Updated: Jul 15
Urban Autism Solutions welcomed two new board members in May.
Barbara Zawacki, recently-retired chief operating officer at Easterseals serving Chicagoland and Rockford and Kim Thompson, a project manager at Richo and mother of a young adult son with autism.
Barbara and Kim join UAS board president, Mary Walsh, division director at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; treasurer Joe Froelich, managing director of TKO Miller; secretary
Maura McCarthy, a retired executive at Mondelez and a civic activist; Roy Walker, III, Dean of Health Sciences at Malcolm X College and Warren Ribley, president of WCR Enterprises.
Barbara Zawacki has worked in social services for almost 50 years, serving for 26 years as director for school and early intervention programs for CARC, now Envision Unlimited, before joining Easterseals Serving Chicagoland and Rockford.
She met UAS co-founders Julie and Mike Tracy through Dr. Louis Kraus, a mutual friend and medical director of Easterseals. She also knew about UAS because several students from Easterseals’ Academies participated in programing at UAS’ Growing Solutions Farm.
“I have seen over the years how Julie and UAS’ executive director Heather Tarczan have grown and diversified their services and programs to include young adults with disabilities and other challenges,” Barbara says. “I also live down the street from UAS in the Little Italy neighborhood and take pride when I see their residents and students cleaning up the community as well as at the Sunday farmer’s market outside Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii Church.”
At Easterseals, Barbara was instrumental in developing its early and foundational programs that still operate today. She also spearheaded efforts to expand Easterseals’ programs from outpatient medical rehab and dental services for children to include innovative new programs in early learning developmental services and comprehensive autism services at three Easterseals Academies through the Illinois Autism Program, TAP (the Autism Program) and at HarrysButtons.
Barbara earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in special education from Chicago State University and has a type 75 administrative endorsement from National Louis University.
In retirement, Barbara is looking forward to enjoying her four beautiful grandchildren and traveling.
Kim Thompson is a project manager for Ricoh USA, an information management and digital services company. She is also the proud parent of a 20-year-old son, Luke, who is on the autism spectrum.
Kim learned about UAS in 2021 through a volunteer opportunity with Soul City Church at UAS’ residence.
Since then, Luke has attended several UAS monthly Meetups at Pompei on Taylor and the weekly ‘Urban Hike with Mike’ which brings young adults with autism together each week to explore Chicago neighborhoods.
“Participating in a regularly-scheduled event has helped my son practice his socialization skills in a safe, welcoming, low-pressure environment,” says Kim.
Kim’s connection with Soul City Church led to a partnership between the church and UAS. Students from the UAS West Side Transition Academy visit the church and use its kitchen to prepare meals that are donated to various non-profits and food banks.
Since joining Ricoh in 2004, Kim has successfully managed hardware and software implementations for companies including Allstate, PNC Bank, Kraft and Chicago Public Schools.
Kim began her career as a real estate paralegal at a major Chicago law firm and was a regional trainer for Eastman Kodak for over a decade. She has a political science bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University and a paralegal certificate from Roosevelt University. Kim volunteers with Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly, Chicago Cares and the foster dog program with PAWS.
“We are thrilled to have these two very talented individuals join our board and share with us their experiences as professionals and we welcome Kim's perspective as the parent of a young adult with autism,” said Heather M. Tarczan, executive director. "As we continue to grow and create new programming, we are grateful to be able to tap into the skills of our board for strategic direction."