Meet our Staff and Volunteer ASTra Team

Cora Shahid

Cora Shahid
CA H&V Executive Director and ASTra- Co-Coordinator

Cora Shahid and her husband Naseer live in San Diego, California where they are proud parents to Christina, Zain and Ibrahim, both boys are Deaf/Hard of Hearing. Cora enjoys encouraging families to recognize and celebrate the joy in raising their deaf and hard of hearing children and she believes that all children have a right to grow up feeling safe with a strong sense of belonging supported by peers, family and their community. A sample of Cora's background include working as an ASL Interpreter at Wichita State University, Montessori Preschool Teacher, Parent Mentor, and founding Board Member for California Hands & Voices. in 2019 Cora was awarded the 2014 Lee Katz Award (ASDC) and 2017 Parent of the Year award (CAL-ED) in honor of her commitment to ensuring no family walks this journey alone. Cora is a member of the Fostering Joy Core Team and she is a Mentor for the Hands & Voices Leadership-to-Leadership Program (L2L).

Kat Lowrance

Kat Lowrance
Financial Director and ASTra Co-Coordinator

Kat and her husband Stan live in Redding, California, and they have 3 grown children and 2 grandchildren. Dylan is their youngest child and is Deaf. Kat is currently the Executive Director at Rowell Family Empowerment of No. California, a non-profit, IDEA funded Parent Center that provides support, information and training to families who have children with diverse abilities. Kat is also the Parent Links Coordinator for 47 CA counties and a Mentor for families who have Deaf or Hard of Hearing babies in far Northern California. There are 10 Parent Links Mentors in several communities throughout California reaching out to parents who have a Deaf/Hard of Hearing baby and help them navigate their way along the journey! Kat also is the Northern California DHH Family Camp Director for California Hands & Voices. Kat’s journey into the Deaf world started many years ago. I met my best friend, Toni, when I was in Middle School. Her first born son, Jamin, was born Deaf. She supported her navigation through some of those very early systems. When Jamin was 12 she had her youngest son, Dylan. At age 8 months, Dylan got spinal meningitis and as a result could not hear. Toni became her support person! I had learned SEE sign because the medical field told me that he would need this to learn to read and write. Well, as life went on I learned so much more! I continue to learn more everyday! I appreciate all the friends, the Deaf people and the professionals who helped me find my way!


ASTra Advocates

Leslie Manjarrez

Leslie Manjarre

Leslie is a born and raised California girl: Born in San Diego, raised in the Imperial Valley, now living in San Francisco. Leslie’s pronouns are she/her. She is raising a 18-year old dog named Bailey with her partner of 16 years. Leslie is trilingual; English, Spanish and American Sign Language. She possesses over 10 years of experience in Deaf education which spans infant to adult within a variety of environments from in-person, in-home, in-school classrooms, and virtual online instruction. She currently works as a Teacher of the Deaf, Early Interventionist, Health Educator, Interpreter and Co-Director of a Camp for Deaf Children. Leslie believes that children are as diverse as the cities we each live in and strives to continue to learn skills to best support them all with a lens on equity and justice within clinical and educational settings. She holds degrees from the University of California San Diego: a B.S. in Biology and a M.A. in Education Studies, Teaching, and Learning (Bilingual Education-ASL). In addition, she holds continuing education certificates. One for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Infants, Toddlers, and Families(ITF): Collaboration and Leadership from Gallaudet University and a second one in Child Life from University of California, Santa Barbara. She completed an in-person Child Life Practicum at UCSF in 2021. Leslie works tirelessly everyday to run the marathon that is life and never lose her sense of wonder.

C24028D4-FF74-427B-96C1-25C2F0187DA2 - Brittany Comegna

Brittany Comegna 

Born in Baltimore, MD and raised in California to hearing parents, Brit is also a SODA (Sibling of a Deaf Adult). Her brother, Nick is three years older and they both use American Sign Language as their native language.

Being raised in a mixed hearing/Deaf household has given Brit a breadth of perspective about how family structures can be and are unique. Brit is passionate about empowering families of DHH children on their journeys of self-determination and informed decision making.

Brit attended the California School for the Deaf at Fremont and went on to earn her Bachelor of Arts in Multimedia Production and Marketing from CSUN. In 2013 Brit earned her Master of Science in Management from RIT where she is currently employed. During her free time Brit attends classes at USC Gould School of Law and aims to complete her certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution by May of 2023.

Career aspirations aside, Brit is a proud pass holder for Mammoth Mountain where she enjoys snowboarding and when she isn’t on the slopes, she can be found hiking or biking in the Los Angeles area where she currently resides.

staff-Marissa-Weiss1 - Marissa Weiss

Marissa Weiss

Marissa is a fairly new transplant to Northern California, growing up in New Jersey and most recently living in Rhode Island before she moved with her family to Davis in summer 2020. Along with spouse Phil, Marissa has two daughters: Rosie who is hard of hearing and Ruby who is hearing. Rosie has EVA (enlarged vestibular aqueduct) and wears a hearing aid in her right ear and cochlear implant in her left ear. The family knows some ASL, but are continuing to learn. After experiencing the trials and tribulations of navigating medical care, early intervention, and the transition to the K-12 school system with her daughter, Marissa has been inspired to help other families in their quest to ensure that their children receive access to all of the options and resources. Fun fact: Marissa was part of the initial group to start the Hands & Voices chapter in Rhode Island. Marissa loves cycling, walking, and taking public transportation.

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Pam Wirht

Pam Wirht is a credentialed & passionate deaf educator. She is proficient in ASL and loves communicating & connecting with the deaf community.

With a Masters degree in Deaf Studies & Deaf Education from Cal State University, Northridge and experience teaching in a variety of settings she understands the intricacies of the education system. She enjoys empowering families to advocate for their children.

As a mother of four grown children, Pam has 35 years of personal parenting experience. She understands the power of inclusivity and is already teaching her 3 grandchildren ASL signs.

Pam brings curiosity and compassion to every relationship she has and is eager to work with families to help them access the best possible support and educational environment for their DHH child.


IMG_0093 - Chelsea Hull

Chelsea Hull

Chelsea received her BA and an MA in Communicative Sciences and Disorders, Deaf Education. She’s worked as Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing at various levels from preschool through high school. Currently, Chelsea enjoys working with the ASTra program because she has seen first hand how valuable consulting with experienced parents is and how parent-to- parent educational support can lead to improved outcomes. Chelsea works part-time as a certified ASL interpreter and privately as an educational advocate. She believes deeply in the Hands & Voices mission and loves sharing stories about her experiences as a child of a parent with hearing loss (CODA). Chelsea became a Navy spouse in 2011 and is the mother of two exceptional children with IEPs. In her free time, you can her find at a Thai restaurant, relaxing in a hot tub and once in a while surfing warm waters.

Tony Ronco

Tony Ronco

Tony is an involved dad, husband, and engineer. With his wife Jenny, they have two children: Their hearing son Austin and their Deaf daughter Dakota. Tony has a particularly strong passion for all children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing achieving Kindergarten Readiness and for those children to have the benefit of full family inclusion.

Nancy Sager

Nancy Grosz Sager
Retired ASTra Advocate

Nancy Grosz Sager was a teacher of the Deaf for the Sutter County Office of Education for 21 years, and she was the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Programs Consultant at the California Department of Education for 18 years. By far, the best part of her job has been the opportunity to work with and support parents through the Parent Links program and the Hands & Voices organization. She is a mom of two great (now grown-up) girls, Jeannette and Michelle. They both live in Oregon.

ASTra Advocates

Pictured Left to Right

Back row: Kat Lowrance, Tony Ronco, Cora Shahid, Pam Wirht, Kasey Cain, Brittany Comegna, Catalina Partida, Marissa Weiss, *Rhonda Savage, Leslie Manjarrez

Front row: Nancy Grosz Sager, *Johanna Wonderly, Patricia Gomez

*Johanna Wonderly (ASTra Coordinator Founder), Rhonda Savage (ASTra Advocate) and Kristen Stratton (ASTra Advocate) are no longer with the ASTra Program but we appreciate their long service of 5 years to California families.