About Transitional Living at the
Brooke Whitted Center

There is a gap in services available to college-bound emerging adults like you who are working through mental health challenges or who are on the autism spectrum. You have the aptitude and desire to continue your education, but living independently or in a dorm may seem like too much to handle while adjusting to college life.

So, imagine attending college at the right pace while living in a residential setting that balances independence with the right structure and support.

The Brooke Whitted Center (BWC) fills that gap.

Few transitional living centers exist in the U.S. that offer full-time, individualized treatment for emerging adults who have had difficulties living on a campus, in an independent apartment, or with family at home.

The BWC’s post-high school transition center offers 18 to 25 year-olds the opportunity to gain additional independent living skills while continuing therapy and exploring higher education and employment options.

24/7 Support and Guidance

The program is tailored to meet your needs, allowing you to experience a wide range of educational, vocational, social, and cultural opportunities throughout Chicago. The BWC is designed to offer you support creating plans and making healthy decisions. And when life doesn’t work out as planned, the BWC enables flexibility so that natural consequences are experienced as opportunities for growth.

What further distinguishes the BWC from other programs is the 24/7 support. A member of our transitional team is always on-site and available, no matter the time of day or night.

Practical Living Immersion

The BWC promotes practical life management and coping skills in a home, academic, and, when appropriate, employment setting. The BWC’s two locations maximize therapeutic, living, employment, educational, social, and cultural opportunities and support.

Brooke Whitted Center & House, 6238 South Ellis

You’ll live in the Brooke Whitted House (BWH), the Center’s full-time independent living residence housed in a modern condominium building. The BWH is located two blocks from the University of Chicago campus and adjacent to the Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School (the O-School). It provides a residential atmosphere that balances structure and accountability with autonomy, allowing you to build your future. The BWH is also the location of the Center’s offices and administration.

Brooke Whitted Loft, 1323 South Michigan Ave.

The Brooke Whitted Loft (BWL) in Chicago’s South Loop is available to you while attending classes at the many educational institutions Chicago has to offer. There are numerous cultural, recreational, social and employment opportunities located within walking distance.

Relationship with the O-School

The Brooke Whitted Center is immediately adjacent to the world-renowned Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School, a residential and day school dedicated to working with children, teens and older adolescents with mental health challenges. Its hallmark, immersive “milieu treatment,” is the standard in residential treatment programs.

While the BWC is not a school, it draws upon the O-School’s relationship-based model—adjusted for college-age emerging adults—by encouraging goal setting, gaining mastery and competence, forming healthy relationships, and learning how to focus on day-to-day life experience.


Meet Our Accredited,
Experienced Professionals

The Brooke Whitted Center is staffed by accredited psychologists, professional counselors and social workers experienced in working with young adults and their families. The team exists to support and assist you in recognizing and achieving your goals.
Diana Kon, Ed.D.
Co-Executive Director
Diana is Co-Executive Director of the Brooke Whitted Center (BWC) and the Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School. She shares lead administration responsibilities for both programs. Diana joined the O-School in 1995 as a teacher and served as principal before being named to her current post. Before the O-School, she opened the Therapeutic Day School at Children’s Memorial. Diana also collaborated on a variety of learning disability diagnostic clinics, A.D.D. centers, and programs designed to meet the needs of gifted learners. Early in her career, she gained invaluable experience working as the teacher for the Children’s Unit at Chicago Lakeshore Hospital where she first learned about the concept of milieu. She has since devoted much of her career to ensuring that these core values remain at the center of the work at the O-School. Diana has facilitated meetings and presentations with numerous schools and school districts across the country.

Diana is a strong advocate on behalf of students and young adults with exceptional need. Diana is active on a variety of local, state and national legislative forums and often is called upon to join research and recommendation commissions that serve to advise on special education across the state.

Diana holds a doctorate in education, a post-graduate degree in educational leadership, a graduate degree in curriculum and instruction, and an undergraduate degree in elementary education from National Louis University. She maintains Professional Educator Licenses in general administration, special education, secondary education and elementary education.


Pete Myers, Psy.D.
Co-Executive Director
Pete is Co-Executive Director of the BWC and the Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School, where he shares lead administration responsibilities for both facilities.

Pete has spent most of his professional career at the O-School and has broad experience in a variety of diverse therapeutic environments. He began with counselor positions at the O-School, which led to him being named Assistant Director for Residential Services. He was appointed to his current post in 2008.

During his clinical training, Pete worked at a large intermediate care facility for chronically mentally ill adults, at Cook County Jail as a therapist, and at a large state operated facility in New York City that cared for 2,000 mentally ill adults. Additionally, he worked in a private psychological testing services office as a psychometrician; a local hospital emergency room as the crisis intervention specialist; and an outpatient clinic as a therapist and early childhood intervention specialist. Pete currently teaches at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago as a lecturer.

Pete’s education and training is in clinical psychology. He holds a bachelor’s and earned his master’s at the University of Chicago, while working at the O-School. He earned his doctorate from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology.


George Urgo, MSS, LSW
George, the BWC’s Therapist, provides individual, group and family therapy. He coordinates participant needs and goals with the primary Transitional Counselor, and meets with each participant and his or her family on an individual and group basis. George assists participants in processing current and past concerns, while using engaging strategies to build working relationships.

George’s experience with mental health and residential treatment is far-reaching. Previously, he trained and and served as a crisis and suicide hotline worker, a social work intern in a homeless shelter, and an outpatient psychotherapist at a community mental health center. George’s clinical training includes a certificate in cognitive behavior therapy and post-graduate education in dialectal behavior therapy. His many years of education and training at the Philadelphia School of Psychoanalysis provided him with practical experience in delivering long-term therapy to kids, adults, and couples.

George holds a bachelor’s degree in religion from Haverford College and a master’s degree in clinical social work from Bryn Mawr College.


Davida Barner, MSW
Transitional Manager
Davida is the BWC’s Transitional Manager, who supports and supervises the Transitional Counselors. She monitors, assists and plans activities for the program, and works with the BWC participants during weekly group meetings focused on daily living skills.

With a multi-disciplinary skill set developed through her diverse work experience—from government finance and Medicaid benefits, to housing case management and the culinary arts—Davida supplies tactical life skill instruction that helps her work with participants at all levels of proficiency.

Davida holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work from Northeastern Illinois and the University of Illinois at Chicago, respectively.


Dana Benn
Transitional Counselor
After graduating from MacMurray College with a B.S. in elementary education with a concentration in special education, Dana began a career that afforded her the opportunity to educate pre-school to school age children. Over the years, she has held a myriad of positions within the fields of education and social services, working for various non-profit agencies. Dana has dedicated her professional career to advocate for, educate, and assist individuals in their journey of creating better opportunities for themselves. She is excited to be a part of the Brooke Whitted Center’s family and to further promote its mission.


Veronica Salas
Administrative Assistant
Veronica is the BWC’s Administrative Assistant. She was a part-time substitute counselor at the O-School for three years before working for the Chicago Transit Authority. She returned to the O-School community in 2015 and assumed her current position.

Veronica holds a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts and sciences with a major in sociology and a concentration in psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Norm Ostrum, M.A.
Business Development and Admissions Marketing Associate
Norm Ostrum has been with the O-School for three years. Prior to the O-School, he spent 29 years at Starr Commonwealth School in Michigan, a private nonprofit organization. There, Norm worked in the Residential Program with court adjudicated youth. He also developed and implemented the Treatment Foster Care Program and the Supervised Independent Living Program. His final position at Starr Commonwealth was as Director of Admissions for the private pay programs, Montcalm School, and their Young Adult Program, which Norm was instrumental in developing and implementing.

Norm enjoys his work at the O-School and the BWC. He is very appreciative of the work our program staff does with our students. Our students feel safe and able to express themselves because of the strong relationships they develop with the program staff. Norm earned his undergraduate degree from Michigan State University and received his master’s degree in Educational Administration from Central Michigan University.

Norm Ostrum

Kristin Friesen, LCSW
Director of Admissions
Kristin Friesen joined the O-School staff in 2005 and is currently the Director of Admissions for both the O-School and the BWC. She earned an undergraduate degree in social work from Goshen College followed by a master’s degree (MSW) in social work from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She also holds a Clinical Social Work License (LCSW) in the state of Illinois. Kristin comes to the O-School with a strong background in community practice. Her experience includes living and working in an orphanage for abandoned children in Costa Rica, working with a community crisis intervention program in Chapel Hill, N.C., directing a micro-enterprise business for homeless and low-income women in Raleigh, N.C., and directing an urban service and education program for youth in Chicago. Kristin enjoys working at the O-School and the BWC because of the family atmosphere and the unique partnership between the students, parents and staff.

Kristin Friesen

Who was Brooke Whitted?

The Center’s namesake dedicated his life to the service of children and their families, and he was a fierce defender and advocate on behalf of vulnerable children and young adults throughout his career.

First a juvenile probation officer with Cook County who trained and worked in family and group therapy, Whitted became an attorney who specialized in education, child welfare and mental health law throughout the state of Illinois and beyond.

Brooke Whitted

Brooke’s passion for developing and implementing child-focused educational practices included his services as a Board member, and later Board President, for the Leslie Shankman School Corporation (“LSSC”), the not-for-profit organization which operates the Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School.