Welcoming New Talent: Engage with® Skills Training Program Expands Its Team

In a significant move to bolster its mission of enhancing the lives of older adults through equipping those that care for and engage with them the necessary skills of empathy, respect, and effective communication, the Engage with® Skills Training Program has welcomed four new Certified Skills Trainers. This strategic expansion is set to increase the program’s capacity to meet the growing training needs of partnering organizations, particularly the Maryland Department of Aging and their State Longevity Ready Initiative. With their extensive experience and diverse backgrounds, these new trainers are poised to make a substantial impact on the program’s effectiveness and reach.

Building a Stronger Foundation for Older Adult Care

The Engage with® Skills Training Program, a national non-profit initiative of the Mental Health Association of Maryland (MHAMD), focuses on equipping direct care workers and service providers with crucial skills that improve the lives of older adults they serve. As Amanda Krisher, Senior Director of the program, emphasized in a recent podcast interview, the program’s core values are rooted in empathy, respect, and effective communication. The integration of these values into training modules helps create a more compassionate and understanding workforce, ultimately enhancing the quality of care provided to older adults and improving the overall job satisfaction for the staff members.

Our training is conducted on a virtual platform built on a gaming system, where participants create and customize avatars to represent themselves. Our Certified Skills Trainers guide them through interactive conversations in real-time.
Unlike many traditional long-term care and aging services training curricula, which often rely on brief videos and quizzes, our unique approach focuses on providing a comprehensive experience. Our Certified Skills Trainers ensure that participants have ample opportunities to practice the skills we teach, which is crucial for effective learning and understanding how to respectfully engage with older adults. The success of this program would not be possible without the team of talented skills trainers that we’ve developed here at Engage with!

Amanda Krisher, LCSW-C, Senior Director,
     Engage with® Skills Training Programs

Meet the New Certified Skills Trainers

Jill Kluesner, MA, CRC, Certified Skills Trainer (Contractor)

With over 15 years of experience in public health programming, Jill Kluesner brings a wealth of knowledge to the Engage with® team. Her expertise spans curriculum development, public health education, and program implementation. Jill has worked with the National Council for Mental Wellbeing to create and pilot diverse training experiences, including Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) programs. Her commitment to advancing public health education and supporting instructor development is evident in her role as a mentor and national trainer. Jill’s background in Rehabilitation Counseling and Public Health, combined with her practical experience, makes her a valuable asset to the team.

Soumya Palreddy, PhD, Certified Skills Trainer (Contractor)

Soumya Palreddy is a licensed psychologist and restorative justice practitioner with a passion for promoting transformative change in communities. Her experience includes facilitating restorative justice implementation, addressing inequities, and fostering cultures of care in various settings. As a National Trainer for MHFA, Soumya has been instrumental in updating training programs and developing train-the-trainer initiatives. Her previous roles, including Associate Director at University Health Services at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, highlight her leadership and expertise in mental health education.

Suzanne Perlman, MA, Certified Skills Trainer (Contractor)

An expert in curricula development and training program facilitation, Suzanne Perlman has over 20 years of experience in promoting equity and access. Her work focuses on designing innovative curricula for diverse communities, including Indigenous, older adult, and rural populations. Suzanne’s national training efforts have reached thousands, providing mentorship and technical assistance to ensure programs meet the evolving needs of various groups. Her background in behavioral health system transformation further underscores her ability to drive meaningful change in public health education.

Rachel Taube, MSW, Certified Skills Trainer (Contractor)

Rachel Taube’s dedication to mental health education and community engagement is reflected in her extensive experience as a national facilitator. With a strong foundation in social work, Rachel specializes in bridging the gap between theory and practice, connecting communities with evidence-based tools. Her educational journey, which includes degrees from Valparaiso University and Washington University in St. Louis, has equipped her with the skills to effectively translate knowledge into practice, enhancing the overall impact of training programs.

Enhancing Training through Technology and Empathy

Engage with® Skills Training Program leverages technology to create immersive and scalable training experiences. By using a virtual platform that allows participants to interact through avatars, the program provides a unique environment for older adult care workers and service providers to practice and refine their skills. This method not only enhances engagement but also ensures that training is accessible and impactful.

Looking Ahead

With the addition of these highly skilled trainers, the Engage with® Skills Training Program is well-positioned to expand its reach and effectiveness. The program’s commitment to fostering empathy, respect, and effective communication remains at the forefront of its mission, ensuring that direct care workers and service providers are well-equipped to meet the needs of the aging population. The expertise and dedication of the new skills trainers will undoubtedly contribute to the program’s continued success and its positive impact on the older adult care industry.


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