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 ten consecutive four-star rankings from Charity Navigator under her tenure, placing it in the top 1 percent of not-for-profits in the nation.
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 and in 2017 she was an American Cancer Society Inner Circle Twelve awardee. Jacko was also featured in Indulge Magazine's "Movers in Miami" and was recognized in the category of "Top Chief Executive Officer in Miami-Dade" at the 2017 South Florida Business & Wealth Apogee Awards.
The Able Trust named Ms. Jacko the winner of the 2017 prestigious "Dr. George L. Spelios Leadership Award" which recognizes outstanding leadership and advocacy efforts of an executive director or president of a Florida non-profit disability organization. At the Lions Clubs International 100th Anniversary Board of Directors Meeting in Miami, Ms. Jacko was presented by Lions International Chair, Dr. Naresh Aggarwal, the highly selective 2018 President's Leadership Award. Ms. Jacko also completed the capital raise and construction of Miami Lighthouse's newest addition, the Lighthouse Learning Center for Children™.
Click here to view CEO Jacko's Publications, Webinars and Presentations
Click here to view CEO Jacko's and Miami Lighthouse's Awards
Click here to view CEO Jacko's Professional and Community Service
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, 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. Cameron also received a Certificate in Fund Raising Management from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy in 2019.
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 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.
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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 eleven 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 Gold participation level through the GuideStar Exchange which is a testament to Miami Lighthouse's commitment to data transparency.
Early Intervention Blind Babies Program Named the Children's Trust 2016 Program of the Year. This most prestigious award recognizes this Early Intervention Program, in particular, for including parents as teachers.
Miami Lighthouse received the prestigious 2015 Beacon Award in Education at the 13th Annual Beacon Council Awards.
Miami Lighthouse received a Silver medal at the 2016 Miami Today Gold Medal Awards Ceremony.
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 Homecareďż˝s 2012 Thelma Gibson Community Service Award at the 18th Annual Claude Pepper Memorial 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.