- OUR MISSION: To educate and empower our community to be more compassionate, accepting, and inclusive of people with disabilities. Also to help families within the special needs community find meaningful connections and access resources.
- VISION STATEMENT: To use the stories of our lives to educate the community and start the much needed conversation about how to be inclusive. We hope to redirect the gaze of society to see the strength in our diversity.
How we started
Common Ground Society all began at preschool. Larkin and Jessica did a presentation on Down syndrome at their children’s preschool for World Down syndrome Day in 2017. Covered in the Press Democrat, news of the presentation quickly spread and many of Larkin’s teaching colleagues asked “Just Two Moms” (as they became known as) to come and present to their classes. The requests quickly became overwhelming for these busy moms, so they decided to try their hand at all-school assemblies. Low and behold, it was a hit! Cut short by the COVID outbreak, Larkin and Jessica have spoken at over 40 schools (preschool through high school) along with numerous college and community events, spreading the word of acceptance and inclusion. You can find the news article about their first presentation here.
about our families
Larkin and her husband Peter are Sonoma County natives who have been married since 2010. Since 2004, they both have been teachers in the Rincon Valley Union School District. Larkin has taught various grades from preschool to middle school. She is currently serving as the secretary for the Sonoma CAC and the President and Social Media Director of Common Ground Society. James, their son who was born on St. Patrick’s day in 2014, is Larkin’s inspiration to create change. He is a goofy, fun-loving, friendly, sassy little guy who happens to have Down syndrome. He has a baby sister, JuneBelle who we all adore. Larkin believes in the importance of inclusion for all people and is on a mission to change the narrative. She advocated that we are all different, there is no such thing as normal. Her tagline is, “you don’t know what you don’t know, until you know. So let’s learn!”
Jessica and her husband Justin have been married since 2009. They recently relocated to Santa Rosa from L.A. and are loving their new home here. They have three children, Zoe born in 2011, Annalise born in 2013 and Declan born in 2016. Jessica previously worked as an aide in special education and is now a full-time mom, women’s ministry director at her church, and a passionate advocate for her daughter with Down syndrome. Their family mission is to love God, love people, and declare the worth of people with disabilities.
Harmony and her husband, Erik were born and raised in the Bay Area. Settling in Santa Rosa where they are raising August born in 2015 and Lucille, 2018. Harmony has been an educator since 2003 and is currently an administrator in Rincon Valley. Erik left his tech sales job after August’s autism and expressive speech delay diagnosis to be a stay at home dad, so Harmony could continue her education and advocacy work. Harmony has joined the team for our Inclusion in the Community series. She and Larkin have done numerous talks such as Inclusion in Motherhood, Inclusion in parenthood, Inclusive Practices for SLPs and Inclusion in Education.
Melissa was born and raised in Sebastopol. She and her husband Tim have been married since 2006 and during her first pregnancy she left her job in real estate to help grow her husband’s new construction business. Her son AJ was born in 2014 and diagnosed with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome- a rare condition caused by a random gene mutation. Since then she has become a passionate advocate for the CdLS Foundation serving as a regional coordinator, as well as volunteering and fundraising for other local nonprofits that serve those with special needs. Her daughter Sabrina was born in 2015 and is a sassy, smart, miniature version of Melissa!
Kate Westrich has been an educator at the middle-school and elementary level for over 20 years, currently as a school site administrator in Rincon Valley Union School District. During that time she has had the great fortune to work at Matanzas Elementary School, where the full-inclusion culture welcomes students with diverse backgrounds and abilities to learn, play, and create community together in a supportive setting that is built on kindness, curiosity, positivity, and genuine caring for one another. Kate’s mission as an educator and Common Ground Society board member is to work toward the day when inclusive, welcoming, full-inclusion schools are the standard educational experience for all students.
Jana Adams lives in Northern California with her husband and four children. Her oldest was born in 2001 and her youngest was born in 2013. Jana has always been involved with her children’s’ education and often volunteered to help at the schools or assisted with school sports and fundraisers. Jana’s two youngest children have IEPs and it has become her passion to advocate for them by spreading awareness and providing education about acceptance and rights. She tries to help educate other families who need support with navigating the IEP process. She is a member of the Sonoma CAC (Community Advisory Committee) as treasurer. She frequently attends trainings on how to advocate and participates in many school community meetings. She is also involved with the local chapter of Decoding Dyslexia. Jana has a Business Management degree, emphasis in Finance from BYU. She owns her own real estate company, Northern Nest Properties, and is on the Board of Directors at North Bay Credit Union
Emily is an educator with experience working in a variety of educational settings across Sonoma County. She currently works as an early childhood inclusion specialist in Santa Rosa. Emily founded the annual Inclusion Festival in May of 2018 when she discovered that no other festival of its kind existed in the United States. It is her mission to spread awareness and acceptance by inviting everyone to celebrate their individuality in a safe space. Emily joined the board of directors for the Common Ground Society to further the conversation and education of diversity, equity, and inclusion in our communities locally and globally. “I believe in the importance of creating inclusive environments for our diverse communities. It is my mission to celebrate the unique differences of individuals, while bringing people together as a community.”