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Meet our founder

Nicole Kaplan

MaSpEd, ET/P

Educational Therapist + empowerED Founder

Nicole Kaplan

"Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Albert Einstein

Educational therapy empowers students with academic struggles to learn and develop efficient new approaches to learning, positively affecting a student’s life in and out of school. Through skilled assessment, case management and specialized alternative teaching methods, Nicole offers clients a wide variety of intensive, individualized interventions aimed at remediating student’s unique learning difficulties, addressing social and emotional roadblocks affecting performance and optimizing all areas of executive functioning.

Nicole Kaplan received her undergraduate degree in English Literature, with an emphasis in Education, from the University of California, Los Angeles.  She went on to earn her Masters degree in Special Education with a specialization in Educational Therapy from California State University Northridge. She is also an active member of the Association of Educational Therapists. 

For over two decades, Nicole has seen clients in a private practice setting collaborating with students, parents, teachers, learning specialists, psychologists, and neuropsychologists to create a game plan tailored to her client’s specific academic and emotional needs. She works from a strengths-based perspective, helping students overcome or compensate for learning challenges. 

In addition to her extensive academic knowledge in the Educational Therapy field, she is highly intuitive when it comes to client’s needs.  Having grown up with learning challenges of her own, being diagnosed with ADHD as an adult and having three children with three very different learning styles and emotional needs, she is able to empathize with parents,  educators and students…she wears three hats.

Nicole's ultimate goal for each student:

academic independence

TEAM empowerED

Peggy Oram

Peggy Oram, MaSpEd

Educational Therapist Specializing in Autism Spectrum Disorder + Social Skills

"If my mind can conceive it, if my heart can believe it–then I can achieve it."

Muhammad Ali

Peggy grew up in the Pacific Northwest in Skagit Valley, north of Seattle. Her most memorable year of college was her junior year abroad in Florence, Italy, through Gonzaga University, where she learned to love all things Italian! She graduated from Loyola Marymount University with an undergraduate degree in Psychology. Peggy earned a Masters degree in Special Education with an emphasis in Educational Therapy from California State University, Northridge. She has been working as an educational specialist since 1995.

After completing her formal education, Peggy discovered her true source of learning comes from working with students, and that no two minds are alike. Her experience and training include various programs that support reading, comprehension, writing, auditory processing, visual processing, executive functioning, and social skills. She is a fan of Michelle Garcia Winner’s “Social Thinking” program, as it teaches how to recognize the different perspectives of those on the autism spectrum and help them navigate their social worlds. In addition to working individually with students, Peggy has led teams working with homeschool students, created individualized treatment plans, administered formal and informal assessments, and acted as a supervisor to other educational therapists. She loves researching new programs, ideas, and strategies to unlock each person’s potential!

When she is not with students, Peggy loves spending time with her husband, son, daughter, and their Labrador Retriever, Buddy. Her passions include cooking, travel, hiking, skiing, martial arts, and reading. She recently moved from Santa Monica, California, to Franklin, Tennessee, and is excited to explore her new home!

Brian Martin

Brian Martin, BA

Lindamood-Bell, Orton Gillingham specialist + Academic Testing

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Brian attended the University of California, Santa Barbara where he majored in Sociology. During his senior year and shortly after graduating, he worked for the Santa Barbara Mental Health Foundation providing a safe environment for adults with mental illness to socialize. Later, Brian moved to Portland, Oregon, and worked with dually diagnosed adults with autism within an animal therapy setting on a small farm creating behavior management plans.

Brian moved back to Santa Barbara to earn his teaching credential. He worked as a reading intervention specialist in the public schools. Brian was hired as the associate director and trainer for the Santa Barbara Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes center and was quickly promoted to Center Director. Brian has worked with students with learning disabilities for over the past 20 years.

Brian brings a warm dry sense of humor with him.  He enjoys working with students on their learning journey and being part of a student’s growth.

When he has free time, you will find Brian traveling (21 countries and 38 states so far), meditating, enjoying the outdoors, cooking, or trading.


Aminah Imani Abdul-Mujeeb, BA

Learning specialist + Lindamood-Bell Specialist

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”

Albert Einstein

Aminah is the oldest of seven children keeping her life full and rich with no dull moments. Her family roots began in Athens, Tennessee. Her extended family then moved to Atlanta, Georgia. Then her immediate family made their way west to Los Angeles, California.

Aminah has been fortunate enough to experience many different ethnicities, cultures, religions, and backgrounds. Including but not limited to South Africa, Morocco, Algeria, Germany, Denmark, France, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Spain, Japan, Thailand, China, India, and lastly Iran. This exposure inspired her to pursue A bachelor of Arts in both Sociology and Psychology.

Over the years, Aminah has tutored elementary, middle, high school, and college students extensively. She spent time working at Lindamood-bell. This helped shape her experience as a learning specialist giving her insight into the importance of nurturing both the social-emotional and academic needs of a student. She prides herself in establishing a connection with the students by creating a safe space. Aminah firmly believes in optimism, practicing gratitude, empathy, patience, and a growth mindset.

In Aminah’s free time she helps four of her younger siblings with their studies. She enjoys exercise, cycling, reading, writing, relaxing with her family and close friends, and pampering herself. Aminah loves good action movies and listening to music. She is happy and humbled to be a part of the EmpowerEd family.

Gloria Zepeda

Gloria Zepeda


"If you're always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be."

Maya Angelou

Gloria was born in Leon, Nicaragua, and raised in Los Angeles, California. She has 14 years of extensive experience working with the Kern County Superintendent of Schools and over 10 years working as a Lead Advocate in supporting parents in all aspects of their child’s educational needs. Gloria is an expert in assisting parents in IEP meetings, understanding educational assessments, procedural timelines, Special Education services, parent rights, and federal laws that protect students with special needs. Gloria believes we are all special and every child’s needs are unique and deserving of attention. 

As an advocate, Gloria is passionate and takes pride in her accomplishments, dedication, hard work, and commitment to helping families.  She strives on bringing improvement to lives, one child at a time. Gloria holds herself accountable for analyzing all facets of each case to develop an appropriate Individualized Educational Program/504, Behavior Intervention Program, Manifestation Determination Review, School Attendance Review Board meet, Transition Plan, Health Plan, and/or assisting parents through Due Process procedures. Gloria provided her services for a boutique law firm specializing in civil rights advocacy for over 10 years. Additionally, she was responsible for interfacing with executive leaders across multiple school district departments and their legal counsel building consensus, and initiate productive changes in regards to the specific needs of her client in order to achieve appropriate educational progress. Gloria is currently in her 3rd year in the Paralegal Training Program at UCLA and plans to continue educating.     

Gloria is a proud mother and grandmother.  In her spare time, she loves spending quality time with her family and friends. She colors with her grandaughters, watches Disney Plus movies, dances, and takes them swimming.  Gloria hosts game night events and laughs through the evening with her children and friends. If she is not hosting a game night or with my granddaughters, you’ll find her with her best friend since 3rd-grade. They sew, paint, lay horizontal while watching Grey’s Anatomy, hike, or layout by the beach. She’s my person.  She’s my Yang! 

Michelle Salater

Personal Finance Expert

“There is no failure except in no longer trying.”

Elbert Hubbard

Michelle has over 13+ years writing educational content for hundreds of companies. Whether it’s about maximizing retirement savings or purchasing insurance, Michelle’s ability lies in taking financial jargon and complex strategies and communicating in a way that everyone can understand.

However, her true passion is financial education and taking the shame out of money.

Michelle is co-owner of Stop Being Sold®, a community on a mission to show consumers how to stop being sold financial products they don’t need or don’t understand and stop being a transaction…forever.

Michelle holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte and a Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Certificate of Entrepreneurship. In her free time, she studies blockchain technology, trades crypto assets, and spends time with her dog, Queen Noor.

Lori Guglielmo

Lori Guglielmo, AA

empowerED Coordinator

“Success isn’t always about ‘Greatness’, it’s about consistency. Consistent, hard work gains success. Greatness will come.”

Dwayne Johnson

With over 15 years of management experience, Lori Guglielmo has been a key player in the development of multiple corporations. She specializes in office management for small businesses. Lori has worked for corporations such as Simpson Construction Services, BKB Design, and Wm. Keith Scannell, Scannell Corp. Lori specializes in creating unique management systems and strategies integrating the latest in-depth connectivity technology ensuring office operations run smoothly and efficiently.  Lori firmly believes in accountability and transparency throughout the organization and utilizes these skills to ensure company expansion and growth. 

Lori loves working with small businesses. Her colleagues become extended family and who doesn’t want their family to succeed? Helping businesses remain successful and grow brings Lori joy.

Lori lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband,  10-year-old twins, and 2 dogs.  They enjoy spending time together traveling to warmer destinations and spending time at their cabin in mountains. 

In her free time, Lori enjoys trying new restaurants with her husband, watching her son wrestle, and shopping with her daughter.  Cuddling with her dogs while binge-watching new shows are high on her list as well.

Allison Folks

Allison Folks, BA, JD

College Essay Writing Specialist

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.”

Maya Angelou

Allison received her bachelor’s degree in Child and Family Studies from Portland State University.  She then went on to receive her law degree from the University of Oregon School of Law.  Allison is passionate about writing.  She finds it to be her most valuable way of expressing and conveying her thoughts and emotions.  She has years of experience tutoring and working with students developing writing skills, helping them to communicate their experiences, ideas, thoughts and stories.

  Allison believes all students, with various methods, are capable of expressing themselves through writing and inspires this belief in her students.  She enjoys supporting others in their creative process and helping them to find their voice.      

Allison lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.  She is bilingual in Spanish and English and loves Mexican culture.  She practices immigration law and has a business selling fresh homemade dog food.  In her free time, she loves to cook, travel, and exercise.  

We all have a story to tell, and Allison can help you tell yours. 

Jesslyn Homidan

Jesslyn Homidan, BA

Science Whiz

“An education is not so much about making a living as making a person.”

Tara Westover

Jesslyn grew up in Los Angeles and moved to Northern California to pursue an undergraduate degree in Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology at UC Berkeley. 

As an undergraduate, she works at a biophysics laboratory to conduct research on the visual cortex using mice studies. She is also working with students as a chemistry tutor and a previous preteens director at Lair of the Golden Bear which has shaped her goals around pediatrics and neuroscience. 

She developed her passions in science and teaching as a high school student working with children ages 5-13 with mental and physical disabilities, as a volunteer teaching arts and crafts and introductory sign language. From this experience, she was able to understand the importance of catering to individual student needs when it comes to effective communication and fostering independence. 

She is a recent graduate of the Class of 2020 and is currently spending time back in LA to study for the MCAT in hopes of attending Med school in the upcoming years.

Anika Hakim

Anika Hakim, BA

SAT + ACT Prep Master

"Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel."


Anika Hakim is Bangladeshi-American living in the sunshine state. She was born and raised in the United States and has had the privilege of traveling the world while living a portion of each year abroad in Bangladesh. Anika has traveled to countries such as India, Malaysia, the UAE, Norway, Germany, and the Netherlands. In addition to exploring many places around the globe, Anika has the opportunity to work with students of all backgrounds, cultures, and nationalities. The common thread amongst these students being an educational success.  Anika attended the University of Florida where she earned a  Bachelor’s degree of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Health Disparities. She also attended the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences where she studied Physical Therapy for two years. 

Anika has been working and mentoring students since college.  The success she experienced early on led her down the path of specializing in SAT and ACT prep.  She loves working with students to help them master the SAT or ACT, guide students on their college applications, in addition to writing college essays. 

Anika believes the children of today are the future of tomorrow, and by aiding entire generations of students to move forward in their academic and professional careers, She is doing her part for the world. Anika truly aspires to inspire students to look beyond themselves and recognize their potential.

Rama Surya

Rama Surya, BA

Math Guru + Tutor

“There is a great difference between knowing and understanding: you can know a lot about something and not really understand it.”

Charles F. Kettering

Aloha, I’m Rama! I was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, and have lived all over the world from Indonesia to San Francisco and now Los Angeles.

I am a recent graduate of the University of California Berkeley with a degree in Cognitive Neuroscience. One of my greatest passions in life is teaching. I have been tutoring for 10 years and it has truly been amazing and rewarding throughout all of it. I have tutored and taught students of all ages, from high school students to young children, to adults! It is never too early or too late to learn something new.

I am very passionate about knowledge and passing knowledge to others on their journey of education. The main topics I tutor are Math and Science, however, I believe in extending tutoring beyond the books. My goal when tutoring is not to only help the students progress in their school, but also progress into life.

Knowledge is power and can lead us to understand the world around us. This is important to keep in mind when learning and it is my passion to help students understand the material their learning and relating it to the world as well! I continue my educational journey myself as I currently am pursuing medical school and at UCLA currently doing a post-bachelor program in pre-medical sciences. As I continue my educational journey, I will continue to help others along the way!

Lilly VonRuden

Lilly VonRuden

Tutor + Organizational Skills Master

"The beautiful thing about learning is no one can take it away from you"

B.B. King

Lilly was born in Southampton, New York and she made the move west to Los Angeles 10 years ago and couldn’t be happier about it.

Lilly is a third-year college student pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication at the University of California Santa Barbara. After graduation, Lilly plans on pursuing event planning, primarily for production companies. In addition to her passion for communication and organization, she is passionate about teaching effective learning methods and assisting students in their pursuit of knowledge. Lilly has been tutoring since High School in a variance of subjects; her favorites to teach are English, Spanish, and Math.

Lilly’s favorite subjects in school were English and Spanish and her dual citizenship with Switzerland has inspired her love for language, travel, and culture.

In her free time, she enjoys going to the beach, hiking, and binging her favorite tv shows.