If you are interested in the Emerging Leaders program, please contact lesliecontos@gmail.com

ACACI 2019 Emerging Leaders

Cindy Danzell, MS, LPC, NCC, PEL currently works as a Licensed Professional Counselor at Compassionate Care at LSC Therapy Group and as a Suicide Prevention Director at National Louis University. Cindy has been in the field for about 3 years and has worked with children, adolescents, and adults. Working at National Louis University has allowed Cindy to create a wellness infrastructure and bring mental health awareness to campus. She enjoys working as a therapist because it allows her to partner with clients on their journey to better mental health. Trauma, PTSD, Suicide, and Adverse Childhood Experiences are some of the passions Cindy has, so joining ACACI and other organizations is important to her. Since Cindy is new to the counseling field, it is important for her to grow and learn from other clinicians. When she is not working at the private practice or the university, Cindy is volunteering with special needs children at her church; she has been doing this for almost 10 years. Cindy is hopeful for the future and feels blessed to be one of the 2020 Emerging Leaders

Sarah Silva

My name is Elizabeth House and I am currently a Master of Science in Counseling student at National Louis University.  I studied abroad for a year through the Loyola Rome Center while working on my undergraduate degree with St. Louis University. That experience shaped my career as an educator and showed me that I wanted to work with immigrants.  I have been in the educational field for the last 13 years. I worked as an English Language Learners teacher for children ranging from five to fourteen years of age. My students came from all over the globe making the experience completely different year to year. In the classroom, I saw the effects of war and trauma get in the way of my students’ learning. There was often not enough time in the academic day to address all of the issues today’s children face.


In St. Louis, I volunteered in an afterschool program for refugee children.  This position made it abundantly clear to me that I wanted to help others in some capacity. As an educator, I saw numerous obstacles that people struggled with on a daily basis.  It is my hope as a counselor that I can foster relationships with my clients to help them live their lives to the fullest while meeting their personal goals fo r success.


I am currently working as a behavioral specialist for ProActive Kids where I run a closed small group for children from 8-14 that struggle with obesity.  My internship will be at an alcohol and drug substance abuse treatment center working as an addictions counselor. I am very interested in the effects of fitness on mental health and grief and hope to research these topics further.

Elizabeth House

My name is Ammarah Hussain; I am a first year student at Adler University in the clinical mental health-counseling program. My interest in counseling peaked at high school and undergraduate at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Throughout my time at University of Illinois at Chicago, I use to volunteer at the Intouch crisis hotline, which motivated me to pursue a Master’s degree in counseling. My interest is primarily working with children and adolescents but I am also very open to working with wide variety of clientele and clinical concerns. My goal is to never stop learning as a future clinician because this field is always expanding and I am always eager to learn.  I love brainstorming and getting insight from other professionals and so I am grateful to be part of the emerging leader in that I get the chance to interact with other professionals in this field. I am so grateful to be part of something that enables individuals to reach their fullest potential. In addition to this, I hope that through this experience as well as getting a Master’s degree in counseling I hope to also enhance my critical thinking skills as well as utilizing creative ways to initiate therapy in the future. I’m very excited and eager to see what is to come!!

Ammarah Hussain


Megan Sandos currently attends Adler University pursuing her Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling focusing on working with immigrant and refugee children, adolescents, and their families. A non-traditional student, Megan has spent the last ten years, post-Bachelor’s degree, working in events, sales, and hospitality in St. Louis and Chicago before transitioning into her current career aspirations. Growing up in four states across the midwest and broadly traveling the world, Megan is fascinated by diverse cultures, people, and the beauty of their identities, connections, and intersections. Living and traveling globally has provided valuable opportunities to engage and contribute to social change, a core value stemming from strong social change makers with her large multi-ethnic and multi-racial family. Megan is eager to work within Chicago communities and contribute to the field at large through research in identity, belonging, and spirituality. 

Megan Sandos


ACACI 2017-2018 Emerging Leaders

Christine Vinci

­­­­­­­­­­­­In November 2017, I attended the Leadership Development Academy through ICA at Adler University in Chicago, IL.  After several months as a member in ACACI, I was approached to attend ICA’s Leadership Development Academy.  At first, my thought was “me! A leader!?!, I’m not sure.”  After some thought, I decided to do it and saw this as an opportunity to increase my leadership skills in order to where I want to be in my career.


After completing the application and thinking about the questionnaire that I had to answer, I thought, “Did I answer these questions right? What if I don’t get it?”  After thinking about it, I knew it was to really get to know me and what I am looking for, so I decided to be honest and answer them accurately.  I’m glad I did because I learned that I was accepted into the program.  It was very exciting and empowering because I was myself and honest.


At the LDA, I was both excited and nervous, not sure what to expect. It was a small group, which allowed a more intimate and interactive experience, which I personally enjoy than bigger groups.  I met a lot of new people and met some members of ACACI that I previously met.    There were people who I have seen at previous ICA conferences and professional networking opportunities.  The president of ICA, and my former professor in graduate school, Dr. Kakacek was there as well.  There were various presenters during the day as well as individual and group activities on topics such as team dynamics, applied leadership, networking, governance, and idea conception and application.  There were many interesting experiences during the day, learning about the logistics of the profession such as running meetings, program management, and program development.  I really appreciated that because I am a person who is interested in the “behind the scenes” aspects to better understand the entire process and made me more mindful of how to develop my own ideas in the future. 


There was a panel discussion, which allowed more interaction with the presenters who are very experienced clinicians, who have current or past leadership experience.  I thought that was a great opportunity for me personally because it showed that they were a lot like me, initially unsure and did not know what to expect in a leadership role.  They gave very helpful advice and ways to increase opportunities in leadership such as what people can do in their work. My personal goal was balancing being true to myself and being a leader.   For example, they encourage everyone to be creative. 


One presenter stated something that has stuck with me and continues to stick with me related to my personal goal; “people are always watching.”  This is absolutely true because it is about what you do and having integrity as a professional; it is one thing to act like a leader and to be a leader.  Since the LDA, I have thought of this over and over in my decision-making process; “people are always watching.”  Overall, I have found the LDA to be a beneficial experience, especially for the trajectory of my career.  For those who seek leadership training or even want the opportunity to train and supervise others, going to the LDA is a great start.  I am sure glad I did.

Karina Breezer

 My name is Karina Breezer.  I am a Master of Arts student at Concordia University in the Clinical Mental Health program.  Most likely will work with children, adolescents and families however, I do not want to limit myself. Have a huge interest in anxiety and depression caused by trauma. I am a crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line, I just hit my 1 year mark. I plan on pursuing a PhD in the future. 


Attending LDA was a wonderful experience for me. I learned a lot, about the history of the ICA, how to move forward, and what is going on currently. It is always a great experience to be in a room with people who you can learn from, brainstorm with and who genuinely enjoy the profession. My two big takeaways were that, we are in this together and it is like a family. That means a lot to me as I am just starting out and it can be a bit overwhelming at times. The second take away was that, it is okay to say no and that it is okay that everyone works differently. Often, when working with a group, one might feel obligated to take on too much, or that it is not their place to have a voice. I am appreciative that there is room for growth and a place where my ideas matter.  

Richard Smith

My name is Richard Smith. I am currently working on my master’s in counseling at Governors State University. I am passionate about both physical and mental health. I have a background in exercise science and look at ways to integrate this component with psychological wellbeing. I also have a love for traveling. I've had the privilege to present on topics related to personal health in both Haiti and Thailand. My long-term goal is to provide a unique service that will benefit both man and woman kind. As I make my way towards that goal, I make sure to enjoy the steps along the way. 


I was thoroughly pleased with my experience at the leadership academy. Before receiving food for thought, we were provided food for our gut. Both are vitally essential to any major gathering. This sentiment was well backed by Pat McGinn who was the first speaker. She also expressed the importance of being stubborn to get what is needed and how the work doesn't stop once the goal is achieved. Michelle Kerulis addressed the importance of prioritizing and also opened the floor for discussion. The rest of the day included an open panel and group work that put members in some role of leadership. The day was well spent, and I would encourage anyone who has an interest to go, to attend.

Carolyn Raitt

My name is Carolyn Raitt.  I am a master’s candidate in the Counseling Program at The Family Institute (TFI) at Northwestern University pursuing a specialization in child and adolescent psychotherapy. I earned my B.A. in psychology with concentrations in women’s studies and biomedical studies at St. Olaf College. I am currently a clinical trainee in the Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Clinic at TFI, where I conduct empirically supported treatment with complex, multi-problem clients. Previously, I completed my practicum fieldwork in the Bette D. Harris Family and Child Clinic at TFI, where I provided individual psychotherapy for a diverse population of adolescents and adults with a wide variety of presenting problems, in addition to leading a support group for children dealing with divorce. Later, I completed internship fieldwork at Highland Park High School’s Drop-in Counseling Center, where I provided individual psychotherapy, led support groups, and did crisis counseling with adolescents. Key clinical interests emerging from my work thus far include depression, anxiety, trauma, self-injury, suicidality, eating disorders, ADHD, LGBTQIA+ issues, grief & loss, adolescence, emerging adulthood, psychodynamic psychotherapy, DBT, and EMDR.


More Reflections: Leadership Development Academy


By Carolyn Raitt

I went into ICA’s Leadership Development Academy with considerable undergraduate leadership experience. (During my senior year, I had been president or chair of four student organizations.) I was eager to learn about and develop skills that I could take and immediately apply to my current leadership roles. A few pieces of wisdom that I have taken from the LDA and implemented in my current leadership roles are as follows: (1) delegate and ask for support; (2) remember that your fellow leaders are volunteers; (3) provide food for meetings; (4) call each other out when you see someone taking on too much; (5) remember that you don’t have to say “yes” just because you’re in a leadership role; (6) know that if you say “no,” it doesn’t mean that doors are going to closer permanently; other opportunities will present themselves; and (7) understand that you can do everything you want to do, just not all at the same time. These nuggets of wisdom have helped me reign in my usual overzealousness, setting more realistic goals and limits for myself and for my fellow leaders. This has had a positive impact on others on my leadership teams, as well as on my stamina as a leader.

As much as I felt confident and experienced in running student organizations, I felt exceptionally green and naïve about approaching involvement in a professional organization. I am awed by how much ICA has accomplished for the counseling profession through its grassroots efforts. I’ve been eager to get involved (without biting off more than I can chew), and ICA leaders at the LDA gave me a sense of where and how I might be able to begin: (1) when Dan Staci sends an email to contact your representative, do it; (2) start with what you can handle because that gets appreciated; (3) get on your representative’s donors list (because there are two things that count with legislators: numbers and money); (4) contact Dan Staci and ask for an assignment; and (5) donate to the Coalition of Illinois Counselor Organizations (CICO), which lobbies on behalf of all counseling organizations in Illinois.

Folks also reassured me about getting involved in ICA. Some of the things that I wrote down were: (1) ICA can be like a good, supportive family; (2) ICA is one of the best counseling organizations in the country; (3) once you get involved, you are not alone; there are other people who are going to help you every step of the way; and (4) ICA past presidents are available to mentor chapter divisions. Especially in light of the support I have experienced from ACACI in sponsoring my attendance of the LDA, as well as the positive experience I had at the LDA, I am excited to break out of my student organization shell and embark on the journey of becoming involved and developing as a leader within ACACI and ICA.

ACACI 2020 Emerging Leaders

Sarah Silva, MA, LCPC, NCC is a PhD candidate in Counselor Education and Supervision at Walden University. She is the CEO and founder of a group practice and works primarily with individuals living with anxiety disorders, those struggling life transitions and individuals having difficulties acculturating to the Chicagoland area or to the United States. Sarah has taught at Wright College and Northwestern University. Her primary areas of research interest are life balance, burnout, clinical supervision, and best practices in counseling and clinical supervision.

Cindy Danzell

Association for Child and Adolescent Counseling in Illinois