TOPS Staff Spotlight: Meet Patty

I am from Pittsburgh and moved to Ohio when I was in high school.  I had worked with Jessie Green in Westerville City Schools and she reached out to me about a position working with TOPS.  I am a Disability Career Specialist and I am responsible for helping students find paid and unpaid internships at OSU and the community.  I do career exploration assessments with them to help determine their individual career goals.  I really enjoy getting to know the TOPS students and their families.  I also really enjoy networking with community partners and worksites to try and find the right fit for both the worksites and our students.  I enjoy riding my bike and kickboxing in my spare time.  


TOPS Staff Spotlight: Meet Mallory

Where are you from?

– Cincinnati, Ohio

What led you to getting involved with the TOPS program?

I actually started as a peer mentor with the program while I was getting my undergraduate degree at OSU! My majors had NOTHING to do with the disability field, but I had enjoyed working with some programs in Cincinnati during high school, so I thought it would be a nice extracurricular activity. Little did I know that I would be hooked. After a few semesters as a volunteer intern, I became a paid student assistant. After I graduated, I left and worked for the Association for the Developmentally Disabled for about eight months before I was called back to the TOPS program for my current position and I have been here for the past six years!

What is your job title with the TOPS program?

–  My official title is “Program Coordinator,” but my working titles are “Academic Advisor,” “Peer Mentor Supervisor,” and “Parent Liaison.” I wear a lot of hats.

What responsibilities do you have with your job?

I work with the students and their instructors to ensure that both parties have the best possible course audit experience during the semester. In addition, I recruit and train our peer mentors to ensure that they are the best supports for our students and that they have positive experiences engaging with our program. I also seek and disseminate feedback from parents to better our programming from year to year and teach the 1st Year Independent Living SLC.

What do you like best about working with TOPS?

I know this is going to sound cheesy, but the students! There is NEVER a dull day working with these super fun folks. If your student has mentioned some goofy or off-topic conversation that they have had with me it is probably because I am just as silly as they are – I love talking to them about their interests, goals, and ambitions. They truly make this job amazing and I look forward to coming to work every day.

What are some hobbies/interests that you have?

Ask the students! LOL – they know all too well that I am obsessed with houseplants (I have 300+) and cats. I also love reading, being outside, traveling, and exploring Columbus!

Any interesting facts about yourself

I will be graduating in August with my Masters of Social Work! I also currently have three jobs, although I am not sure if that is “interesting” per say.

Mallory with her parents!

TOPS Staff Spotlight: Meet Ashlee

Where are you from? – Lewis Center, OH

What led you to getting involved with the TOPS program? – I came across the job posting for a Disability Career Specialist with the Nisonger Center back in 2014 and thought it sounded similar to the role I had been doing as a Career Development Coordinator at Embracing Autism. What I loved about the position at OSU is that there is much more to it than just employment – it gives students with intellectual and developmental disabilities the opportunity to go to college and participate in so many facets of campus and community life while developing themselves personally and professionally.

What is your job title with the TOPS program? – Disability Career Specialist

What responsibilities do you have with your job? – Anything related to career development! I help students with exploring and determining career goals, interview and workplace readiness, and with learning and maintaining job tasks. I teach Independent Study to our 3rd and 4th year students and we focus on a variety of career development and independent living topics. I also get to learn about diversity and inclusion initiatives for various businesses and departments and create partnerships that allow our students to engage in inclusive career exploration and experiential learning opportunities, internships and employment.

What do you like best about working with TOPS? – Seeing the growth in our students and seeing their independence flourish throughout their time with us!

What are some hobbies/interests that you have? – I love to spend time with my family and friends, read, cook, spend time hiking and in nature, and travel and explore new places.

Any interesting facts about yourself – I studied Psychology at Ohio State, I met my *now*  husband when I was 18 years old, I have double jointed elbows, I have never broken a bone and I had a surgery as a baby that makes it to where I can’t throw up. 

Ashlee with her husband and daughter!

TOPS Staff Spotlight: Meet Sheri

Where are you from?

I grew up in Wisconsin. I lived in Washington D.C for graduate school as well as Tucson, AZ for my winter internship for graduate school.

What is your job title with the TOPS program? 

Program Coordinator: Residential Coordinator

 What responsibilities do you have with your job?

  • I work with all students in the program, we meet at least bi weekly with each student, I focus on independent living goals. With the support of Students/Mentors I develop the social calendar and coordinate the community service program for the TOPS program. 
  • As the residential coordinator I work closely with housing/residence hall/student life departments as well as the staff at the University Village Apartment Complex that we have a partnership with. We have had a very exciting year hosting students in our first year being able to live in the residence hall. 

  What do you like best about working with TOPS?

  • The students! I love working with young adults as they navigate the transition to adulthood. 
  • My awesome team of coworkers!
  • The wonderful families that we serve.

 What are some hobbies/interests that you have?

  • I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. 
  • I enjoy hiking, playing games, cooking, going out to eat, and traveling.

 Any interesting facts about yourself.

  •  I am fluent in American Sign Language.
  •  I’m married to my awesome husband of soon to be 27 years, we have one adult son and an Australian Shepherd Stella and a grand pup: Redd (Belgium Malinois)
  • I am a Former Wrestling Coach (yes men’s team)

Sheri with her husband Jani

Sheri with her son Riley

Meet the 2021 TOPS Graduates

Griffin Kondracke- Griffin has received some good experience working as an aide in the gym teachers classroom and assisting with recess duty at St. Mary’s Catholic School. Previously he worked at the Jewish Community Center helping kids with snack time, crafts and supervising free play. He has also had internships at the RPAC, the James Cancer Hospital, H2O Recovery, and the Nisonger Dental Clinic. His favorite internship was working at the RPAC because he got to work with a lot of great kids that were his own age. During his time at OSU, Griffin took classes such as Astrology, Theatre, History, and Health. His favorite class was his theatre class because he enjoyed playing the roles that he was assigned. He also was involved in clubs such as Buckeye Olympics, and volunteered his time at community service organizations such as the food bank and the soup kitchen. Griffin has accepted a job working in Gahanna at a summer camp working with kids! He hopes to be a teacher’s aide for Pre-K children in the future. Griffin would like to thank all the members of the TOPS team as he will miss the staff and the friends that he made very much!

Zach Watts- Zach has had multiple internship experiences at OSU including working at Nationwide Children’s Hospital as a PT/OT aide, working at the Early Child Learning program, and working at COSI as an outreach education/animal care specialist and Dino exhibit intern. Zach has been working for a couple of years at the National Veterans Memorial Museum as well. While at OSU, his favorite internship has been working at COSI because he loved interacting with the kids. Zach has taken classes such as American Jewish History, History of WW2, Solar System, and Planet Earth. His favorite class was his American Jewish History class because he liked the professor and loved how intricately she put all of the terms and phrases together from the class. He has been involved in multiple clubs at OSU including the Buckeyes Assemble, Marvel, and Disney Club. He has also been involved in community service events, and loved going to Chicago on a Buck-I-Serv trip to assist at risk kids with homework. He just accepted a paid position as a front desk associate at the National Veterans Memorial Museum! He is experienced in greeting visitors, assisting with tours and providing details about the history of the museum. His main areas of career interest lie in museum education, so this is a great fit for Zach!

LaMont Swift-LaMont has had multiple internship experiences while at OSU including working in the Nisonger Dental Clinic, working at the RPAC, the HRS (Health and Rehabilitation Sciences) building, the Habitat for Humanity Restore, OSU Air Force ROTC store, and Goodwill. He has been working for Goodwill for several years now as a paid employee. He helps in the donation center and is responsible for training new employees. His favorite internship experience was working with the Air Force ROTC (AFROTC) because he had an opportunity to learn how the cadets trained and prepared themselves. They were all very welcoming and took the time to train him as well. LaMont has taken multiple classes including Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Construction Management, Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, Art and Politics of Hip Hop, Construction Safety and Health, and Personal Finance. His favorite class was his Art and Politics of Hip-Hop because he loves music, loves making his own beats, and appreciated learning about the culture and the community building ability of hip-hop. LaMont has also been involved in clubs such as BuckeyeThon, African American Voices Gospel Choir, and Black Student Association. He specifically loved BuckeyeThon because of the dance marathon, and it warmed his heart to be able to raise money for kids with cancer and to see them dancing and having fun at the event. He also loved being able to serve the homeless at the Manna Cafe. LaMont will continue working as a paid employee at Goodwill for the immediate future. His ultimate goal is to work in the construction/construction management field.

Lena Meerman- Lena has several years of experience in sterilization and wants to continue in the field of dental or surgical sterilization after TOPS. Her most recent internship was at the Ohio State East Hospital in the Central Sterile Supply Department where she was responsible for unloading the instrument belt, scanning barcodes and putting away instrument trays based on surgery type, and putting sterilized case cart containers away. She recently interviewed for a position at Grandview Dental Care to perform tasks such as instrument sterilization, room turnover, tray preparation and patient interaction. Lena is a team player and loves working with other people and helping them out. She is currently still looking for work and would love to find a job in the dental or surgical sterilization field!


Griffin Kondracke

Zach Watts

LaMont Swift

Lena Meerman

Student Spotlight: Meet Quinn Young

Quinn is a freshman in the TOPS program at OSU. He is roommates with fellow first year John Wood, and lives on campus at Pennsylvania Place. He is part of the first class of TOPS students to live on campus!

Quinn has a lot of interest in Zoology, and anything dealing with working with animals. He specifically loves lions.

He currently works at Barks and Rec which is a doggy daycare business. His daily job consists of cleaning up after the dogs, helping feed them, bathing them, and playing ball with them. His favorite part of the job is giving the dogs baths because he is really good at it. He really enjoys working there because the people he works with are really nice.

Quinn’s favorite class that he has taken at OSU so far is his Human Animal Interaction class with Dr. George.

He says so far at OSU he has learned a lot about human health and gaining  independent living skills. He loves being part of a team and getting to know his classmates and teachers better.

 He loves watching movies and his favorite movie is Lion King (specifically the live version). He also likes to do artwork and color. 

Some interesting facts about Quinn are that he grew up on a farm in Colorado and his parents run their own winery. He loves to go to the zoo to see the lion exhibit, as well as the gorillas and elephants. Quinn even got to ride an elephant in Thailand a couple years ago!

Quinn riding an elephant with his younger brother!

TOPS Pizza Night Recap (4/16/21)

For TOPS Pizza night that took place on April 16th, TOPS mentors and students were tasked with determining their favorite local pizza place! The decision was between Sicilia’s and Tommy’s pizza, both which have convenient locations that are close to campus. We sampled the cheese pizza from both locations, and we had a nearly unanimous decision in favor of Sicilia’s! It was the group’s verdict that Sicilia’s cheese pizza had an overall better flavor, and many seemed to be in favor of the Sicilian style crust. After some minor research, we found that what sets Sicilian pizza apart is the extra time given for the dough to rise which results in a softer and more flavorful crust!

Some differences between our two pizza’s was that Tommy’s cut their pizza in squares. Now, many may not be in favor of this technique, however an added benefit is the additional pieces that are available. This stands in contrast to Sicilia’s pizza, which is sliced into 8 pieces, no matter the size of pizza that is ordered. Also, as mentioned, Sicilia’s crust was more flavorful compared to the traditional thin crust of Tommy’s pizza. However, in all regards, both pizzas were spectacular! As a final note, because of its location, Sicilia’s pizza may be a pizza place that you have not seen or heard of before. For your reference, Sicilia’s is located just off north campus, on Frambes Ave. just a short walk off of high street. Overall, pizza night was a great time to meet some new people, socialize more with old friends, and try some really great pizza! Thank you for all that attended!

-TOPS mentor Lindsey Overmeyer

Leisure Participation Study for Adults with Autism

Recruitment Announcement:

Leisure participation is key in physical and mental wellbeing, social inclusion, independence, self-worth, and quality of life. Researchers at the University of Minnesota and Temple University are recruiting adults with autism who live alone or independently with roommate(s). This study examines the types and frequency of leisure activities that individuals with autism do in their free time during the day. Those enrolled may be compensated up to $65 for participating in this study.

Study Flyer:

TOPS Community Service Event-Campus Clean Up

Last weekend (Sunday) Tops Mentor Sam Backiewicz hosted a Campus Clean up event for the TOPS students in honor of the upcoming Earth Day.

Most of the TOPS students really enjoyed it and they filled 60 garbage bags between the 9 people!

Great Job guys! This may just have to become a yearly event.

Nisonger Institute 2021 – Scarcity of Medical Resources: Racial and Disability Equity 5.21.21

Free Webinar!!

Good Morning all, Happy Monday! The image below is hyperlinked to the Zoom webinar registration but you can also find panelist bios and details at