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Management Team

Virginia A. Jacko, President and CEO



Virginia 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.

Recent Publications:
Book: The Blind Visionary, with Doug Eadie, Governance Edge Press, 2009. (Available from Governance Edge Press at www.theblindvisionary.com)

“A New Synthesis of Sound and Tactile Music Code Instruction:
    Implementation Issues of a Pilot Online Braille Music Curriculum,”
    Virginia A. Jacko, Jin Ho Choi, Audrey Carballo, Brian Charlson and
    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 Socialization,”
    Virginia Jacko, Roxann Mayros, Carol Brady-Simmons, Isabel Chica,
    and  J. Elton Moore, Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness,
    pp. 238-242.
“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., D.O.S.,
    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 Program,” by
     Virginia Jacko, Harold Cobo, Antonio Cobo, Rachelle Fleming, and
     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 Nonprofit World
      May/June 2009
“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
, 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
    Profit Professional category, 2014
One of ten distinguished alums honored by Purdue University
    as an “Old Master,” 2013
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 schools, 2012
Claude Pepper, Thelma Gibson 2012 Award for Community Service
Florida Women of Achievement 2012
South Florida Business Journal Excellence in Health Care Award,
     Non-Profit, 2011
Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce 2010 Sapphire Award,
     nonprofit category, Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired
Nancy Hughes Community Commitment Award presented at the
     Miami-Dade County Days Awards Luncheon in Tallahassee, April 2010
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,
     Non-Profit, 2007

Board Director, National Accreditation Council for Blind and Low
    Vision Services
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
Past 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, Florida.


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, Manager of External Relations

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 Art Museum.

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, 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, 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 Resources certification.


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 executive office.

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

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.


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State of Vision
Sales of the “State of Vision” license plate support services to blind and visually impaired people. Miami Lighthouse is the recipient of a portion of the proceeds from the sale of this license plate. The cost is $25.00 in addition to the regular registration fee.




STAR Summer Camp Children Testimonials

  • STAR is really cool. I like it because I get to be
    with all my friends and learn a lot during summer,
    from typing to art to music.
    - Marino, age 12

  • STAR is fun because we get to read a lot, go on lots of field trips, use the computers and learn programs like PowerPoint. I make a lot of friends here and get to learn things with them. It's a lot better than staying at home watching TV during the summer!
    - Madisleny, age 11

  • We learn a lot and have fun activities in STAR. The large print books I get have helped me a lot in school, and I like learning with a lot of friends that
    I've made here during my second year in STAR at Miami Lighthouse.
    - Taknighis, age 12










Miami Lighthouse was recognized at the 2015 Florida Blue Foundation Sapphire Awards luncheon as an organization that has demonstrated excellence and innovation in community health.


Miami Lighthouse ranks among the elite 1% of U.S. nonprofits having earned nine consecutive 4-star ratings from Charity Navigator, the nation’s premier independent nonprofit evaluator. Receiving such a distinction reflects our sound fiscal management, responsible use of donor dollars, and financial strength.


Miami Lighthouse has earned the Silver participation level through the GuideStar Exchange which is a testament to Miami Lighthouse’s commitment to data transparency.









Miami New Times - Best of Miami 2017




Miami Lighthouse received the prestigious 2015 Beacon Award in Education at the 13th Annual Beacon Council Awards.


Miami Lighthouse was the recipient of the 2013 Switchboard Miami All Star Most Valuable Non-Profit Award.


Miami Lighthouse is a two-time Charity Partner (2013 and 2014) of the Marlins Foundation and a 2017 Major League Baseball All-Star Game Legacy Partner. Our Florida Heiken Children's Vision Program has received over $300,000 in charitable donations through these partnerships.


Miami Lighthouse named "Best of Miami" Charity 2017 by the New Times.






Miami Lighthouse received United Homecare’s 2012 Thelma Gibson Community Service Award at the 18th Annual Claude Pepper Memorial Awards Ceremony.


Miami Lighthouse received a Silver medal at the 2016 Miami Today Gold Medal Awards Ceremony.


Miami Lighthouse received the prestigious South Florida Business Journal 2011 Excellence in Health Care Award in the Community Outreach category.


Miami Lighthouse honored by being named the recipient of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce 2010 Non-Profit Business Diamond Award.


Miami Lighthouse received the prestigious 2008 Concern Award from Health Foundation of South Florida.


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