Elevating Human Abilities Since 1967
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Leadership Team

 
Luana Vaetoe

Luana Vaetoe

Chief Executive Officer

Luana assumed her role as CEO in 2013, during this time BI has experienced significant organizational growth accompanied by a variety of positive outcomes for the clients it serves. Luana’s innovative mindset, program and business expansions has inspired individuals, foundations, and businesses to invest in Becoming Independent. Since Luana assumed the role of CEO, BI has experienced annual double digit increases in fundraising, helping to further fuel program growth and innovation. Luana holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and Master’s in Business Administration, and is also a graduate of the University of Delaware’s National Leadership Institute on Developmental Disabilities. She is a recipient of The North Bay Business Journal’s (NBBJ) Nonprofit Leadership Award as well as their 40 Under 40 Award and most recently their 2020 Women in Business Award. Luana was also awarded the Jefferson Award for civic duty and engagement. Luana is a member of the North Bay Leadership Council and a graduate of the Santa Rosa Metro Chamber Leadership Santa Rosa – Class 37.

Paula Finley

Paula Finley

Chief of Services

Paula joined BI in February of 2011 and became Manager of the Production Services team in June of 2011. She had the privilege of leading BI’s vocational team through the transition from sub minimum wage to minimum wage in January of 2018. As Chief of Services, she continues to work to not only ensure BI remains a fun place to work but that it truly exemplifies its values in all areas, supports individuals to live self-determined lives and celebrates the staff who make BI the best. Paula is a graduate of the National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities program through the University of Delaware. Her most recent accomplishments include working with program staff during COVID to re-imagine a 54 year old business model that relied primarily on face-to-face services. This program transition resulted in a robust Virtual Day Program that ensured hundreds of individuals remained connected and engaged during the pandemic.

James Cox

James Cox

Director of Services

James joined BI in 2013 and immediately developed and implemented a collection of meaningful volunteer opportunities across Day Services. The partnerships he established with local organizations such as The Council on Aging, Catholic Charities, and The Redwood Empire Food Bank created anchor activities for those served by BI to become active participants in supporting their local community. James’s diverse background in human services spans 30 years. His experience in Residential, Day Services, Supported Living, Transportation, Employment, Respite, and Behavior Management affords him a global perspective across the service spectrum. James’s experience, revolutionary philosophy on person centered services, and unwavering positive attitude is a valuable support to all facets of the organization. James is a graduate of the National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities program through the University of Delaware.

Tiffany Simpson

Tiffany Simpson

Service Director of Employment

Tiffany joined BI in 2010 as a Direct Support Professional before transitioning to BI’s management team in 2013.  Since joining BI, Tiffany’s expertise and focus has been on workforce development, helping the individuals served acquire meaningful work opportunities and develop their skills in jobs ranging from contract work and volunteer opportunities to competitive integrated employment. Tiffany is a strong advocate for employment of individuals with IDD, understanding that employment adds to one’s sense of identity and self-worth, allowing each person the opportunity to contribute and be recognized. She has established and stewarded strong partnerships with community employers to facilitate these opportunities, helping employers to understand the benefits of hiring people with disabilities. Tiffany holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Sonoma State University, where she also completed the Collaborative Autism Training & Support service learning program. She also holds a Human Resources Certificate from Santa Rosa Junior College, and is a graduate of the National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities program through the University of Delaware.

Kaela Talafili

Kaela Talafili

Service Director of Education

Kaela worked in the human services field, supporting children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, before joining BI in 2010. Kaela further developed her skills and transitioned to management focusing on developing programs that support people in discovering their interests and exploring community engagement opportunities that align with their personal aspirations. Kaela has played an integral role in designing and delivering education series to better support the community in their understanding of individuals with IDD.  Since 2018, Kaela has trained over 200 Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department employees in best practices when engaging with the IDD community. She has also championed the initiative to bring future leaders into the field of human services, helping to create and steward a Leadership Development program at BI. Kaela is a graduate of and serves as a facilitator for the National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities program through the University of Delaware, and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership through Columbia Southern University.

Taima Thompson

Taima Thompson

Service Director of Living Services

Taima joined BI in 1997 as a Direct Support Professional. She has since served in a variety of management and leadership capacities. Taima’s background in the field of human services spans over 25 years. She began her career in residential care facilities, supporting individuals with a wide variety of health, physical and behavioral. Since joining BI, Taima has been a champion for quality person-centered services. She serves as a key liaison for stakeholders across the organization, which include individuals served, their circles of support, and staff. She has helped to steward the transformation of program services over the years and, more recently, was an integral part of the Program Leadership team that developed our robust Virtual Day Program. Taima is a graduate of the National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities through the University of Delaware.