Focus Collegiate provides innovative, hands-on support to equip college students with learning differences for success on campus and beyond.
Our dynamic and professional staff is comprised of Collegiate Life Coordinators, Learning Specialists, Student Skills Specialists, Parent Support, and administrative support. Our students attend their college of choice in the close radius of our Boston area team or virtually around the country. While we do have offices, we often prefer to work with our students on campus or in their preferable locations when possible and virtually went its not.
Our services thrive in major urban centers (and now everywhere) where there is a robust and diverse community providing multiple academic options for our students.
We currently serve college students with learning differences in-person in the greater Boston metro area and around the country through Collegiate Virtual
Founder and Principal
Grant has twenty years of leadership experience helping young adults, families, and organizations build a solid foundation for success. He was a Founding Partner at Mansfield Hall, a successful residential college-support program for students with learning differences. His experience also includes serving as the assistant director of a young adult transitional living program, the director of two innovative wilderness therapy programs, university lecturer, and as a clinical therapist in residential and non-residential settings. Grant has also worked to help families fund private therapeutic programs as an advisor at a global financial services firm.
Grant holds a master’s degree in counseling from Northern Arizona University and an MBA from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. He serves on the Board of Directors and in leadership roles in several nonprofit organizations. In his free time, Grant enjoys the outdoors in every season, seeing live music, and spending time with family and friends.
Collegiate Life Coordinator
John Marinilli is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker who is passionate about music and people. His bachelor’s in Music Therapy from Berklee College of Music brought these passions together and led him to the Perkins School for the Blind, where he worked for six years with adolescents and young adults. He completed his master’s in social work at Salem State University while working full time for the Massachusetts Department of Social Services. He then began a seven-year undertaking at Aspire Health Alliance (formerly South Shore Mental Health) providing In-Home Therapy to families and individuals in Boston and surrounding areas. He simultaneously worked for the Mobile Crisis Intervention team and sat for the American Social Work Board exam. He continued on for three years as a Clinical Supervisor for Outreach, and In-Home Therapy clinicians, designed program protocols, and assessed program development.
After having three children whom he and his wife support through their own challenges in the areas of Sensory Motor Integration, Anxiety, and Attention Deficit, John became the Clinical Coordinator for the Emotional Impairment Strand within the Boston Public Schools from 2014-2019. In this role he structured programs, designed behavioral interventions, and working with families, teachers, and clinical teams established long-term academic, social, and emotional goals that increase student success.
His approach is founded on good communication and leading from behind. Rather than commandeer he listens. He has fine-tuned his skills to really hear what people are ready for and guide them accordingly. He learned early the importance of having a strong support system in order to thrive. His mentors recognized his strengths and encouraged him to find ways to have a greater impact, which inspires him to do the same for his clients and students.
John was born, raised, and currently lives in Quincy, Massachusetts with his family. A musician who believes in and practices the communicative power of music, he still plays the drums in multiple bands, and tutors his children in their musical pursuits.
Our Learning Specialist, Jamie Hare, has a master’s degree in special education and a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Not afraid of obstacles, she thrives in non-conformity and is stimulated by the challenge of engaging task analysis and problem solving differently for each individual in order to identify and coach the most appropriate path to success. “Traditional learners may come in the front door. Non-traditional learners may use the window, but they still get there.”
Jamie specializes in post-secondary transition services. For more than 20 years, she has been working with late teens and young adults in Germany and the United States during their transition to adulthood, the workforce, and to post-secondary education. Her advocacy includes the creation of a tutor/mentor program for high-school seniors helping struggling freshmen, and transition plans for college preparation. Most recently she has been a liaison for the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission working to promote the equality, empowerment, and productive independence of individuals with disabilities.
Jamie is known for her dynamic, open-minded approach, excellent communication skills, and talent for making goals and skills accessible. A commitment to social justice informs all of her work. Whether volunteering for the Bryan Stevenson’s Equity Justice Initiative, teaching at the Hardthaven Children’s Home in Ghana, or coaching students in transition to post-secondary education, her overriding motivation is accessibility and inclusivity for all regardless of differences—be they race, ethnicity, or ability.
Parent Support Specialist
Lisa Witter is our Parent Support Specialist at Focus Collegiate. She has dedicated much of her adult life to working with children, teens, and parents. At the age of 21, she graduated with a BA in marketing. She then quickly realized she wanted instead to focus on helping children and families. To serve this goal, she earned her Master’s Degree in Contemplative Psychotherapy at Naropa University.
She has worked with teenagers in the juvenile justice system in the Bay Area of California, Longmont Day Treatment Center, as well as at the Children’s Hospital in Denver. She loved working with teens in the treatment centers, but wanted to effect change on a bigger level. She decided to focus on parent coaching, because it was clear that when parents were supported with skills, tools, and guidance, lasting changes happen for everyone in the family, not just for the teens/young adults.
She loves seeing families shift from struggle and pain to strength and confidence. Everyday she is grateful to be able to live her vision of helping families achieve greater strength, confidence and connection.
Learning and Development Consultant
Leslie O’Brien is our Learning and Development Consultant at Focus Collegiate. She provides essential supervision for our team and supports the growth and development of our People Operations.
Leslie has more than fifteen years of clinical experience developing specialized programs supporting teens, adults, and groups. In her most recent position as part of Aspire at Massachusetts General Hospital, she developed, directed, and conducted neurodiversity trainings, consultation programs, and an internship program that provide over 50 area employers with carefully matched intern candidates diagnosed with high cognitive Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Non-Verbal Learning Disorder and related profiles.
Before that, she was the school social worker at an independent private school in Brookline, MA, and supported children, teens, and adults in residential, educational, and outpatient settings in the Boston area and in Binghamton, NY.
Leslie has conducted numerous neurodiversity workshops for colleges and employers and has given many presentations at local and regional conferences. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Master of Social Work from Binghamton University in Binghamton, NY.
Summer Cohort Student Skills Specialist
Shawna Graichen is our Student Skills Specialist for the Summer Cohort. Her focus is student self-care in a collegiate setting. Shawna also serves as the Vocational Director and Transition Coordinator at the Ivy Street School in Brookline, Massachusetts. She has more than 8 years of experience supporting young adults with Neurodevelopmental, Neurological, and Behavioral Health needs in community-based, home-based, and private school settings.
Shawna received her Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience from Simmons University and is a Certified Brain Injury Specialist. She is passionate about supporting individuals in becoming self-determined agents of their own lives, as they transition from adolescence into young adult life in the areas of community living, gainful employment, and post-secondary education.
Business Operations Manager
Sarah is the consummate professional. Impeccably organized, driven, and focused, she has great respect for the freedom that adherence to the rules brings. A lover of data and people, Sarah’s human resource expertise goes beyond traditional activities to include easily anticipating the needs of clients and the whole Focus Collegiate team.
She has worked as an accounting specialist and an office manager and is currently acting business manager for her regional Front Porch Forum, a community building service that hosts regional networks of online neighborhood forums in Vermont and parts of New York, where she eagerly takes on special projects and supports the organization’s technical, business, and sales teams.
Sarah is passionate about physical and mental health. Yoga, meditation, and a love of healthy food and exercise sustain her enthusiastic approach to providing Focus Collegiate with operational and moral support.