Term ends 2024
Matthew Gunnip, LCSW, has worked with children and families involved in the child welfare system since 2004. Matt's mother, a career Social Caseworker at DCYF, influenced him to pursue a career in human services. Upon Matthew obtaining a bachelor's degree, his mother tried to convince him not to go to DCYF due to secondary trauma associated with the work. Like a good, obedient son, Matthew did the opposite.
Matthew has been a Social Caseworker at DCYF since 2005. In 2012, Matthew obtained his MSW at Rhode Island College. He learned that the profession of social work requires a commitment to address the policies that create the social problems that impact the populations we are honored to serve.
As a result, Matthew organized a campaign to run for union president of the Rhode Island Association of Social Service Employees to be a voice at the statehouse, by educating policy makers and advocating for policy changes. Matthew is interested in bringing his experience, strength and hope to the Board to help build capacity within NASW-RI to increase member legislative engagement and improve policies.
Term ends 2026
Cristina Costa, LICSW has been a NASW member since 2012 and serves on the NASW Program Planning Committee for our annual NASW Symposium. She obtained her Masters in Social Worker from Boston College, in addition to her two Bachelor's Degrees, a B.A. in Psychology and B.S. in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Rhode Island. Cristina is an alum of URI’s Talent Development, as well as a Ronald E. McNair Scholar. In 2004, Cristina became the first Providence Law Enforcement Advocate with the Providence Police Department, Day One and Sojourner House, where she worked alongside the Special Victims Unit in assisting victims of sexual assault, child molestation, domestic violence and hate crimes. In total, Cristina has over 20 years of experience working in the field of social work with many different populations including youth in residential care, victims of crime, foster care, adoption, LGBTQ+, first generation families, elementary/middle school students and families, emergency room and inpatient medical services and operations for afterschool programs.
Cristina was born and raised in Providence, RI, growing up in a bi-lingual household, she is fluent in Portuguese and English, as well as speaking Spanish as her third language. She currently works as a Clinician with Rhode Island College’s Counseling Center, after spending 8 years as a School Social Worker in both charter and public schools. She also has a private practice in East Providence, RI, where she enjoys working with children and young adults who are first generation and/or identify with the LGBTQ+ community. Cristina’s passion is to promote diversity in the social work field and to provide professional development opportunities to increase the field’s awareness of privilege, bias, and oppression as part of her commitment to building inclusive and culturally appropriate services for clients and communities.
Term ends 2025
Heidi Ross, BSW, MA has been an NASW member since 2011. She received her BSW from Washington State University and MA in Counseling from Saint Mary's College. She started out as a Candy Striper and quickly found a field of work and passion. Originally from the West Coast, she has found her way to Rhode Island with work and volunteer experience in senior centers, nursing homes, retirement and assisted living communities, hospital geriatric services, Medicare/SHIP and extensive personal family caregiving.
Advocacy has become a natural path to take, because once we see and experience holes in "the system," it becomes a mission to find others with like-minded solutions. She is currently doing advocacy and outreach work with AARP RI, the Alzheimer's Association, and other long-term care and disability entities. With a background in Montessori education, Heidi believes that with resource-sharing, reaching out to elected officials and overall networking, it is important to realize where the person "is at" before we can expect and effect change.
Michelle Baptista, LCSW
Term ends 2026
Michelle Baptista, LCSW has been a NASW member since 2018 and has been working with children and adolescents as a social worker for the past five years. Michelle obtained her bachelor of social work from Salve Regina University in 2018 and her masters of social work from Rhode Island College in 2021. Since 2018, she has been working in child welfare providing services to children and adolescents with trauma, youth in foster care and adoptive homes, and children with sexual abuse histories and families. Michelle is now working with youth in her current position as a school social worker at an elementary school in Providence, RI and has the opportunity to provide counseling to students, support families with community resources and assist with crisis management, among other duties. Although Michelle is still early on in her career, she has an abundance of passion, ambition and commitment to this career that is very evident in her work ethic. Michelle has had a long-term passion and joy for community service. She spent many hours of her time in high school and college doing community service work and it was through this network that she discovered her interest in the social work field. In 2016, she received the Campus Compact award for outstanding community service work in a higher education setting and the 2016 Big Sister of the Year award from Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ocean state. Michelle has a strong commitment to honoring the values of social work and especially the value of service. She looks forward to advocating for social workers across Rhode Island and empowering disadvantaged populations that we serve.
Amy Mello Messenger
Term ends 2024
Amy Messenger has always felt the drive to support others. Starting with volunteer work in high school and college, eventually working professionally as a social worker and in foster care, she is an individual who truly personifies the values of community wellness. Through these early career experiences, Messenger was a first-hand witness to the inequity of mental health resource distribution and the resulting struggles for youth development. She developed an interest in playing an active role in changing the infrastructure that created this inequity and helping individuals on their own journey to improve their situation. After working as a social worker in child welfare for nearly ten years, Messenger transitioned into the role of a School Social Worker within the Providence School System. This role allowed for growth, as Providence was the recipient of both the Project AWARE grant as well as the School Based Mental Health Grant. In her current role as a School Social Work Specialist, Messenger assists in coordinating the successful development, implementation and evaluation of a comprehensive, multi-tiered, and integrated approach to social emotional learning, mental health & academics throughout the school district as well as building the capacity of school-based teams to implement appropriate evidence-based social emotional and behavioral universal practices and targeted and intensive interventions to create safe, supportive, and healthy school environments.
MSW Student Representative
Term ends 2024
Jennifer Cea and I am a first-generation Latina college graduate. I am currently entering my second year as an MSW student at Rhode Island College. I am most interested in working with the elderly population and ensuring their health and well-being. One of my main goals is to help develop a continuum of care programs that are accessible to the elderly population in low-income communities. I am excited to be an MSW student representative and look forward to being a resource and a mentor.
BSW Student Representative
Term ends 2024
My name is Abby Mensonides, and I am a rising senior at Salve Regina University. I am Social Work and Sociology & Anthropology double major. I also have a minor in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. I have interned with Grand Islander Skilled Nursing and in the upcoming school year I will be interning with Lucy's Hearth. I also recently had a fellowship with EDGE NJ, an organization serving the HIV and LGBTQ+ community, which is what I hope to do in the future! I am incredibly excited about the upcoming year as a BSW student representative and look forward to positively impacting our community!