A. Jacko, President and CEO
Virginia A. Jacko is a blind visionary in a sighted world, who attributes
her continuing success as an experienced financial executive to her
vocational rehabilitation at Miami Lighthouse.
During her tenure, the number of clients has increased from fewer than 500
in 2004 to over 15,000 today. A variety of innovative new programs in
Braille and technology literacy, adult basic education, GED, ESOL, job
readiness, music, ceramic arts, year-round programming for blind and
visually impaired schoolchildren, pre-kindergartens for blind and visually
impaired three- and four-year olds and eye wellness services to
schoolchildren throughout the State of Florida. Miami Lighthouse is
recognized as a national Center of Excellence through professional
publications and academic presentations.
Since CEO Jacko took the reins in 2005, the Miami Lighthouse operating
budget has increased fourfold through donor cultivation and successful
grant applications. Miami Lighthouse also has achieved eight consecutive
four-star rankings from Charity Navigator under her tenure, placing it in
the top 2 percent of not-for-profits in the nation.
Ms. Jacko writes about and is a sought-after guest speaker for business
groups, chambers of commerce and national conferences on topics such as
board governance, nonprofit accounting and accessibility for the blind and
visually impaired. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from
Loyola University (Chicago) and a Master of Science from Purdue
University. In 2012 she was named Distinguished Alumna by the Purdue
College of Health and Human Sciences and the HHS Alumni Association,
Purdue University. She was named to the South Florida Business Journal
2016 class of Influential Businesswomen.
Book: The Blind Visionary, with Doug Eadie, Governance Edge Press,
2009. (Available from Governance Edge Press at
“A New Synthesis of Sound and Tactile Music Code Instruction:
Implementation Issues of a Pilot Online Braille Music
Virginia A. Jacko, Jin Ho Choi, Audrey Carballo, Brian
J. Elton Moore, Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness,
scheduled for publication in the Spring 2015 issue.
“Blind Babies Play Program: A Model for Affordable, Sustainable Early
Childhood Literacy Intervention through Play and
Virginia Jacko, Roxann Mayros, Carol Brady-Simmons, Isabel
and J. Elton Moore, Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness,
“Florida Heiken Children’s Vision Program: Vision Care for Needy
Schoolchildren,” Virginia A. Jacko, M.S., Alan P. Levitt, O.D.,
Steven E. Marcus, Ed.D., and Alfred A. Rosenbloom, O.D.,
Optometry: Journal of the American Optometric Association,
Vol. 83, No. 1, pp.43-46, January 2012..
“Distance Learning Accessibility Issues in Higher Education,”
Chronicle of Higher Education, May 2011.
“Mainstream Employment in Music Production for Individuals Who Are
Visually Impaired: Development of a Model Training
Virginia Jacko, Harold Cobo, Antonio Cobo, Rachelle
J. Elton Moore, in the Practice Perspectives section of
the Journal of
Visual Impairment and Blindness, September 2010.
“Building a Rock-Solid Board/CEO Partnership: Talking with CEO
Virginia Jacko” by Doug Eadie, May/June
“Intervention through Art for Adults Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired,”
with Amy R. McKenzie, Ed.D., and Tatiana Palma, B.S.,
Journal of the
Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the
Blind and Visually
Impaired, February 2009
“Leading and Managing Governance Change,” with Miami Lighthouse
Board Chairman William R. Roy and consultant Doug Eadie,
NonProfit World, May/June 2008
Awards (since 2007):
Molina Health Care Community Champion Award, 2014
AXA Advisors Businesswoman of the Year, Public Servant/Non
Professional category, 2014
One of ten distinguished alums honored by Purdue University
as an “Old
Most Valuable Non-Profit Award, Switchboard of Miami, 2013
Junior League of Miami “Women Who Make a Difference” Honoree, 2013
Recipient of Bronze medal in Miami Today’s Gold Medal Awards
Florida Heiken Children's Vision Program’s service to thousands
of under-served children in public
Claude Pepper, Thelma Gibson 2012 Award for Community Service
Florida Women of Achievement 2012
South Florida Business Journal Excellence in Health Care Award,
Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce 2010 Sapphire Award,
nonprofit category, Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and
Nancy Hughes Community Commitment Award presented at the
Miami-Dade County Days Awards Luncheon in Tallahassee,
Business Leader Media’s Movers & Shakers Award, 2009
South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Women of
Leadership Award, 2009
Miami-Dade County Parks In the Company of Women Award, 2009
Finalist, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Health Care
Heroes Award, 2009
Health Foundation of South Florida Concern Award, 2008
AXA Advisory Business Woman of the Year,
Public Service/Non-Profit, 2008
Women’s Power Caucus Quiet Storm Achiever, 2008
South Florida Business Journal Business Woman of the Year,
Board Director, National Accreditation Council for Blind and Low
Trustee, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce
Trustee, American Printing House for the Blind
Board Director, Florida Association of Agencies Serving the Blind (FAASB)
Board Director, Lions for the Blind
Chair, Advisory Council on Disabilities, American Red Cross of
Greater Miami and the Keys
Past Member, United Way Early Childhood Center of Excellence Advisory
Richard Fernandez, Chief Financial Officer
Mr. Richard Fernandez joined Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually
Impaired, Inc. in September 2014.
Mr. Fernandez has served as a Vice President of Finance and Senior
Corporate Accountant for several major Florida-based corporations,
including Banyan Health Systems, a major non-profit comprehensive
behavioral healthcare provider, where he directed and oversaw the agency’s
financial planning and administration, including its accounting system.
Most recently he served as President of Diligent Accounting Services, a
full service accounting firm.
In addition to holding Certification as a Public Accountant for the State
of Florida, Mr. Fernandez holds a Bachelor of Accounting and Master of
Science in Taxation from Florida International University.
Mr. Fernandez is married to Angeline and has two sons, Daniel and David. Mr. Fernandez and his family reside in Miami Shores,
Carol Brady-Simmons, Chief Program Officer
Carol Brady-Simmons has been with Miami Lighthouse for more than 28 years and brings vibrant energy and creativity to the many projects she undertakes. She has served in many capacities during her tenure at the Lighthouse, including Chair of Orientation and Mobility; Interim Director of Adult Services, Director of Children's Services and the Low Vision Program and now is our Chief Program Officer.
Ms. Simmons received her Associate of Arts in Elementary Education from Miami-Dade College, a Bachelor of Science in Visual Disabilities, Orientation and Mobility, a Bachelor of Science in Leisure Services and Studies, and a minor in Gerontology from Florida State University.
Cameron Sisser, Vice President for External Relations
Cameron Sisser joined Miami Lighthouse in 2010 and brings extensive
experience in network development, alliance building, relationship
management, political outreach, and event planning. He previously served
as Legislative Assistant to Senator Gwen Margolis and Senator Dan Gelber
where he researched, tracked and wrote legislation, press releases,
newsletters and policy briefs while interacting daily with community
leaders and constituents.
Born in Miami, Cameron attended Ransom Everglades High School which
prepared him for The George Washington University in Washington DC, where
he graduated in 2005 with a bachelor of arts in political science. Cameron
graduated with a Master's in Public Administration from Florida
International University in 2011.
Brenda Williamson, Director of Compliance and Program Grant Development
Brenda Williamson joined the Miami Lighthouse in June 2007. She is a
creative, entrepreneurial development professional with a proven track
record in strengthening the capacity of major not-for-profit
organizations. She was previously director of development at the National
Audubon Society, Daily Bread Food Bank, Inc., and Legal Services of
Greater Miami. In addition Ms. Williamson served as part of a small
start-up-team of professionals hired to plan the opening of the Miami-Dade
Cultural Center and the Center for the Fine Arts later to be named Miami
Ms. Williamson received her Bachelor of Arts in History from Peabody
College in Nashville, Tennessee.
Isabel Chica, Director of Children’s Services
Isabel Chica joined Miami Lighthouse for the Blind in 2003 as it launched
its Blind Babies Program and has worked since supporting the program’s
growth and development as well as managing other children’s program
including the STAR Summer Program.
Her previous teaching experience in Miami-Dade County Public Schools in
conjunction with her years at Miami Lighthouse makes her the perfect
candidate to provide leadership for our agency's new Lighthouse Learning
Center for Children™. In addition to her professional experience in the
field, Ms. Chica is the parent of three high achieving boys, two of whom
are visually impaired. This allows her to have a unique understanding of a
family’s needs for support and advocacy.
Ms. Chica received her Bachelors of Science in Education from Barry
University and a Master’s degree in Reading Education from Florida
International University. She holds a Director’s Credential with a VPK
endorsement from the Department of Children and Families.
Jeff Rabalais, Facilities
and Transportation Manager
Jeff Rabalais brings to the Lighthouse academic training in
architecture and extensive experience in facilities management, space
planning, project management, events and food service.
The skills and knowledge he has obtained throughout his
career allow him to manage a broad range of services that span client
transportation, building maintenance, janitorial needs, in-house catering,
disaster preparation and building compliance to maintain a safe, clean,
secure environment for our clients, employees and visitors.
Mr. Rabalais obtained his Bachelor of Architecture Degree
from the University of Louisiana.
Mabel Lopez, Human Resources Manager
Mabel Lopez joined Miami Lighthouse in January 2007 and
brings more than 10 years of experience. Her knowledge of human resources
includes employee relations, recruitment, benefits administration, HRIS,
policies and procedures, and workers’ compensation.
Ms. Lopez received her Bachelor of Business Administration
in Human Resources
from the University of Puerto Rico, and holds a Professional in Human
Sharon Caughill, Special Projects
Manager - Center of Excellence
Sharon Caughill joined the Lighthouse in March, 2007. Her previous
positions include extensive experience as an administrative and
executive assistant. At the Lighthouse she assists the President/CEO
with special projects and with the day-to-day activities of the
Ms. Caughill received her Bachelor of Arts degree
from Indiana University, and holds an Associate of Applied Science
degree from the State University of New York at Alfred.
Lynda Medina, Executive Assistant
Lynda Medina joined Miami Lighthouse in September of 2015. Her previous positions include extensive experience as an executive assistant in New York City. At the Lighthouse she assists the President/CEO with the coordination of Board Meetings and with day-to-day calendar management and other activities in the executive office.
Ms. Medina received her Bachelor of Applied Science from Five Towns College.