Board of Directors
Sarah Hales earned her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education, from the University of Missouri-Columbia and her Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Kansas. She’s worked as a pediatric speech-language pathologist since 1995. She specializes in working with the birth – three population, as well as with children who use Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC). Sarah has been involved with DSNetwork since its beginning. Sarah is a hobbyist photographer and was the photographer for DSNetwork’s 2010 Calendar, “Inspirations.” She is also a proud and very-involved Auntie of three nieces and one nephew. Sarah is very excited to be serving in the DSNetwork – an organization and cause that has always been very close to her heart.
Rebecca Frederick-Jilg is a Tucson native and moved up to Phoenix in 1999 when she started working for Mesa Public Schools as a 5th grade teacher. At Northern Arizona University Rebecca received her BS and MA in Elementary Education. After teaching for six years her first son was born. He has Down syndrome and this is when she decided to stay at home and raise her now three boys. They are all doing well in school and Rebecca is ready to get back into education. It has been her pleasure to join the Board of Directors and work with Down Syndrome Network of Arizona.
Jill Nico serves full time as the Program Advisor for Disability Resources and Services at Estrella Mountain Community College in Avondale, AZ. In this capacity, she assures equal access for students with disabilities, provides individualized coaching, and plans campus events related to disability issues for young adults. She has served in higher education in various roles, including adjunct faculty, for fifteen years. She is a wife and parent of two sons, including a son born with Down syndrome. She has twelve years’ experience supporting families of children with disabilities through organizations such as Raising Special Kids and speaks frequently on the parent perspective. She graduated from Kettering University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering, and from Arizona State University with a Master of Science. She is also a graduate of the AZ Pilot Parents’ Partners in Leadership and Advocacy Training.
Andy Kesti focus over the course of his professional career has been in bringing people together in ways that drive attainment of strategic goals. He and his wife have a 6-year old son with Down syndrome. They, along with their other children are enjoying the journey of raising a child with Down syndrome. The mission of DSNetwork resonated with Andy the first time he read it. He is interested in brainstorming ways to further improve the quality of life for both the family/caregivers and the individuals with Down syndrome.
Buzz has held Controller or Chief Financial Officer positions for 30+ years and has worked for both for-profit and not-for-profit companies. Industries worked in – healthcare, behavioral health, real estate development, residential construction, property management, manufacturing, landscaping, site and playground equipment, banking & farming. A resident of the East Valley and a graduate from Arizona State University, Buzz has owned and operated (with his spouse) two companies for 25+ years, which offered speech, physical and occupational therapy.
John EscobarMember at Large
John Escobar has been a human resources manager for over 17 years. He is a Society Human Resources Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) and has a Business and Finance degree from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut and Associates from Valencia College in Orlando, Florida. He has done volunteer work with Arizona PBS, (Channel 8) with the antiques road show, and pledge drives. John and his wife has a young daughter with Down syndrome who likes to write, swim, play basketball, bowling and go out do fun things. John likes to help people to improve and is proud to serve on DSNetwork’s board of directors.
Cassie Laughrey, SPTMember at Large
Cassie Laughrey earned her Bachelors of Health Science in Physiology and Spanish and is working on her Doctorate of Physical Therapy. She is a rehabilitation technician for the Neurological Wellness Center at Banner Health. Working with individuals with intellectual disabilities has always been a passion of hers for years. Cassie has served on many nonprofit boards and has managed multiple social media sites. She is excited to serve on DSNetwork’s board.
Daryl QuezadaMember at Large
Daryl Quezada is the mother of four children including her oldest Josia who has Down syndrome. Born and raised in the Phoenix area, Daryl and her family are active in their community and are the owner/operators of the plumbing company No Worries Rooter, LLC. The decision to run their own business was partly born out of Josia’s diagnosis. Daryl and her husband’s dream is to give Josia and other individuals with Down syndrome an opportunity to learn and work in the plumbing industry. Daryl’s professional background includes culinary and human resources. She holds a BA in Human Resources and is passionate about navigating medical insurance. In addition, she and her husband volunteer as new parent mentors for DSNetwork.
Amanda “Mandy” Rivas is a Tucson Native and a graduate of the University of Arizona with a degree in Political Science and Spanish. After working as a paralegal for 7 years, Mandy decided to stay at home to care for her daughters, Annalise-age 7 and Vivienne, age 2. Mandy, her husband Brian Kissler, their two girls and their dog Barley currently live in Chandler, Arizona. They enjoy the beach, going to sporting events, visiting Disneyland and attending events within their Down syndrome community. Mandy hopes to further her career in the real estate world in the near future.
Liz Perez earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Arizona State University and has worked in the profession of Social Work with the Division of Developmental Disabilities. She has a passion to volunteer and give back to her community. She is a member of several local Philanthropic Organizations: East Valley Women’s League, Junior League of Phoenix, Phoenix Zoo Auxiliary and the Kyrene Schools Foundation.
Mary Brumand is the mother of two fantastic kids. Her son graduated from Mountain Pointe High School and is a happy-go-lucky young adult with Down syndrome living life to the fullest. Now a college professor, Mary’s daughter graduated with a Fulbright scholar from Lancaster University in England. Mary has a degree in Pharmacy and has worked for Sams Club/Walmart as a pharmacist ever since. In 2007, she received the Bowl of Hygeia award, which is a national award given to a pharmacist for community service. Mary has been involved with DSNetwork since it was just a small group of parents meeting in a family kitchen and has watched with awe as the group has grown and blossomed.
Michele Fiorenza grew up in Illinois and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Photography and a minor in Psychology from Columbia College. A professional photographer by trade, Michele prides herself in her ability to work with people, adults and children alike, in a professional manner to capture their ‘natural’ expressions. She loves what she does and says photography keeps her whole. Michele and her husband moved to Arizona in 1995. They have two children. Her son, who was born with Autism spectrum disorder, is the “child of her soul” and has an incredible spirit that lights up a room when he enters. Michele’s daughter, who was born with Down syndrome, ASD and Apraxia, is the “child of her heart” and Michele credits her with teaching her much about the true meaning of life and what really matters. Michele gives back to the community through a number of causes and organizations and is a past board member of DSNetwork and Immediate Past President. In addition to photography, Michele works part-time with Absolute HCBS.
Frances is the mother of Excell. Excell is 49 years old and has Down syndrome. Frances strongly believes that support, education, advocacy and accurate information about successful aging for our love one with Down syndrome is important. Our aging Down syndrome population, as well as, families and caregivers need to prepare for a good quality of life; especially because sometimes, as we age, things we’ve done all our life become harder to continue to do. Frances and her family relocated to Arizona in 2010 from Illinois, she was a volunteer with the Illinois Special Olympics; National Association of Down Syndrome ( NADS), Illinois; Detour Theatre Company, Arizona (currently), as well as, various other organizations who provide services to the developmentally disabled population since Excell was about three years old. Frances is a retiree from the health insurance industry and has a Bachelor’s degree in Behavior Science from National Lewis University.
Vickie HerdChair, Young Adult Group
Vickie Herd is the CEO for Extended Family Disability Services LLC. She has been involved in Special Olympics for over 27 years including 13 years organizing, fundraising and managing the Special Olympic Pentathlon event. She managed, raised funds for and coached Challenger Baseball for eight years. She was involved in Tempe Union School District Special Education Parent Support Group for seven years. Vickie also serves on the board of Raising Special Kids.
Gina Johns brings her years of experience from healthcare, management, education, and job development to DSN. She has served on boards with the Special Olympics, the Arizona Law Enforcement Torch Run, the Arizona Multi-housing Association, Southwest Human Development and Mosaic. Johns has a passion for advocacy and serving people with intellectual disabilities and co-founded a support group for parents. She owns “Gracious Heart,” a developmental home for intellectually and physically challenged adults. Gina’s 19 year-old son Dakota attends Grand Canyon University and has Down syndrome.
Originally from California, Nattasha Huffaker and her family relocated to the Phoenix area in 2005. She served in the US Air Force for eight years and graduated from ASU with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology. Huffaker then went on to graduate in 2011 with a Masters of Science as a Physician Assistant. DSNetwork is dear to her heart as her youngest of three, Owen, has Down Syndrome.
Maureen Mills is a founding member of Down Syndrome Network. She spent several years as a Program Manager for Best Buddies Arizona, worked for the Arizona Department of Education as a Parent Information Network Specialist helping families understand their educational rights, and currently is a Family Support Specialist with Raising Special Kids. Originally from Buffalo, New York, Maureen and her husband decided in 1997 to trade the cold and lake-effect snow for heat and desert mountains. They have three children. Their youngest has Down Syndrome, Autism, ADHD, ODD and, as she likes to point out, LOVE.
Janet RomoChair, Moms Night Out Group
Janet Romo, a mother of three whose youngest daughter has Down syndrome, is the education chair for DSNetwork. She is an instructor at Ashford University Education in the area of Management Industry. Previously, she has been the Lead Instructor in the college of External Studies at Ashford University and Janet’s tenure as an educator also included being a teacher in the Phoenix Union High School District. Here she was a reading specialist for two years and special education teacher for another two years. She holds a M.A. in Education and is endorsed in the areas of social studies, reading, middle school, adult development and cross-categorical special education. Janet is currently in a doctoral program at Walden University. Janet has received awards such as the Provost list at Ashford University and Employee of the month at Carl Hayden High School in 2005.
Victoria earned her degree in Social Work from Arizona State University and has worked professionally with people with developmental disabilities for the past 8 years. She now works at Southwest Human Development as a Family Support Specialist and is also the Futures Without Violence, Anti-Bullying Campaign Captain. Victoria presented at the National Down Syndrome Convention in Arizona and was featured in the film “Uplifting Down”. She currently serves as Miss Arizona United States 2015 with “Seeing the Ability in Disability” as her platform. Victoria’s older brother, Danny, has Down syndrome and is her “best friend, strength and mentor”.
Karen Szilagyi earned her bachelor’s degree from San Diego State University and worked in sales and marketing for 15 years prior to having 2 children and deciding to work as a full-time mom for a few years. Karen moved to Scottsdale with her husband and daughter in 2006. After her son was born with Down syndrome, Karen became involved with DSNetwork and other organizations in Arizona who support individuals with disabilities and their families. She also organizes clothing and toy drives for families in the Valley who have children with special needs. Karen enjoys staying fit, making new friends in the Valley and spreading the word about what a blessing her son is.
Rick Sughroue is a 1981 graduate from Winnebago High School in Pecatonica, IL. Rick is an actor and the recipient of the 2005-2006 AriZoni award for his role as Tom in the play The Jelly Bean Conspiracy at the Fountain Hills Community Theater. Rick was a dedicated Eagle Scout who earned the 21 merit badges necessary for his Eagle Palms. His final project was clearing two feet of brush, creating a clear pathway for a trail for people who are handicapped. Rick aspires to be a speaker on the topic of Down syndrome. He loves children with Down syndrome and wants to help them in any way he can. Rick would love to meet a nice lady and get married.