Cara Smithwick, Executive Director, BS, MLIS, NBCT

Cara is a National Board Certified Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.  She has taught students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing for 20 years in a variety of educational settings, as well as serving as an administrator at the district level for a Midlands’ D/HOH program.

Unable to accept the status quo with regard to intervention and education of students with a hearing loss, she co-founded Beginnings SC to focus on proactive intervention and parent education and empowerment.

When Cara is not working, she spends her time crafting, cooking, and hanging out with her kids.

Email: cara@beginningssc.org

Mary Reaves, Director of Programs, MRC, CRC

Mary Reaves is a Rehabilitation Counselor by training who worked in Deaf Mental Health for nearly 10 years before co-founding Beginnings SC - a statewide nonprofit that aims to help families who have deaf or hard of hearing children find belonging. Their programs include parent counseling, services for child care providers, advocacy and policy, training and technical assistance, and awareness and education to support the families and professionals who serve deaf and hard of hearing children. She received her Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling from UofSC School of Medicine in 2009 with a Certificate in Deaf Studies and through this program learned American Sign Language and found a home in advocating alongside deaf and hard of hearing adults and children. Mary received a Certificate in Special Education Advocacy from William & Mary Law School in 2021 and has gone on to support families (including her own) as they navigate the educational needs of children with disabilities. 

Mary has served on the board of directors for community organizations including Girls Rock Columbia and is currently a member of the Advisory Board the The Hive. Mary's goal is to help remove the barriers put into place when language access is not provided so that all deaf and hard of hearing children can reach their fullest potential. She is married to her high school sweetheart, Larry, and together they have 3 small humans. She loves making cool stuff, baking, reading, learning new things, and naps, on the rare occasion she can get one.

Email: mary@beginningssc.org

Abigail Moellering, Program Coordinator

Abigail graduated from Grace College in Northern Indiana in 2017 where she double majored in Communication: Film Studies and Visual Communication Design. She spent the next six years working in the hospitality industry and has been the manager a local small business for the last four and a half years.

Abigail's work and education history have instilled in her a passion for storytelling and for community. She is invested in improving accessibility and education in her community through her skillsets and abilities. 

When she’s not in the office, Abigail is often found walking the riverwalk with her partner and their dog. She enjoys reading, cooking new recipes, and spending as much time as possible outdoors.

Email: abigail@beginningssc.org

Deborah Glass, Hearing Screening Program Manager

Deborah Glass has had an interest in sign language and the Deaf/Hard of Hearing community since she was 5 years old. While working as a preschool teacher, she encountered several students who were D/HH. She pursued learning ASL because of those interactions and, after leaving teaching, found her way to Beginnings SC where she is able to combine her passion for working with kids and working with the D/HH community. 

Originally from Illinois, Deborah joined the Army at 19 and met her wonderful wife in California, lived in Hawaii for 4 years, and finally settled in South Carolina after they both left the military. She graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2017 with her BA in Early Childhood Education and is currently working towards a Masters degree in Library and Information Science. 

In her free time, Deborah enjoys crafting and making new things, reading, and spending time with her 2 cats, 2 dogs, beautiful wife, and sweet baby. Her lived experience has given her first hand insight into how important community resources and connections are and she believes deeply in helping others find spaces where they can fully be themselves.

Email: deborah@beginningssc.org

Lisa Jolly, Parent Education Specialist

Lisa Jolly, M. Ed., is excited to provide unbiased guidance and information to parents of children with hearing loss. She participated in Beginnings as a parent while living in Charlotte, NC after the birth of her second child. With the support of her Beginnings Parent Educator, she and her husband were empowered to make choices for her son based on facts and consideration of all options for communication. Her family remains connected to her Charlotte tribe where she founded Hitch-Up a social and educational support group for families of those with hearing loss. They reunite each May at Camp Cheerio where all communication modalities are present and respected as families come together to learn, network and play.

She is currently co-president of AG Bell’s SC Chapter, serves as director of Lowcountry Special Needs Network and is a member of an advisory panel with the Medical University of South Carolina charged with promoting comprehensive family wellness for children with neurodevelopmental disorders. She passionately educates about ability where many may see disability and firmly believes every person has a gift to use to better the world.

Married to her college sweetheart, Steve, the Jolly’s and their 2 sons, enjoy spending time visiting the mountains and beaches for family trips.

 Email: lisa@beginningssc.org

Kamili Belton, D/HH Parent Education Specialist and Deaf Advocacy Specialist

Kamili Belton earned a MA in Human Services Counseling: Marriage, Family, and Community from Liberty University in 2017. She received a  BA in Psychology with a minor in sociology from Lenoir Rhyne University in 2013.

Kamili previously worked as an Associate Teacher at the SC School for the Deaf and Blind for two years before switching to Program Coordinator with the residential life program where she worked with independent high school-aged young women. In her fourth year at the SCSDB she served all ages before leaving to join the SC Department of Mental health as a BA level Clinician where she was promoted to Regional Therapist with Deaf Services for four years.

Additionally, Kamili is an Adjunct Professor at Midlands Technical College-Airport campus where she’s taught ASL 1 for the last two years.  When she isn’t working, Kamili enjoys spending time with her family and friends, trying new things, and most of all she enjoys working out and starting her day on a positive note.

Email: kamili@beginningssc.org

Teague Albenesius, Part-Time Parent Education Specialist

Teague Albenesius graduated from Clemson University with a degree in Modern Languages and earned a certificate in K-12 Educational Interpreting. She also earned a masters from Gallaudet University, when she obtained teaching licensure in Deaf education and elementary education, as well as an additional certificate in educating Deaf students with additional disabilities. Previously, Teague worked as both an itinerant teacher and a teacher in a self-contained classroom for Deaf students. Currently, Teague works as a part-time Parent Education Specialist when she is not working as a community interpreter in the Columbia area. 

When she isn’t working, Teague enjoys foraging, gardening, and challenging herself to cook with whatever she finds or grows. 

Email: teague@beginningssc.org

Jocelyn Ross, Part-time Parent Education Specialist

Jocelyn Ross has been married to Akil for 18 years and is a proud mother of Alyssa (11) and AJ (7). At birth, the newborn hearing screening alerted us that Alyssa was hard of hearing. Follow up tests confirmed her progressive hearing loss. She started with amplification using hearing aids and transitioned to cochlear implants. We researched resources and services to help her gain access to hearing so she could speak and learn. Unfortunately, we learned hearing aids are not covered by insurance and these costs can prohibit families from obtaining vital devices.

As a result, Jocelyn founded Let South Carolina Hear (LSCH) to advocate for families in the deaf and hard of hearing community. The LSCH mission is to promote, lobby and advocate for legislation that will require insurance companies to cover the cost of hearing aids. When a need is identified it’s important that members of a community support each other. Jocelyn has been fighting for the deaf and hard of hearing community for over a decade.

Jocelyn is currently serving as president of SC Hands & Voices. This organization provides  another avenue to help families receive resources and supports for all children. Being a part of Beginnings SC as a parent specialist further helps in serving the SC DHH community. 

Email: jocelyn@beginningssc.org