300 Fieldstone Lane

Blacksburg, VA 24060


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Meet the Team!

Lauren Haacke

President & Founder

Senior at Virginia tech

Major: Experimental Neuroscience

During high school, I suffered from a brain injury due to a cheerleading accident. The recovery process was long and I felt isolated at times, even though brain injury affects so many. I am passionate about providing this resource to our community because I know if there were a resource similar to Synapse when I was going through the hardest parts of my recovery, it would have made it a little easier to have a community to support me. The enthusiastic welcome we experienced in the community after hosting our first support group warmed my heart and continues to drive me as we grow our chapter.

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Rachel Heid

Program Director

Senior at Virginia Tech

Major: Clinical Neuroscience

When I was 15 years old, my mother was diagnosed with Lyme Disease, which often times is coupled with neurological complications. Unfortunately, this is her reality, and it has led to repeated traumatic brain injuries throughout her years fighting for recovery. Recovery is strenuous, challenging, and cannot be done alone. The opportunity to be a part of the Synapse team is one that is special to me; it is one that aims to deliver a stable, reliable shoulder for survivors of TBI in Southwest VA, and I could not be more grateful to be part of the journey.

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Pratishtha Panigrahi

Event Coordinator

​Sophomore at Virginia Tech

Major: Clinical Neuroscience

When I first heard about Synapse, I instantly jumped at the opportunity to create a peer network where individuals with brain injury could connect with others. Not only do I want to serve my community, I also want to raise awareness in the New River Valley about these brain injuries by planning events to get the word out. I look forward to an amazing year working with my team to continue growing Synapse for everyone!


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Lily Carroll

Community Outreach Coordinator

Sophomore at Virginia tech

Majors: Cognitive & Behavioral Neuroscience, English Literature & Language

Having personal experience with brain injuries, and a strong desire to serve the community, I am so excited for the opportunity to help provide Virginia Tech and Blacksburg residents with this much needed resource. There is a lack of awareness and support for victims of brain injuries; as Vice President of Outreach for Synapse, I want to fill that gap, and provide hope for those with this often-isolating condition.

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Erynn Sorensen

Non-Profit Manager

Junior at Virginia Tech

Major: Computational & Systems Neuroscience

I am so excited about Synapse and I feel like it's a wonderful opportunity for service in a close-knit group, dedicated to a widely under-served population. Brain injury is a rather common and relatively unnoticed situation for a lot of people, especially coming from a military community. As such, I am very excited to help facilitate this support group financially, working with the numbers and alongside my fellow cabinet members to make this the best service organization we can.

Jamie Nelson

Support Group Facilitator

Sophomore at Virginia Tech

Major: Computational & Systems Neuroscience

During my Freshmen year at Virginia Tech, I was diagnosed with Neurological Lyme Disease. I spent several months leading up to my diagnosis being swallowed consistently by the unbearable reality of my symptoms in addition to my crippling mental state; I longed for a kind of support that extended beyond "you'll get through this, kid".  I felt alone. I was able to make an incredible comeback following extensive treatment and months of rest and silence. My goal in support group is to provide a safe and comfortable environment for others who suffer from brain injuries; a place for connection, encouragement  love, compassion, and empathy. No one should ever be alone in their journey towards healing. 

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Alumni 2019

Lucie Lefbom


Sophomore at Virginia Tech

Majors: Clinical Neuroscience, Spanish

When I applied with Lauren to start the Synapse chapter, I had no idea that we would not only be providing a much needed resource for an underserved community, but stepping into a large supportive family. The more we work to help individuals with brain injury, the more passionate I become about their progress and well-being. Brain injury affects so many more than I had previously been aware of, and I hope that Synapse at Virginia Tech raises awareness for brain injury in the New River Valley and positively impacts the lives of those we are serving.

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