Meet the Members of the DOnetwork Advisory Council
DOnetwork Advisory Council
Jack Darakjian is the Executive Director of Modern Support Services (MSS) and the Chairman of the Board of the Association for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities (AIDD). For almost 15 years, Jack has been an advocate for individuals with developmental disabilities, and has played a significant role in providing a multitude of community based services to Los Angeles' and Orange County's developmentally disabled population. Under Jack's leadership, MSS and its 60 caring support staff have successfully transitioned hundreds of individuals from institutions into various community based living arrangements. AIDD, a non-profit organization Jack created in 2003, has provided essential services such as functional literacy classes (in conjunction with the Pasadena Public Library), independent SLS assessments through various Regional Centers, and Social Security payee representative for over 200 developmentally disabled Social Security recipients. Jack holds a B.A. degree in psychology and a Masters level education in Research Psychology from California State University Long Beach. At home, Jack is the proud father of 3 beautiful young children - Ava, Luca, and Lili.
My passion in life is teaching and training both adults and young children. Currently I am teaching young children and their parents through First 5 of California. I owned and operated my own preschool for over 32 years, while I was raising my two boys, Bobby and David. Bobby was born with heart defects and underwent several open heart surgeries, before he died at age 18 of an infection introduced during surgery. It was due to Bobby though that we discovered that our family has inherited Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative disease of the retina. He was the first one diagnosed with it. Then I discovered I have it, then my mother was diagnosed, then one sister, two aunts and several cousins. Oh my! So, you see I have a lot of reasons to support the rights of the disabled. Over the years mine has progressed to the point where I am now considered legally blind. I have spent many years advocating for young children through local and state levels. I have testified at the state capital for the rights of young children and feel it is a natural step to advocate for the disabled. My youngest son, David is healthy as a horse, yeah, and has blessed us with two beautiful grandchildren, Brody and Cassidy. Who at this time do not seem to have inherited it. Yes! This biography would not be complete with out mentioning my wonderfully supportive husband, Scott. He calls himself my puppy, because he acts as my eyes, driver and comic relief. I certainly could not do all these exciting things without his adoring support, humor and love.
Mary L. Zendejas
Mary Zendejas, Executive Director & Founder of DisABLED Professionals Association of America (www.dpaofa.org), has been a proud Long Beach Resident for over 20 years. She graduated from California State University, Long Beach with a B.A. in Communication Studies. At the age of 8 months old she caught Polio, which left her body extremely week. Her parents decided to come to the United States of America in hopes to provide her with better medical treatments and a chance at a more fulfilling life. She has used her wheelchair since middle school. She has never let her wheelchair slow her down in any way. Mary has faced many hardships though out her life but has learned to overcome them and that is what makes her the strong and vibrant women that she is today. In March of 2012, she was crowned Ms. Wheelchair California 2012, she went on to compete for the Ms. Wheelchair America 2013 title, where she placed 3rd Runner up. During her reign she traveled throughout the state of California promoting her platform which was to continuously bring awareness of the importance of higher education and quality employment for people living with Disabilities. In March 2013 she received the ?Go Long Beach? award from the City of Long Beach Vice-Mayor, Dr. Robert Garcia. She also was selected as a recipient of the ?40 under 40? awards by the Long Beach Post in April 2013. She is fully committed to the betterment of the disability community this is why she feel it is important to stay involved. She is currently the secretary for The Citizens Advisory Commission on Disability for the City of Long Beach. She is also the Director of Community Relations for A.C.E. (Accessible Connections Exchange), which focuses on bringing together individuals and service organizations for broader coordinated support and awareness of the disabled community. In Addition Mary is the President of the American Business Women?s Association/ Diamonds of South Bay 2013. She believes that it is vital to always strive to better yourself. As of July 2013 Mary elected to be a board member for Housing Long Beach, which is a non-profit that strived to maintain and increase affordable housing. Every day she is reminded of how proud and grateful she is to be a City of Long Beach Resident.
Mike Levinson lives in Daly City, CA and is a 61 year old retired computer programmer. He graduated from Union College in Schenectady NY and holds a Bachelors in Philosophy. He currently chairs the San Mateo County Paratransit Coordinating Council and advocates for accessible transportation. He also volunteers on the board of the San Mateo County NAACP, ACLU and his condo association. Mike has retinitis pigmentosa and has been legally blind since birth. In his not so spare time, Mike is a big sports fan and enjoys listening to baseball games. Word of advice, don?t challenge him in bridge. He won the Bridge National Championship in 1982.
Cynde was born with Arthrogyposis, a connective tissue disorder that significantly limits her physical movement. After graduating from Cal State Long Beach with a BFA in Art she became an employee of the Independent Living Center in Long Beach. She has been a disability rights advocate with over 30 years of experience, having become active in the disability rights movement at age 20. Currently she works as a Systems Change Advocate. Her job enables her to work for positive policy change concerning people with disabilities. She feels it is important to increase civic participation through community organizing, education and advocacy around issues that affect our community. "Leadership development is also a crucial element of systems change by working with others in my community", Cynde said.
Born in Paso Robles, California and raised in San Jose, California. Educated in K-12 public schools; graduating SJSU 1976 with a B.A. in Liberal Arts, New College. A lifelong learner focused on building an understanding of the ways people live and learn in a diverse American culture; advocating for community access and participation in decision making; and creating new avenues for the removal of barriers to living independently, free and open learning systems and democratic participation in our communities. My hope is to help DONetwork envision and advocate for the systems change happening in all our lives, especially for people living with disabilities in California.
My name is Janet Rivera and I am excited to join the DOnetwork Advisory Council. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California and still live in California. I am married to a wonderful man, Anthony Rivera for 13 years and we have a beautiful 12 year old son. I must say that our life and goals have changed since our son was born but it has been for the best!!!! Our son was diagnosis with Fragile X syndrome (Inherited cause of developmental disability) at the age of three and our careers have changed. From my husband being an international banker to now a pharmacy tech and I working in the garment industry as an art director to working with older adults at a senior center and young adults with mental illness but currently I am not working because we prefer for one of us to stay home with our son to make sure he does well in school. I received a bachelor's degree in Human Services and a Masters in Public Administration and currently President of the Fragile X Assoc. of Southern CA, a non-profit organization run by volunteer parents who have children with Fragile X.
Hey everyone! My name is Damary Bustos, I'm 21 years old and I live in Hayward. I am a Latina and I speak 2 languages, English and Spanish. I was born with Cerebral Palsy. I use an iPad to communicate myself with people. I graduated from Hayward High School in 2010. I'm currently attending Chabot College in Hayward, I don?t have a major yet. I have a 2 year old daughter and on my free time I love being with her and watch her grow. She is my main priority in life and my inspiration, without her I'm nothing and I would like for her to get involved with the disability community so she will learn and in the future she could be proud of the productive work that I had done for disability issues. Also on my free time I like to be with my family and go out on the weekends and I like to spend time with my boyfriend on his days off and spend time with our daughter as well. I love music as well, my favorite singer is Usher whom I met him in 2010, and that was one of my best days! I've been part of DANY (Disability Action Network for Youth) since March 2010, I love being part of DANY because I learn more about my history and I meet new people. My favorite part of DANY is Disability History Presentations, I?m very active with the Disability History things, I love presenting in high schools, it makes me feel like I'm kind of changing the world and I'm educating students as well. Also I just created a Disability History Power Point especially for elementary students. The reason why I created it is because I think at that age kids are too sensitive and they observed everything that they are learning. My daughter inspired me to create the power point since she is learning how to help me with my disability. I am also a YO! Volunteer and member since November 2012. Now I just got selected for the Disability Organizing Advisory Council and I feel that I'm achieving more in my life and goals because one of my goals is let every person in this world know that we are disabled and we are proud because we are all human.
Evan LeVang’s career in disability services and advocacy began in 1993 at Resources for Independent Living (RIL) in Sacramento, CA, where he served as both a direct service provider and administrator. Evan later became the Southern California Regional Coordinator for a statewide advocacy project of the California Foundation of Independent Living Centers; recruiting, training and directing Disability Community Organizers working throughout Southern California at independent living centers. Before becoming Executive Director of ILSNC in 2004, Evan worked for four years as Coalition Director with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), organizing campaigns to improve In-Home Supportive Services (“Homecare”) in Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties. He was named California Community Organizer of the Year for 2001 and 2002 by the SEIU State Council. Evan and his wife, Teresa, live in Chico, CA with their daughter, Natalí (9). Their elder daughter, Jacqueline (21), is a social worker and student who lives in Sacramento, CA.
I am a person with a physical disability. I have been involved in the disabled community and an advocate for individuals with disabilities since 1995. I began my professional career serving individuals with disabilities in August of 2000 when I started working for the Department of Rehabilitation, Northern Sierra District; I started as an intern, and shortly after that became a Senior Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, then promoted to become a Rehabilitation Specialist. I am a Contract/Program Administrator of 25+ programs which include Transitional Partnership Programs, Workability II, Workability III, and Mental Health. My passion is to help make a difference in the life of a person with disability and my mission is to break-down myths and social stigmas, and bring forth equality for persons with disabilities. I am also a member of the board of directors of the Asians and Pacific Islanders with disabilities of California. I have a Bachelor Degree in Psychology and a Master Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from California State University of Sacramento.
Jessie has been blind since birth, and considers herself a life-long advocate for the rights of people with disabilities to have full access to all the community has to offer, including opportunities at education, employment, and full economic independence. She is world class athlete who holds gold and silver medals in Goal Ball from the Paralympics. In 2008, Jessie was awarded the SF Mayor’s Office on Disability Award for Excellence, she is the president of the California Association of Blind Athletes, and was named Advocate of the Year (2005) by the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers. Her affiliations include the Blind Babies Foundation, Lighthouse for the Blind, Disability Rights Advocates, and the California Transcribers and Educators for Visually Handicapped. Her specialties include public speaking and facilitation regarding accessibility and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
My name is Leoma Lee I have been an active advocate for the last 10 years or so. I am on several commissions and advisory committees: Disability Advisory Commission (DAC), Adult & Aging Commission (AAC), In-Home Supportive Services, (IHSS) First 5 Commission, and others. I am planning to graduate in January with my BA In Applied Behavioral Sciences and working in the Social Services Field.