Our Team

Our team is selectively constructed of skilled and motivated individuals, striving to make a difference in the lives of others. Our goal as certified Activity Based Therapy Trainers is to provide a safe environment to help you excel forward in your recovery. We guarantee our hardworking staff will make you feel welcomed and well taken care of!

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Paul Pickard

FOUNDER

It was two weeks before our oldest son Chris’ graduation from Lambert High School and the night before prom…an exciting time of year for a senior. On Friday evening May 13, 2011 at 10:20pm we received a phone call and learned he had possibly been in an automobile accident. We arrived to the scene of police cars, fire trucks and ambulances, and were relieved as we did not see his truck. Within seconds, through the flashing lights, we caught a glimpse of our son lying on a stretcher and found out that he was a passenger in an automobile that had crashed into the nearby brick sign. He had sustained a burst fracture to his C6 vertebrae and would need surgery right away to relieve pressure on his spinal cord.

All of a sudden, our world was turned upside down and, after spending a week in ICU at North Fulton Regional Hospital, we were on our way to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. Our son was a quadriplegic and we would find out over the next three months, exactly what that meant. We were bombarded with the reality that there is much more to a spinal cord injury than being paralyzed and in a wheelchair. While at the Shepherd Center our son learned how to function in a wheelchair, and we were educated on how to live with a spinal cord injury. All the while, we were wondering, “Where do we go next?” as our goal was for him to walk again. After much prayer, hours of research and the discovery of a friend, we believe God led us to a center in California. We had visited several facilities while researching our options and, without a doubt, we knew this was where he needed to be. For the first time since his accident, we were filled with hope. It felt like the ball was finally in our court, and our son would have the opportunity to work toward gaining optimum recovery and the arduous goal of walking again someday. 

Through God’s provision and the generous support of family, friends, and even strangers in our community, Chris’ dad Paul, and Chris, spent seven weeks in California and our experience exceeded ALL of our expectations. We were very encouraged as Paul and Chris met people who had been told in traditional therapy that they would never walk again, but after Chris experienced amazing results, they were proving them wrong. 


Taylor Shackelford

Lead Activity based therapy specialist

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Exercise Physiologist, B.S. in Exercise Science, Certified Spinal Cord Injury Specialist. Certified F.E.S. Technician, Locomotor Training Certified, Special Populations Certified. First Aid & BLS Certified

Taylor graduated from Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville, Georgia with a Bachelor's in Exercise Science and a minor in Spanish. She has had prior experience working with special populations such as cerebral palsy, cancer survivors, high-school/collegiate athletes, and the geriatric population.


Jamal Baptiste

ACTIVITY BASED therapy specialist

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Associate of Science Massage Therapy, Swedish Institute, Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science, Lincoln University, Master of Science in Exercise Science, California University of Pennsylvania.

 Jamal has a background in strength and conditioning as well as sports massage. Jamal has over 14 years of experience in exercise science. He has worked in various division 1 and division 2 athletic programs. He also has experience working with professional track athletes that have run for Puma and Adidas. Jamal is very passionate about empowering others to be a better version of themselves. 


Chauntel Whatley

ACTIVITY BASED therapy specialist

Chauntel is from Montgomery, AL. She graduated from Troy University in December 2018 with a B.S. degree in Exercise Science and a Concentration in Pre-Health. 

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For two years she has done administrative work for Troy University’s Athletic Training Department. She has also interned for several months with Troy’s Elite Physical Therapy & Wellness Center where she worked closely with Dr. Sabrina Pennington in ensuring the recovery of a variety of clients. 

 In 2018 Chauntel commissioned as an Army Reserves Officer where she completes a 9 week Medical training program at Ft. Sam Houston and monthly field hospital training at Ft. Gillem. 

 Chauntel was welcomed onto the NextStep Atlanta team in February 2019. She enjoys helping NextStep’s clients reach their goals and overcome new challenges. 


Alex Jabardo

ACTIVITY BASED therapy specialist

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Alex is from Kennesaw, Georgia. Alex graduated from Kennesaw State University with a Bachelors degree in Exercise Science, and has been with NextStep Atlanta for 2 months. His favorite sport is soccer and he has been playing soccer most of his life. Alex played Division III collegiate soccer for 2 years at Piedmont College. In his free time, Alex enjoys playing guitar and video games along with swimming and other activities. His goal is to become a licensed exercise physiologist in the near future and continue his career working to improve the lives of the people I work with.


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Sidney Chason

ACTIVITY BASED therapy aide

Sidney is from Cumming, Georgia and is currently studying Human Development and Family Science at Samford University.  Sidney loves working with NextStep Atlanta clients and enjoys seeing them progress and become more independent!


Hannah Hamilton

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ACTIVITY BASED therapy aide

Hannah is from Forsyth County Georgia and graduated from Forsyth Central High School. She just completed her first year at the University of Georgia studying Exercise and Sports Science. Hannah wants to be a Physician's Assistant in the future! She loves playing soccer, watching football and being outdoors! She loves the people at NextStep Atlanta and getting to be a part of what we do here!


Sophia Muhammad

Assistant Office manager and exercise physiologist aide

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Sophia joined the NextStep Atlanta team in November of 2018 after being an amazing volunteer!

She has an Associate Degree in Healthcare Science while also working as a certified Phlebotomist. Sophia has less than two years left to complete her Physical Therapy Assistant degree.