NorthStar Academy
Charting a Clear Course for Teens & Their Families

Our Staff

Passion. Experience. Diligence.


Who We Are

We are a team of exceptionally experienced therapists, counselors, educators, and mentors who work diligently with your teenager to help them overcome obstacles and realize their full potential.


Get in touch

If your teenager could benefit from a supportive, structured, peer-focused, environment, please get in touch to discuss how we can help.

Book an appointment ▸



Executive Leadership




Gale has worked in the addiction, mental health and rehabilitation field for over 35 years, serving largely in executive level positions. During this time she has developed, opened and operated some of the most effective treatment and recovery programs in the metropolitan Washington DC and Maryland regions. Her experience includes working with adolescents, young adults and adults, including those who have co-occurring substance use, mental health and other related behavioral issues.

Read More…



Clinical Leadership


Clinical/Program director

Leah Simmons, LCSW-C

Leah is a graduate of the University Of Maryland School Of Social Work and is a Licensed Certified Social Worker, Clinical (LCSW-C). Leah brings a passion for working with adolescents and families. Her experience of over 15 years directing residential, transitional and outpatient youth and family treatment programs will ensure that NorthStar continues to evolve and excel. Leah believes that recovery (from mental health and/or substance use disorders) is possible for everyone and enjoys being a part of a person’s journey to wellness.   


consulting psychiatrist

Valerie Relacion, MD

Dr. Relacion is a Board Certified Child, Adolescent, and Adult psychiatrist. She graduated from Ohio State University College of Medicine. She completed her residency and Child & Adolescent Psychiatry fellowship at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, where she also served as Chief Resident. Dr. Relacion has received the honorary designation as a Fellow of The American Psychiatric Association. She specializes in treating children, adolescent, and adults with mood and anxiety disorders, as well as ADHD (children and adults), PDD, weight management, and disorders of Impulse Control. 



Business Team



Angie Willeford

Angie is a CPA with over 18 years of public and private accounting experience.  She holds a Masters Degree in Accounting from St. Mary's University and an Undergraduate Degree in Accounting from University of Texas. She devoted  to working with organizations that are dedicated to helping families, such as NorthStar.  In her free time she enjoys spending time with her husband, teenage son and baby daughter.


Sue Martin

business associate

Sue Martin

Sue, who spent the past 20 years as a stay-at-home mother raising three daughters, is NorthStar's part-time business associate and front-desk receptionist. She holds a degree from Mary Washington University in Fredericksburg, VA. In her free time, Sue enjoys playing tennis.


shelly profile.jpg

Community Outreach

Shelly Young, CAI

Shelly is passionate about the health and wellbeing of families. She believes in the power of proper treatment, a loving, compassionate community of support and a positive environment for teens and their families to thrive. She is also an ARISE Certified Interventionist and comprehensive care provider, Speaker and Recovery Advocate. Mother of three fascinating and adventurous souls who loves connecting with people, walking her big lab, reading good books, practicing yoga and meditation, eating delicious food and exploring new places. 



Clinical Team


Lead Therapist

Heather McMullen, LCSW-C, MT-BC

Heather is a Licensed Certified Social Worker, Clinical and a Board Certified Music Therapist. She received her Master’s in Social work from the University of New England and her Bachelor’s Degree in Music Therapy from Shenandoah University. As a Board Certified Music Therapist, Heather has been providing Music Therapy services to children, adolescents, and adults since 2008. She has a passion for working with children and adolescents with mental health diagnoses, addictions and special needs. She believes strongly in supporting the individuals whole well-being with particular attention to the creative and expressive aspect of every person.


primary therapist


Megan is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Licensed Clinical Professional Art Therapist, and Board Certified Art Therapist. She received her Master’s in Art Therapy from The George Washington University and her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology: Counseling Concentration from Mansfield University of Pennsylvania. Megan has been providing art therapy services to adolescents since 2013. Her post-graduate work experience has been primarily in an adolescent intensive outpatient program. She incorporates cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, informed trauma practice, person-centered therapy, and art therapy techniques.



Admissions Coordinator & Therapist

Molly Zametkin, LGSW

Molly is a recent graduate of the National Catholic School of Social Services Master’s of Health Social work program. Molly spent 4 years doing research at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and 4 years studying psychology at The Colorado College.  Her primary interests include adolescent mental health, substance abuse, yoga, nutrition, cognitive behavior therapy, and collaborative models of health care.

Read More…

Family Therapist

Emily Rizzo, LPC, LCPC

Emily is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in DC and MD. She has been in the counseling field since 2007, utilizing an eclectic, creative approach to engage clients. She believes in using creative arts to explore feelings and connecting the body and mind to encourage movement in therapy along with talk. Emily loves to learn about diversity, race and culture, sex and communication, gender, the LGBTQ community, and family relations.

Read More…



Family Therapist

TJ Matton, LGSW

TJ is a Licensed Graduate Social Worker. She received her Masters from University of Maryland in 2011 and has been working in the field of social services since 2006. TJ has worked with individuals and families in a diverse range of settings from jails and legal clinics to outpatient mental health and a family mediation practice.

Read More…


family therapist

Albena Fallon, LCPC

Albena Fallon is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor specializing in Substance Abuse treatment. Albena obtained her Master’s Degree in clinical and professional counseling from Liberty University with a specialization in family therapy. Her work in the treatment of substance abuse is informed by practice in various contexts (school, child welfare, and community mental health), and training in a variety of therapeutic approaches. 



Atim bio.jpg

Family therapist

Atim Bassey, LGSW

Atim is a Licensed Graduate Social worker. She received her Masters from the University of Maryland in 2016 and has been working in the mental health field since 2011. Her concentration has been on children and families. She has worked as a Functional Family Therapist for the majority of her therapeutic career.

Atim’s goal is to earn her LCSW-C and continue working with families and young people in the mental health field.


Family Therapist

Jesse Ludwig, LGPC

Jesse is a Licensed Graduate Professional Counselor. He received his Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Marymount University and his Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Jesse has been a counselor for adolescents in intensive outpatient treatment, and as an adult addictions and co-occurring mental health counselor. As a Person-Centered therapist, Jesse believes that all people have the potential to grow and thrive when provided the opportunity and the skills to do so. He incorporates experiential, mindfulness, and skills-based techniques in helping his clients overcome their barriers to change.


Art Therapist

Michael Pretzer, MA

Michael received his master of arts in art therapy from George Washington University. In addition, he has a master of arts in teaching from the Rhode Island School of Design and degrees in journalism from Northwestern University and the University of Kansas. Michael specializes in art therapy for adolescents. His previous experience includes work at the John L. Gildner Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents in Rockville, MD.

Read more…


Maria Valencia

recreation Therapist

Maria Valencia, CTRS

Maria is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist. She received her BS in Therapeutic Recreation from San José State University with a Minor in Child and Adolescent Development. Along with completing clinical internships for Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, Veterans Affairs Palo Alto, and the National Institutes of Health, Maria spent her free time volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, Autism Speaks, Team River Runner, and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. Her areas of interest include leisure and recreation for rehabilitation, adaptive sports, mental health and early childhood education.



Education Team


education supervisor

Ann Kennedy, LSET

Ann is a Licensed Special Education Teacher.  She earned her Master’s Degree in Special Education from American University, with an emphasis on Learning Disabilities.  Ann has spent over 20 years as a classroom teacher, teaching learning disabled students on the high school level.  As a special education classroom teacher, Ann focused on teaching math to learning disabled students employing strategies which enabled students to succeed.

Read More…

Learning specialist

Candace Sahm, MA. Ed

Candace is the Learning Specialist at NorthStar Academy. She holds a MA in Special/Vocational Education from George Washington University and a BA in Special Education and Elementary Education from the University of Maryland. Candace has over 25 years of experience as an ADHD Coach.

Candace also brings to NSA her experience as an Interim Instructional Services teacher for over 12 years with Montgomery County Public Schools. She is familiar with the MCPS Curriculum and APEX learning. She believes that each student learns differently and she is innovative in creating a positive learning environment in the classroom at NSA.




rachel bio.jpg

Lead Coach/Mentor

Rachel Koeh, CAI

Rachel graduated from The Pennsylvania State University with an undergraduate degree in Sociology and Human Development Family Studies. She recently obtained her Arise Interventionist certification and is passionate about working with struggling teens and their families pertaining to both substance abuse and mental health issues. Rachel is looking forward to attending Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service in the fall to earn her Master of Social Work degree with a concentration in clinical social work. 



Harry Wright

Harry's life experiences have brought him to NorthStar Academy to work one-on-one with students assisting in both school and other activities pertaining to mind and body growth and development. Some of those experiences include 14 years as a transporter, protectively transporting adolescents from their homes to distant academies or programs.

Read More…