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Meet the Team

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Debra A. Caperton, BS, M.Ed
Certified Special Education Teacher, Certified General Education Teacher, Guidance Counselor, Reading Specialist, and ESL

   Debbie earned her teaching degree from Northern Arizona University with a Bachelor of Science in Special and Elementary Education. Her Master of Arts in Education Degree with an emphasis in School Guidance Counseling from Ottawa University was earned along with her Reading and ESL (English as a Second Language) endorsements. Debbie has taught Special Education in the public school setting at all levels for 11 years with students of multiple disabilities. Ten of those years were spent teaching in Mesa, Arizona and one year in Elk Rapids as the Special Education Coordinator.
   In 2010, she created SOS Learning Lab, LLC as an Educational Specialist to provide parents and their children with behavioral strategies, academic support, and self-advocacy development services to help build a bridge between schools, therapists, parents, and students. Due to the growing need and request for resources in the community for specific life skill services, Debbie decided to expand her business. In January 2014, she received a sub-micro loan through the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce and Fifth Third Bank; this allowed Debbie to open the lab and better meet the needs of individuals with special challenges. Her life-long passion has always been to teach and guide individuals toward their hopes, dreams, and personal goals to become the best that they can be. Through SOS she has achieved this and more.

Carolyn Wilson, BS, M.Ed.

Carolyn earned her Bachelor and Master of Education Degrees from the University of Maryland in 2012. She is a Traverse City native, having graduated from West Senior High and Northwestern Michigan College. Carolyn holds certifications in early childhood special education (birth-3rd grade) and severe disabilities (birth-21) in Maryland. Her additional Michigan certifications include Elementary K-5 all subjects, K-8 all subjects self-contained classroom, and learning disabilities K-12. She believes learners should not be compared to each other, and anyone can learn when they have the right tools, encouragement, and motivation. 

Rachel Jones, BA, Spanish Teacher

Rachel earned her Bachelor's degree in Spanish with a minor in Education. During college, she was fortunate enough to be able to study in both Spain and Ecuador to hone her Spanish speaking skills and fell in love with the language and traveling. After adventures both abroad and stateside, she ended up teaching Spanish in the suburbs of Chicago and later in Elk Rapids for about five years. While she loved being around the students, she knew she wasn't meant for the classroom and worked in self-publishing for seventeen years. She eventually found her way back to teaching and mentoring young people and couldn't be more thrilled. There is nothing better than watching someone accomplish something they once thought impossible. She is a firm believer that anyone, no matter what the circumstances, can be successful and happy in their own right. More often than not, it's simply a matter of having someone encourage and believe in you. Rachel is currently working toward renewing her teaching certificate. 

Dana Shepherd, BA, M.Ed.


  Dana earned her Bachelor's degree in secondary education from Grand Valley State University in 2008, majoring in mathematics education and health education.  She earned her Master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Ferris State University in 2016.  She taught 12 years for Elk Rapids schools in which she taught two years at Elk Rapids High School and 10 years at Cherryland Middle School.  She has always been inventive with her instruction as she teaches using a variety of technology, creates math art projects, and finds ways for students to apply learning to the real world.  However, through her experiences, she has realized the most effective way to teach is to build relationships, create a relaxed and fun learning environment, and to individualize instruction to meet the needs of all students.

Charity Sawyer


 Hired as Administrative Specialist, Charity has twenty years’ experience as an administrative and bookkeeping specialist. She and her husband of 24 years are licensed foster care parents as well as adoptive parents. She is a parent co-trainer for the foster care licensing program PRIDE as well as a former Foster Care Navigator. These specialized skills are a significant contribution to other programs we provide here at SOS. Charity is a firm believer that strengthening families and communities is essential to help all children/youth reach their fullest potential. She loves helping and mentoring young people in the healing process that is involved with adverse childhood experiences.   

Adam Wilson


   Adam grew up in Traverse City and graduated from TC West Before attending NMC.
He earned his Bachelor of Business Administration through Davenport University while working full time in healthcare. He definitely understands what it is like to be a non-traditional student, while balancing work and family life. Adam also has first-hand experience with the struggles of having a disability, having been treated for ADHD since he was 5 years old.
After working for Munson Medical Center for 11 years he decided to move his skills into the world of education. Fortunately, he had an "in" at SOS! Adam believes that everyone learns differently and that every student deserves the opportunity to be successful.

Carlee Caperton

   Carlee was hired by Debbie to assist her with running the business and working with students. She loves helping young people and connecting with all of the clients at SOS. Her compassion and understanding makes it fun working with students and clients. She also has a passion for animals and the therapeutic benefits of bonding with all kinds of creatures. Carlee has experience training and working with therapy horses and is proud to love and care for one of her own. She hopes to continue investing her time and energy into the business so the team can help students in the community for years to come. Carlee was made co-owner in 2022.

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