Our Coaches

Our Coaches

All of our coaches receive extensive and ongoing training to ensure you and your partner have a great experience in the program. With all of our coaches, you can expect a helpful, informative, and caring professional to encourage you as you work to strengthen your relationship.

Current coaches (and home state) for the Strong Couples Project are listed below.

Allen Barton (IL)

Allen Barton is an Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research and outreach efforts focus on family-based prevention programming, and this Illinois Strong Couples project is one of his personal favorites. When he is not doing research or serving as a program coach, he can likely be found with his family playing or working outside.

Amanda Griswold (WI)

Amanda Griswold, a Human Development & Relationships Educator at the University of Wisconsin Madison Extension, is dedicated to fostering healthier lifestyles and effective family communication. With a particular focus on child development, family engagement-relationships, and financial literacy, she contributes passionately to projects like the Illinois Strong Couples initiative. Outside her educational role, Amanda enjoys outdoor activities with her family, exploring parks, gardening, and traveling. Her commitment to education makes her a valuable asset in empowering individuals and families.

Amber Allen (MO)

Amber Allen is an Assistant Extension Professional in Human Development and Family Science for the University of Missouri, where she serves ten counties in the Southwest Region. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Child and Family Development from Missouri State University, with an emphasis on family studies. In addition, she has obtained a Master’s in Nonprofit and Civic Leadership from Drury University and has begun her Doctorate of Education studies at the University of Missouri. She also holds Missouri Advanced Prevention Specialist and Certified Family Life Educator credentials. She has been with MU Extension since October 2019 but has provided community education in Missouri for over a decade.

April Littig (IL)

April Littig provides leadership in the 4-H Youth Development program for the traditional 4-H program and youth education initiatives in Western-Central Illinois. April provides researched based educational programs to youth and adult audiences geared towards healthy lifestyles, positive youth development, protecting and appreciating our environment, and workforce preparation. She provides programs that allow youth to develop a sense of respect, belonging and mastery.

Bonnie Brewer (KS)

Bonnie Brewer is a Family and Community Wellness agent for Kansas State University Research and Extension, serving Butler County. As an extension agent, Bonnie provides educational programs that help people make informed decisions about their well-being and relationships in order to achieve optimal quality of life across the lifespan. In addition to her role as educator, Bonnie is pursuing a PhD in Leadership Communication. When not working or studying, you will find Bonnie cherishing time with her family playing board/card games or taking in the beauty of the great outdoors.

Brianna Anderson (MO)

Brianna Anderson is an Associate Extension Professional in the area of Human Development and Family Science for the University of Missouri, serving nine counties in the East Central Region. She joined MU Extension in August 2022, after completing her graduate studies in Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Illinois where she focused on young adults and their holistic development. Outside of her professional role, Brianna enjoys playing volleyball and hiking.

Caitlin Mathews-Smith (OH)

Caitlin Mathews-Smith is an Ohio State University Extension Educator in Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS), serving in Guernsey County. Caitlin provides research-based education focused on Healthy People, Healthy Finances, and Healthy Relationships. She loves to spend time with her immediate and extended family. She loves hiking, biking, gardening and landscaping, painting, and crafting

Cheri  Burcham (IL)

Cheri  Burcham is a Family Life Educator with University of Illinois Extension. She provides educational programming and resources on healthy living throughout the life span, and her primary focus has been to promote a healthier more independent older population. She has really enjoyed being a coach for the Illinois Strong Couples project and feels it has been beneficial to all are as of her work. Cheri is a huge Monarch butterfly crusader and spends a lot of time in her garden raising milkweed and also raising and tagging Monarchs.

Erin Ruggiero (OH)

Erin Ruggiero is an Ohio State University Extension Educator in Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS), serving in Medina County. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Child and Family Development from Ashland University. She provides educational programming on child development, parenting, aging programs, managing finances, and more. When not at work, Erin enjoys spending time with her family, especially while being outside!

Judy Schmidt (IL)

Judy Schmidt is a 4-H Youth Development Educator for the University of Illinois Extension in the Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell unit. Her work focuses on 4-H youth development programming in the local metropolitan area, specifically leading positive youth development initiatives for after-school programs, community groups, 4-H clubs and other youth-serving organizations. Her areas of expertise include positive youth development principles, youth leadership, and work with teens as teachers.

Karla Belzer (IL)

Karla Belzer is a family life educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving in the northwest area of the state since 2015. Karla provides information and educational programs on healthy lifestyle decisions, effectively family communication, and management of life transitions helping people of all ages to live their best life. She is especially passionate about her work in mindfulness, trauma awareness, brain health, and the Illinois Strong Couples project. Outside her role as an educator, she enjoys spending time outside with her family and her dogs – in the garden, on hikes, and boating.

Kyleigh Brown (MO)

Kyleigh Brown is a Certified Family Life Educator.  She currently works as an Assistant Extension Professional in the area of Human Development and Family Science for the University of Missouri. Through her work, Kyleigh offers educational opportunities in the areas of aging well, family relationships, and mental wellbeing.  She is headquartered in Cass County and serves seven additional counties in the West Central. She provides professional development for individuals and organizations in communities as well at conferences from the local to national level. She earned her Master’s in Early Childhood Education and Family Studies from Missouri State University in 2016.  Kyleigh, a Pettis County native, resides in Kansas City with her husband and their two young children.

Mary Campbell Wood (WI)

Mary Campbell Wood, UW-Madison Division of Extension Professor, believes that strong relationships are the foundation that makes healthy, happy individuals, couples, families, and communities, and helps them to thrive. She has worked to build local and statewide capacity for promoting and supporting healthy relationships for more than 30 years, as a licensed guidance counselor, educator, and faculty member.  In addition to relationship and parenting education, she has developed programs that support healing from trauma, grief and loss for adults and children, all in the context of relationships.

Michele Crawford (IL)

Michele Crawford is a Community Health Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving Cook County. Michele provides educational programs and resources on chronic disease prevention and management, trauma informed care, mindfulness and healthy relationships. In addition to her role as an educator, Michele enjoys spending time in nature, gardening and yoga.

Missy Bablick (WI)

Missy Bablick, has worked for UW-Extension since 2010, Missy is the Human Development and Family Relationships Educator in Barron County, WI. Missy’s outreach and experience has focused around working with families providing parenting, financial, and relationship education.

Patrice Powers-Baker (OH)

Patrice Powers-Barker is an Ohio State University Extension Educator in Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS), serving in Lucas County. As a Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE), Patrice’s role is to teach FCS to families across the lifespan, and to foster positive individual and family development for optimal growth. When not at work, Patrice loves spending time with her family, treasuring the four seasons of Northwest Ohio and appreciating the abundance of her local community.

Renee Koeing (WI)

Renee Koenig is an Educator in Human Development and Relationships with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Division of Extension.  She has 25 years experience teaching life skills and supporting families facing challenges of job loss, poverty, divorce, trauma, chronic illness and death of loved ones.  Renee’s research and outreach focus on delivering parenting education in digital formats. She helps make connections for cross-sector collaborations that build resilient families and communities.

Robin Ridgley (IL)

Robin Ridgley is a Family Life Educator with the University of Illinois Extension. Because of her years of volunteer work with community divorce care groups,  she is excited to be on the other side of things and be a part of Illinois Strong Couples! Robin enjoys kayaking, working in the yard, and exploring the hiking trails of the beautiful Shawnee National Forrest area.

Sandra Slater (OH)

Sandra Slater is an Ohio State University Extension Educator in Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS), serving Lake County. She holds a Master’s in Human Services Counseling; Health and Wellness and is a Licensed Social Worker.  In addition, she is a Certified Trauma Professional and holds many certifications in parenting, child mental health and development. She has taught across the state and in higher education institutions. She has enjoyed a lengthy career in wellness, mental health, and human development initiatives. Her work focuses on building resiliency, personal growth, healthy living across the life span and thriving communities. She is an outdoors person enjoying gardening and nature with her husband, children, and grandchildren.

Tessa Hobbs-Curley (IL)

Tessa Hobbs-Curley is a Family Life Educator serving Henderson, Knox, McDonough, and Warren Counties.  Tessa believes lifelong success starts with social and emotional learning, and she centers her work around this philosophy.  She is excited to serve as a coach for the Illinois Strong Couples project, which promotes the essential skills, she has emphasized over the last 25 years.  If you don’t see her out professionally as an educator, you will see her spending time with her family attending sporting events or showing cattle.

Todd Wenzel (WI)

Todd Wenzel is a Human Development & Relationships Educator with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension. His primary focus is providing financial education locally and statewide, as well as presenting parenting and family education programs, through his work with incarcerated populations, housing insecure individuals, and couples and families. He is a member of numerous Extension educator teams, including serving as the co-chair of the Rent Smart educator team. Todd’s academic research includes a published study on the effects of mindfulness in elementary-aged children