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 for the Illinois Strong Couples project are listed below.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Amanda Gold is a PhD student in Clinical-Community Psychology at UIUC. She received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida and her Master’s degree from Pennsylvania State University. Amanda’s research focuses on the intersection of diversity and religion/spirituality. Clinically, she is interested in working with couples as well as with teens and adults who have experienced trauma, especially women and other marginalized genders. She also enjoys providing care to marginalized communities (i.e., LGBTQIA+, racial/ethnic minorities, immigrants, religious minorities, etc.).
Julianne Griffith is a PhD student in clinical-community psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh, where she went on to work as a research coordinator for two years before joining the clinical-community psychology program at the U of I. Julianne’s research focuses on the interplay of social and emotional development and risk for psychopathology. Her clinical interests include working with individuals navigating developmental transitions and delivering evidence-based interventions for internalizing symptoms among children, adolescents, and families.
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.
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.
Aggie Rieger is a PhD student in clinical-community psychology. She received her bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College and worked as a research coordinator at the University of Pennsylvania before moving to beautiful Urbana-Champaign. Aggie’s research focuses on gender-based violence. Her clinical areas of interest include LGBTQIA+ topics and relationships.
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.
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.