Mentors

Annette Hatala

Dr. Annette Hatala, OTD

As an occupational therapist, former homeschooler, and parent of a child with special needs (ADHD and sensory processing disorder), my goal is to help families with children and adolescents gain productive life skills and techniques to manage their day to day symptoms. In the past, I have worked with at-risk teens in group homes with many diagnoses including conduct disorder, oppositional defiant, ADHD, learning disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ADS), and attachment disorders. By providing experiential learning experiences, I help teens gain new and adaptive life skills while engaging in tasks. Life skills learned include sensory regulation techniques, alternative learning styles, executive functions, and self-regulating techniques, all of which allow these individuals to participate in activities which are meaningful to them.

Mentor

Nicholas Leibner

I am a licensed occupational therapist. I have previous experience working in plant breeding and research, teaching English in Korea, mentoring at-risk youth, and being a field manager at a farm that provided work for people with disabilities. I was drawn to occupational therapy due to its holistic philosophy; I can use my passion for art, music, neurobiology, horticulture, and our environment to improve the lives of others. I’m grateful to be a part of Life’s Toolbox and the commitment to promoting engagement in meaningful activities.

Mentor

Dr. Karen Ni, OTD, OTR/L

My passion is facilitating the human-animal bond between individuals of all abilities and our canine companions. I am an occupational therapist with specialty training in animal assisted therapy and owner of SunDog Therapy. I received my Bachelor, Master, and Doctorate degrees in Occupational Therapy from the University of Southern California. I have acquired continuing education in dog behavior, training, handling, and welfare, and in developing animal assisted therapy programs. I have presented on animal assisted interventions at conferences throughout the world. I am also a Field Representative for Paws With a Cause, an assistance dog organization. I have two canine co-therapists named Dottie and Tater Tot. Together, we are dedicated to supporting individuals on their paths to greater independence, health, and meaningful participation in daily life.

Dottie is a 2-year-old canine co-therapist that has been specially trained to work with Dr. Karen Ni in providing occupational therapy and animal assisted therapy interventions. She encourages participation in goal-oriented activities and inspires individuals with her focus, energy, and drive. Dottie was adopted at 14 weeks old and raised in Albuquerque, NM at Dogwood Therapy Services, an OT private practice. She is a Demonstration Dog for Paws With a Cause and has her AKC Canine Good Citizen Certificate. When Dottie is not working, she enjoys playing fetch, hiking, and doing agility.

Tater Tot is a 1-year-old canine co-therapist in training. He was born in York, Nebraska and spent his first year of life at Dogwood Therapy Services in Albuquerque, NM. Tater is able to facilitate participation in person-centered and occupation-based activities using his exuberance, goofiness, and enthusiasm for life. When Tater is not working, he enjoys playing at the dog beach, going on sniff walks, and snuggling.

Hi, I’m Lucy.

Currently I’m a student at Santa Ana City college studying to become a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant. I have a Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology and I am also a barista at Starbucks.

I absolutely enjoy spending time outdoors. I love getting to explore new places with my friends. We’ve gotten to camp, and i’s been awesome! I also get the honor of mentoring some high school students who attend a local church. It’s so humbling having the younger generation allow me to be apart of their growing and maturing process . My favorite role at the moment though, is being an aunt to an energetic 3 year old! He runs circles around me, and I love it.

I’m so grateful someone introduced me to the field of Occupational Therapy. It combines my passion of joining people on their journeys as well as helping and encouraging those around me!

David Yu, OTA-S

Hi, my name is David.

I’m currently a student at Santa Ana College studying to become a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant. I have a B.A degree in Asian American Studies from Long Beach State.

I’ve always wanted to work in the community and help people that need help. This desire led me to working in mental health as a case manager for the past 10 years. I’ve found great reward in helping people move their lives forward.

Raised in southern California, we have such great weather here. I try to enjoying it as much as possible, whether I’m cycling along the beach or hiking in the mountains. On my bucket list is to visit to all the National parks. I’ve been to Sequoia, Yosemite and Zion so far.

Marin Guerrero, OTS

Hello, my name is Marin Guerrero!

I am currently a student at Stanbridge University pursuing my Master of Science degree in Occupational Therapy. My passion for science, creativity, and understanding those with disabilities led me to a wholehearted pursuit of a career serving others through therapy.

I am originally from Sacramento, CA, but my education led me to UC Irvine where I received my undergraduate degree in Psychology and Social Behavior 3 years ago. I have been in Orange County ever since!

While I have a humongous passion for serving individuals of all ages and abilities, in this season of my life I don’t have too much free time. However, when I do, I take full advantage of spending that time with my husband, my close friends and family, and being outdoors any chance I get. I also love to explore new places to eat, going wine tasting, and traveling the world… I have been to 10 countries and will be adding one more to my list this year! I very much value health in all aspects of life including physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. I feel truly blessed to share my passions and interests with others!

I am looking forward to continuing my education in order to provide quality, holistic, and client-centered care to support others I come into contact with each day.”

My name is Alyza Grace Mijares.

I am a Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy (MSOT) student attending Stanbridge University. I received my Bachelors in Community Health Science with a minor in Biology from the University of Nevada, Reno.

Playing with animals, playing tennis, and eating are my favorite past times. Currently, I enjoy helping others achieve their goals, which is exactly why I chose occupational therapy (OT) as a profession! I injured my thumb (see photo) and OT has helped me regain function. I look back at my hand therapy sessions fondly because the occupational therapist made every intervention fun and meaningful. I aspire to do the same for my clients someday.