Meet the Staff
She owes her success to her parents, who had high expectations for their daughter. Furthermore, her parents worked to ensure Jill was fully included in the general education setting throughout school, even though she was born with a physical disability and lost her sight completely in the eleventh grade. She and her husband adopted their son from Guatemala, which helped them understand the joys and barriers that parents who have children with disabilities face. They have worked hard to keep their son, Rudy, included within general education courses at his neighborhood school, even as new needs and disabilities became evident. Rudy is on track to graduate from high school in 2022 and has faced many new barriers made more intense by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ms. Hrinda-Patten is not the typical Executive Director. She pitches in to teach a class at the Youth ENVISION Summit, her passion project for encouraging the next generation of youth living with disabilities.
When she’s not helping young people prepare for their futures, Norma is either spending time with her dogs, traveling with her husband in their RV, or tending her garden. She is thrilled to work with Mission Employment and is committed to helping Erie County youth lead fulfilling lives.
Darlene believes that learning is an individualized process which every person is capable of, and that assisting students along this path is a teacher’s privilege. She enjoys being an advocate for children with disabilities and helping to unleash the potential within each student. She believes that through a collaboration of efforts, students can be taught to achieve the established skills set forth by society and surpass the expectations previously placed upon them.
Darlene is a widow, mother of six adult children, and grandmother. She now makes her home in North East, Pennsylvania.
Born and raised in sunny Southern California, Elaine brought her warm heart to Erie at the end of 2021. She is an experienced caregiver and has worked in daycare and at schools.
One of her most memorable experiences was volunteering to participate in activities with her high school’s special education class, which showed her the joys and opportunities of working alongside those with disabilities. She credits her dedication to service to her mother, who, as a teacher, instilled in her the value of making every child feel important.
Elaine resides nine-year-old daughter, Hazel, and is still getting accustomed to Erie weather!
Molly moved to Erie, PA in 2011 from Cleveland where for several years worked in the non-
profit sector. Molly has experience working with families with a variety of backgrounds and
needs. Prior to starting her career, Molly attained her bachelor’s degree from Wright State
University in Sociology.
Molly took time off from the workforce while her children were young but continued staying
active in the community as a volunteer with SafeNet, Hospice, and the school her children
attend. When she learned of Mission Empower, she immediately became interested in
becoming part of the team.
Molly resides in Erie with her husband Steve, her two sons (Sam and Charlie), one pug (Josie),
and her husband’s dog (Tully). When not at Mission Empower, Molly can be found as an Uber
driver for her kids and attending their activities.
Cassandra James graduated from Girard High School in 2019. She has had quite a busy 2022. She and her soon-to-be husband bought a house, bought a new car, and had a wonderful baby boy in 2022. Cassandra always strives to do the best of her abilities in any task. Cassandra is very good at her multitasking. She often finds herself working on all three of her job projects at once. On top of her original job duties, she’s often helping out with some of the technical aspects such as computer issues, and printer issues. Cassandra loves her job, and often states “I just love the work we do to help youth and families”. Cassandra is caring, kind, and a very hard worker.
Cassandra has always loved helping youth. Her younger brother struggles with ODD and ADHD. She has been there for him to help with homework and just to talk to him if he needed to vent. Cassandra also has anxiety. There were many obstacles that she had to overcome in her life. She feels very strongly about helping youth overcome their obstacles as well.
Cassandra resides in Erie with her Fiancé, Devin, and their son, Hunter, and two dogs (Gunner and Bella). In Cassandra’s free time, she loves spending time with her family.