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.




headshptsLauren M. Meiklejohn, Chief of Services

Prior to her appointment as Chief of Services in 2013, Lauren held several positions since joining Becoming Independent in 1979. Lauren is committed to creating innovative partnerships with our community, and providing a broad scope of high-quality services for those served at Becoming Independent. Lauren received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and obtained two teaching credentials from Sonoma State University.






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

Sarah joined Becoming Independent in 2012 and oversees all Human Resources functions – workers comp, benefits, wellness and recruitment in addition to Payroll. She manages all employee recognition projects and events, including the addition of an onsite employee Fitness Room.  Sarah has relocated numerous times around the country as a USCG active duty spouse, and completed her BS in Technical Management, with a concentration in HR Management in 2007.  She has worked in Human Resources roles since 2007 and currently holds her Professional in Human Resources (PHR) Certification.