rutherford. Tere es originaria de México y se mudó a Tennessee en 2001. Trabajó como asistente legal de inmigración durante 9 años antes de decidirse a trabajar a tiempo completo en el negocio de jardinería que posee con su esposo. Tere decidió unirse a la comunidad de Autism Tennessee porque buscaba educarse a sí misma para poder ser la mejor defensora de su hija. Ella facilita un grupo de apoyo en línea de AutismTN para familias hispanas y está muy agradecida por la oportunidad de servir a la comunidad. Su objetivo es difundir la conciencia, la inclusión y el apoyo a la comunidad del autismo. Tere ha estado casada durante 21 años y es madre de 2 hijas, la más joven en el espectro del autismo
Translation: Teresa Lira is one of AutismTN’s Community Ambassadors for Rutherford County. Tere is originally from Mexico, moving to Tennessee in 2001. She worked as an immigration paralegal for 9 years before deciding to work full time in the landscaping business she owns with her husband. Tere decided to join the Autism Tennessee community because she was looking to educate herself so she could be her daughter's best advocate. She facilitates an AutismTN online support group for Hispanic families and is very grateful for the opportunity to serve the community. Their goal is to spread awareness, inclusion, and support for the autism community. Tere has been married for 21 years and is the mother of 2 daughters, the youngest is on the autism spectrum.
Mary Elizabeth Jackson - Sumner CountyMary Elizabeth Jackson is a wife, mother of three children, two of whom are on the spectrum. Mary is a certified special needs and disabilities advocate and the Sumner Community Ambassador for AutismTN since 2019. Mary is a children’s author who focuses on empowering children through storytelling and education. Mary Elizabeth also co-founded and co-hosts Writers Corner Live Network TV featuring author interviews and Special Needs TV featuring interviews, advice, and tools for families in that community. Her passion is to help others through education, awareness, and being more empowered in their lives.
Donna Singleton - Clarksville/Montgomery County
Donna is the proud mother of Quinton who is 30 years old and was diagnosed on the spectrum at age three. She and her husband collectively have served over 20 years in the Army, and within the military community serving as volunteers and planners of activities for children and family members on the spectrum. Professionally, Donna is a mental health therapist who has provided therapeutic services for those aged three years to Adult to include children and teens on the spectrum.