2016 Annual Conference Planning Committee - Who's Who

Meet the 2016 Annual Conference Planning Committee!


Mariotta Gary-Smith, MPH, CSE - Conference Co-Chair

Mariotta Gary-Smith is a native of Portland, OR and a third generation social justice activist. Her experiences growing up in the Pacific Northwest gave her a unique perspective and led her to pursue her educational career and interest in sexology, public health and human behavior starting in high school. She served on several youth councils, including Planned Parenthood Teen Council and NARAL Pro-choice America National Board Youth Representative.  Mariotta decided to head south and completed her undergraduate and graduate work in Atlanta, GA (Agnes Scott College ’95 and Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University ‘08).  In 2008, she was one of five nationally selected scholars for the 2008-2009 inaugural class of the Center of Excellence for Sexual Health (CESH) Scholars Program at Morehouse School of Medicine.

Smith has over 15 years of experience working with diverse/multi-cultural communities and organizations on reproductive/sexual health and justice, health education and harm reduction. She continues to advocate for and provide safe spaces for open discussion/collaboration, as well as presenting at professional conferences (AASECT and SSSS), conducting trainings and workshops that educate women and girls of color about sexual health, sexuality, safer behavior practices and sexual health advocacy.

Currently, Mariotta is the AASHEP (African American Sexual Health Equity Health Program) Health Educator in the STD/HIV Program for the Multnomah County Health Department, in Portland, OR.


Melissa Keyes DiGioia, CSE - Conference Co-Chair

Melissa Keyes DiGioia is a Certified Sexuality Educator by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists.  As Co-founder and Director of Education, she facilitates professional development workshops and education sessions on varying sexuality and sexual health topics and specializes in program delivery for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Melissa is author of Taking a Special Education Approach - a guide for religious educators implementing Our Whole Lives Sexuality Education for Grades 7-9 (2nd Ed.) to adapt lessons and methodology for audiences with special needs. She is coauthor of Game On! The Ultimate Sexuality Education Gaming Guide and contributing author to Unequal Partners: Teaching about Power and Consent in Adult-Teen and Other Relationships (3rd Ed.), Older Wiser Sexually Smarter, Teaching Safer Sex (3rd Ed., Volumes 1 & 2), and Positive Images:  Teaching About Contraception and Sexual Health (4th Ed.). She has a graduate certificate in Human Sexuality from Montclair State University and received her BA with concentrations in Psychology and Women’s and Gender Studies from The College of New Jersey.


Stephanie C. Chando, MSW, LSW - Sponsorship Sub-committee Chair

Stephanie C. Chando is a palliative care social worker on Pennsylvania Hospital’s inpatient palliative care consult team. In this role, she helps individuals and their families understand and adapt to life with a serious illness at various points along the continuum of their disease process. Stephanie also serves as the Education Coordinator for Passion 101 Classes at Sexploratorium and Passional Boutique. In this role, she contacts potential educators and coordinates monthly sex-positive class schedules, creates promotional materials and maintains various social networking sites (WordPress, Facebook, Google Calendar), and monitors classroom activities and attends to needs of participants and guest educators.

Stephanie graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice with her Master’s of Social Work degree in 2008. She holds a license in social work from the state of Pennsylvania. Stephanie also completed a Master of Education in Human Sexuality degree from Widener University in 2014. Stephanie is still attending Widener University as a Doctor of Philosophy in Human Sexuality student, with a particular focus on the intersections of sexuality, intimacy, and palliative care. Stephanie has done several trainings for healthcare professionals on sexuality and palliative care and wishes to continue this work far into the future.


Lizbeth Cruz - Volunteer Subcommittee Chair

Lizbeth Cruz has been teaching sexuality-related topics for over a decade to youth and adults with diverse backgrounds and ability levels.  She is certified to provide several CDC approved, evidence-based interventions, which focus on HIV/AIDS prevention education to specific populations.  As a bilingual community educator, she provides sexuality prevention education and awareness to the Latino population.  Currently, Lizbeth coordinates a parenting group that focuses on developing assets, skills, and resiliency among members through education and support.  Lizbeth currently works at Planned Parenthood of Central and Greater Northern New Jersey.  She is a contributing author to Game On! The Ultimate Sexuality Education Gaming Guide, Teaching Safer Sex (3rd Ed.), and Positive Images:  Teaching about Contraception and Sexual Health (4th Ed.).


Susan Stiritz, MBA, MSW, PhD, CSE, CSES - Continuing Education Sub-committee Co-chair

Susan Stiritz, Senior Lecturer and Chair of the Sexual Health and Education Specialization at the Brown School, Washington University in St. Louis, has been teaching sexuality courses for almost twenty years. Dr. Stiritz serves as AASECT’s Chair of its Professional Education Steering Committee and for the past three years, Director of AASECT’s Summer and Winter Institutes. She is also a member of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region’s Board of Directors, a Certified Sexuality Educator, an AASECT Individual CE Provider, and a Certified Sexuality Education Supervisor.  She has published papers in various peer-reviewed journals, including "Cultural Cliteracy: Exposing the contexts of Women’s Not Coming” in the Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law and Justice, and "Teaching Men’s Anal Pleasure: Challenging Gender Norms with Prostage Education, in the American Journal of Sexuality Education.


Sally Valentine, PhD, LCSW, FAACS, CST, CSTS - Continuing Education Subcommittee Co-Chair

Dr. Sally Valentine holds a doctorate in clinical sexology, is a licensed clinical social worker, AASECT Certified Sex Therapist, certified EMDR therapist, certified hypnotherapist, certified Imago Relationship Therapist, and a registered Sivananda yoga teacher. She has extensive training in sex therapy, hypnotherapy, EMDR, trauma resolution and tantric mind-body therapy. Sally has a private practice in Boca Raton, FL and specializes in relationship/intimacy issues, sexuality concerns, trauma and life stressors. She facilitates a program in Personal Transformation Intensive which focuses on co-dependency, addiction, sexual abuse, mind/body issues and relationships. Additionally, Sally is an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist Supervisor and a state approved Clinical Supervisor for Licensees of Clinical Social Work. She works toward empowering new therapists with a solid foundation of clinical experience, direction and support which ultimately benefits the clients they counsel. 

Dr. Valentine is a national and international presenter and workshop facilitator. She teaches in areas of enhancing sexuality, tantra sexuality, healing the mind-body connection of trauma, and personal growth transformation. Sally is a fellow of the American Academy of Clinical Sexologists and a Diplomate of the American Board of Sexology. She is an active  member of the American Association of Sexual Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, the National Association of Social Workers, Imago Relational Therapy International, Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy Association and the EMDR International Association. 


Richelle Frabotta, MSEd, CSE, CSES - Moderator Subcommittee Chair

Richelle Frabotta has been a professional sexuality educator since 1992, an AASECT Certified Sexuality Educator since 1996, and AASECT Certified Sexuality Educator Supervisor since 2014.  Richelle has taught, trained, and consulted about numerous and varied topics of sex/ual/ity to schools, organizations, faith communities ...anywhere she is invited... for thousands of people.  Richelle currently serves as Director of Education Services for Southern Ohio Sexuality Education and Consultation Services (SOSECS) and is a full-time doctoral student in the Educational Leadership Department at Miami University (Oxford, OH).  Richelle values her long-time committed relationship with AASECT and currently serves as Public Relations, Media, and Advocacy Steering Committee Chair on the Board of Directors as well as other volunteer roles throughout the last 22 years.  Richelle has a profound respect for diversity of all kinds, believes strongly in prevention education, endeavors to empower people to make healthy choices for sexual expression and recognizes the power of mentoring relationships with those who want to be in the sexuality field. Teaching sex/ual/ity is Richelle’s passion. She loves her work and can think of nothing else she’d rather do than talk about sex and get paid for it.


Jarret Allende, MHA - Translation and Accessibility Sub-committee Chair

Jarret Allende is a community health educator in New Jersey. For the last few years, he has worked directly with youth in public and private schools, community-based organizations and faith-based organizations. His experience includes working with students with intellectual disabilities providing comprehensive, medically accurate sexuality education. Jarret holds a BS in Community Health from New Jersey City University and a Master’s of Health Administration with a concentration in Education from the University of Phoenix.


Mark Levand, MA, MEd - Social Media Sub-committee Co-chair

Mark Levand is a sexuality educator and trainer based out of Philadelphia. Formally trained in both human sexuality and Catholic theology, Mark’s passion for the field of sexuality stems from the belief that sexuality is an integral part of the human experience and that all people deserve a safe place for discussions about sexual issues.  Within this, his main areas of interest include: sexual ethics and diversity, cross-cultural sexuality, and the intersection of sexuality and faith.  As a part of his work, Mark teaches human sexuality courses at Delaware and Montgomery County Community Colleges and conducts professional trainings to increase sensitivity towards sexual differences, self-reflective sexuality, and faith and religion within sexuality. In 2015, he received the AASECT Student Presentation Award for his co-presentation of Kink-positive, Patient-centered Care for Health Care Professionals. Mark holds Masters’ degrees in Theology and Religious Studies (John Carroll University, 2011) and Human Sexuality (Widener University, 2014).  He is currently completing his PhD in the Center for Human Sexuality Studies at Widener University and is a member of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) and the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS). Mark has co-chaired the social media sub-committee for AASECT’s annual conference for the past two years. 


Cindy Lee Alves, M.Ed. - Social Media Subcommittee Co-Chair

Cindy Lee is a sexuality educator and consultant who is pursuing her PhD in Sexuality Studies at Widener University. Her research focuses on the intersection of race and sexuality, with particular interests in racial justice and professional development.  Cindy Lee has taught college courses in NY, NJ, and PA, including several CUNY colleges and Temple University. Her passion for facilitating challenging conversations has led her to also engage audiences of online radio stations and online/print magazines, as well as provide workshops on a myriad of topics. In addition to her independent work, Cindy Lee is the Program Coordinator for a Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program in the Bronx. 


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