Executive Team

luanaLuana Vaetoe, Chief Executive Officer

Luana was recently awarded The North Bay Business Journal’s 2016 Forty Under 40 award for outstanding leadership. In 2015, she received the Nonprofit Leadership Award for her overall leadership of Becoming Independent and most recent work launching Becoming Independent’s pioneering ‘Passport to Independence’ program to better meet the immediate needs for our region’s rapidly expanding population of young adults with autism. BI’s state-of-the-art program model resonated with the community, and the agency raised significant new dedicated funding from a number of key private supporters in order to initiate the program in November of 2015.

Luana was appointed CEO of BI in July 2013, having demonstrated success in strategic business planning and implementation as Agency Director. Under her leadership as CEO, Becoming Independent has seen significant outcomes in various areas, including experiencing the greatest fund raising year in the organization’s long history. In 2014, Becoming Independent was awarded Business of the Year by the Young Professional Network for excellence in developing young professionals in the community and in the workplace and has been selected as one of the North Bay’s Best Places to work in 2013, 2014 and 2015.




LisaPicLisa Folsom-Ernst, Fund Development Director

Lisa’s personal background and professional experience blended seamlessly for this position, which she has held since June 2009. Lisa’s parents were mental health reformers who instilled in her a life long commitment to social justice with an emphasis on people with disabilities. Working in nonprofit program development in New York City, she realized that without adequate funding even the most effective service models fail. This recognition inspired her to pivot to the field of fund development. By strategically leading a development team of volunteers, staff and consultants, Lisa has expanded and diversified Becoming Independent’s funding over the last seven years, with significant resource growth from individuals, businesses, and foundations. Over the last three years, under Lisa’s direction, BI’s private funding grew 55%. Lisa received a Masters in Social Work from City University of New York and a BA from Bard College.




sarahheadshotSarah Ross, Director of Administration

After growing up on the Oregon Coast, Sarah and her active-duty military family adventured throughout the US, and finally permanently transferred to Sonoma County in 2012.  Having worked in Human Resources roles for 5 years, she joined Becoming Independent overseeing all HR functions – including Payroll oversight for the 275 employees and 200 paid individuals served. Sarah has focused her goals at BI on the workplace culture including employee recognition projects and events, and wellness initiatives including the addition of an onsite Fitness Room. In 2016, BI was recognized as one of the North Bay Business Journal’s Healthiest Places to Work.  In 2016, Sarah took on the role of Director of Administration, which in addition to HR Management, includes oversight of IT, Facilities and Administrative operations.