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Board of Directors

President & CEO



Dr. Rhonda Helgesen

President and CEO

Rhonda taught in Gwinnett County Public Schools for 22 years. Her professional certifications include Early Childhood Education, Reading and Literacy, Gifted Education, Special Education, English to Speakers of Other Languages, Curriculum Development, and Leadership and Administration. Rhonda is also a parent who has spent 27 years navigating the path of raising a child with autism. As an educator, advocate, and parent, she has seen the need to develop better long-term options for autistic adults.

Marilyn Helgesen


Marilyn spent 25 years as the Technical Director of the Pulmonary Laboratory at Emory University Hospital before becoming a Medical Planner for Perkins & Will and Lync Medical. Upon retirement, she has attended training offered by the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities and has a strong knowledge of the waiver services available to adults with autism.


Dawn has a background in Human Resources as an experienced, certified (SHPR, SHRM-SCP) professional with a career focused on helping people, teams, and organizations maximize their performance. She has demonstrated success as a business operator and trusted HR partner with 20+ years of progressively complex accountability in associate relations, training, development, performance management, facilitation, change management and talent benching/succession planning.

Pam Bips

Autism Advisor

Pam is an experienced educator with Gwinnett County Public Schools. Her career has been devoted to not only providing academic instruction for her students, but also to improving the quality of life for the individuals in her class and their families. She currently works with young adults with developmental disabilities in the Supported Training and Rehabilitative Instruction in Vocational Education (STRIVE) program offered through Gwinnett County Public Schools. STRIVE is a community-based work skills program for students with special needs with an emphasis on the acquisition of adult independence. Pam’s goal through this program is to empower students to reach their full potential via community integration and inclusion. ACES is thrilled to have the expertise and guidance of Pam as a member of our Board of Directors. We look forward to working with her as we build a support network for adults with autism and develop our programs.

Mary O'Connell

Autism Advisor

Mary worked with Gwinnett County Public Schools for over seventeen years teaching children with autism before retiring in May 2012. She has experience working with children affected by all levels of autism. Mary is the director of Social Skills Today (SST) which manages Spectrum Camps and Clubs’ programs in Gwinnett plus social skills activities and weekend/summer break camps. Over the past ten years SST has expanded its programs to include social skills groups, summer camps, and overnight respite for children with autism and their siblings. Mary is also the founder of New Directions Georgia, a day program founded for adults with moderate or severe autism. Although retired, Mary continues to utilize her skills as an educator. She has presented at the Autism 101 Conference sponsored by the Georgia Chapter of the Autism Society of America and several other autism conferences in Georgia and North Carolina. She is a key instructor for the Spectrum Kommunity Inclusion Program (SKIP), a program which provides training to community organizations wanting to include children and adults with autism. Additionally, Mary is on the board of the Swan Song Foundation and has cooperatively written an introductory sailing curriculum for families of children affected by autism. She looks at each day as a chance to change the lives of persons affected by autism and ACES is fortunate to have her on our Board of Directors.

Dawn Hoffman

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