The CFILC Staff
Our staff is a richly diverse group of individuals from various backgrounds and experiences. We invite you to learn more about us.
Megan Cowdell Program Coordinator
Megan is a Program Coordinator at CFILC, she joined the team in February 2015. She has loved learning about disability history and the fight for civil rights.
At CFILC, Megan works to close the digital divide by helping families gain access to the internet. She also works on the Voice Options program where she helps to train individuals with speech disabilities on different communication apps. Megan has loved seeing people's lives change by receiving a newly found voice through this program. Recently, Megan has become the "editing guru", and she helps to edit all written content for CFILC's programs.
A native of San Diego, Megan left California to pursue a nursing degree at SUNY Buffalo. She quickly got tired of the cold weather and was happy to return to the Golden State and start her career.
When not in the office, Megan can be found curled up with a good book, baking new creations, or traveling the world with her wife.
Henry Contreras Public Policy Director
Henry J. Contreras is an attorney licensed to practice in the State of California. He possesses over 28 years of legal, legislative, public policy, and consulting experience while working in the California State Legislature and the United States House of Representatives. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Occidental College and a Juris Doctor Degree from the UCLA School of Law.
His professional career began when he was appointed as a Deputy Legislative Counsel for the Legislative Counsel Bureau, the non-partisan bureau that functions as the attorneys for Members of the California State Assembly and California Senate and was responsible for drafting bills, amendments, and legal opinions. During his 10-year tenure, he specialized in Local Government, Education, Higher Education, Criminal Law, and Civil Procedure. In 1990, he joined the Office of Assemblywoman Lucille Roybal-Allard as her Principal Consultant and Chief of Staff and joined her in Washington D.C. for five years as her Chief of Staff following her election to the United States House of Representatives.
Upon his return to California, he joined the Office of Robert M. Hertzberg as his State Capitol Director during the period when he was the Chair of the Assembly Rules Committee and the Speaker of the Assembly. He subsequently joined the Office of the Assembly Majority Floor Leader and California Latino Legislative Caucus Chair Marco A. Firebaugh as his Chief of Staff and Legal Counsel. From 2005-2008, he operated his own legal and legislative consulting firm, Contreras & Associates, prior to accepting his current position as the Public Policy Director for the California Foundation for Independent Living Center.
Lisa Austin Office & Logistics Manager
Lisa Austin is the Meeting & Logistics Coordinator and newest member of the CFILC family. In this role she manages logistics for many CFILC events including site selection, contracts with venues and vendors, preparing event orders, managing audio-visual requirements, access compliance for members and onsite management.
Lisa was born in Pittsburgh, PA and moved to Walnut Creek, CA in 1974 where she spent the remainder of her childhood and early adulthood. Lisa attended college at California State University Hayward studying Human Development, specializing in Early Childhood Education. Her passion to have a positive influence and be an advocate for young children, Lisa's professional career started in the childcare industry. She was introduced to the meeting planning profession in 1999. She enjoys the excitement of meeting new people, traveling around the country and using her skills to create and support many successful events. She has previously worked in the non-profit industry with California Peace Officers Association and The California Pharmacists Association.
Growing up, most of Lisa's time was spent competing in sports such as tennis, swimming, soccer and softball. At the collegiate level, she competed in soccer and softball. As a team captain and starting goalkeeper she finished her competitive career by winning the Division II, NCAA Soccer Championship. She enjoys the outdoors, photography, spending time with friends, and traveling. Her biggest joy is spending with her family most importantly her 4 nieces and 3 nephews.
Yolanda Vargas Youth Organizer
Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Yolanda has spent much of her youth devoted to educating people on human rights and issues faced by the LGBTQQAAIAP community, of which is she is a proud member. In 2012, Yolanda relocated to Sacramento to focus on her education and make her mark in the non-profit world. Despite being disabled since birth, Yolanda, like many did not know that the disability community existed and only became active through her work as a YO! Volunteer Corps member. She has since embraced her disabilities with much pride and has become an active youth leader both statewide and nationally. Earlier this year, Yolanda was awarded a youth scholarship to participate in the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) Conference. That opportunity led her to becoming a member of both the NCIL Youth and Queer & Women's Caucuses. In addition, Yolanda was also selected to attend and be trained at the ADAPT Youth Community Organizing Summit.
Yolanda is a passionate young woman of color, who looks forward to engaging other youth with disabilities across California to find their disability pride while also building her own leadership skills and increasing her involvement in the intersectional and complex issues that the disability community faces.
Phil Thompson Administrative & Accounting Director
Phil Thompson, Administrative and Accounting Director first worked at CFILC in 2005 and officially joined the CFILC staff in 2006.
Phil has over 20 years of experience in both accounting and business management. Phil's prior experience includes Real Estate / Hotel Property Management, Restaurant Management and State & Federal Tax preparation.
Emily Flynn Program Coordinator
Emily was born and raised in Solano County. After struggling through school because of her own disabilities, she is now committed to helping students be successful in school. She has worked with children with a wide range of disabilities for many years. She has volunteered for many organizations such as: Coats for Kids, Boys and Girls Club of America, and the Solano Stand Down for Veterans.
Prior to working at CFILC, Emily worked for an Independent Living Center as an Independent Living Youth Specialist. For the past two years Emily has attended the National Conference on Independent Living in Washington DC. At the conference she spoke with legislators on issues that affect youth with disabilities on a local and national scale.
While attending school Emily worked as a student athletic trainer in the rehab facility located on her college campus. Emily became well-versed in rehabilitation equipment and programs for injured athletes. She also has completed her emergency medical responder certification through Solano Community College. She enjoys learning all aspects of disability, from the physiological understanding to advocacy and organizing.
Emily continues to further her education and would like to finish her degree in Counseling Services. In her spare time Emily loves spending time with her family and puppy; she enjoys being outdoors and also loves to paint.
Christina Mills Executive Director
Christina Mills has been with the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers for over a decade. She became Executive Director of CFILC in February of 2018 after serving as Deputy Director. Christina began her career at CFILC in 2006 as the Statewide Community Organizer.
Born in San Diego, California, Christina began her post-secondary education while simultaneously pursing her career in disability rights. In 1998 she served as one of five Field Coordinators for the Orange County Independent Living Center, The Dayle McIntosh Center. From there she went on to work for Access to Independence in San Diego for 6 years.
In 2001 Christina was appointed by the California Governor as a member of the State Independent Living Council. As a young professional she was active in several leadership activities including National Council on Disability, Youth Advisory Committee Chair, a Youth Consultant for the National Family Voices, Kids as Self Advocates (KASA) project, and has continued to engage in planning and implementation of the California Youth Leadership Forum for Students with Disabilities since her participation as a Student Delegate in 1995. Christina's passion for offering youth leadership opportunities for others led her to become Co-founder of CFILC's youth program, YO! Disabled and Proud.
In 2008, she was awarded the National Council on Independent Living Region IX Advocate of the Year. In 2011, she received the California Coalition for Youth Sue Mathewson Mentoring Award and was inducted into the National Susan M. Daniels Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame in 2016.
Christina serves on the board of the Disability Rights Education Defense Fund (DREDF and is a State Board of Education Appointee to the Special Education Advisory Commission of California.
Christina proudly identifies as a disabled. Her favorite poem written by Laura Hersey is, "You Get Proud By Practicing." When she's not working or volunteering, Christina can be found with her husband and son, gardening, traveling or taking it easy.
Kyla Aquino Irving Communications & Marketing Manager
Kyla Aquino Irving is the Communications & Marketing Manager of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) and was first introduced to the disability rights community since her involvement in the California Youth Leadership Forum for Students with Disabilities in 1997.
Previously, Kyla worked in health-related nonprofit organizations where she took great joy in developing and leading public relations campaigns for local, regional, and national public health outreach efforts, events, and conferences. She has been a member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) since 2012 and was the youngest and first person of color to serve as President of the PRSA California Capital Chapter in 2015.
As a two-time kidney transplant recipient, Kyla has 20 years of experience as a spokesperson for ethnic minority health, disability rights and organ donation awareness. She's passionate about diversity, inclusion and health equity. No stranger to CFILC, Kyla has emceed Disability Capitol Action Day twice.
Born in the Philippines and raised in California, Kyla graduated cum laude from California State University, Sacramento in 2010 with a bachelor's degree in Communication Studies, with a concentration in Public Relations and a minor in Marketing.
Sacramento Business Journal named Kyla one of the "40 Under 40" in 2015 and Sac Cultural Hub named her one of the "Exceptional Women of Color" in 2016.
Kyla enjoys cooking, dining, traveling, and rooting for the Sacramento Kings with her husband Steve.
Kevin Hansen Program Manager
Kevin Hansen is currently working as a Device Lending & Reuse Manager with CFILC. Kevin has worked for CFILC since 2011.
Kevin attended Sacramento State University, Sacramento. After receiving a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration from CSUS he worked in retail as a supervisor for 5 years. Kevin enjoys spending time with his wife and family, golfing, camping, hiking and outdoor fun.
Jackie Moura Bookkeeper
Jackie brings to CFILC over 15 years of office and administrative experience, with the last 10 years primarily focused in accounting. She has worked mostly for larger companies and is very excited to join the non-profit world. She is looking forward to learning more about the history of the disability rights movement, and is also eager to learn more about different types of assistive technology.
After growing up in Santa Rosa, CA Jackie moved to Sacramento to attend California State University, Sacramento, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Social Sciences. While in college she realized that she liked the Sacramento area so much that she decided to make it her permanent home, and has lived in the region ever since.
Jackie is an avid sports fan, and jokes that she is an Oakland A's fan by birth and a San Francisco Giants fan by marriage. Her hobbies also include reading mystery and legal suspense novels and watching home and garden shows, in the hopes to one day take on a DIY project of some sort. She also enjoys spending time in her backyard and hosting family gatherings.
Jackie and her husband are proud pet parents to Golden Retrievers Sierra and Jade, and Australian Shepherd-English Mastiff mix Max. The dogs bring a lot of fun and joy to the family, although with a lot of fur to contend with on a daily basis!
Natina Aviles Information & Advocacy Specialist
Natina is very excited to be the newest addition to the CFILC team! She works as an Information and Advocacy Specialist. Through the Digital Access Project, she provides access to internet at a lower cost, discounted computers and laptops and free digital literacy classes to people with disabilities that do not have access to the digital world. Though Ability Tools, Natina also provides access to tools, resources and technology that will help increase independence, improve personal productivity, and enhance the quality of life for all Californians.
As a graduate from the Art Institute of Sacramento California, on her free time she can be found doing street photography that features subjects in candid situations within public places. Her passion for photography has led her to many opportunities to be a part of the Sacramento community. Natina became a member of the Black Chamber of Commerce in 2015 and has taken photos of events, such as The Brazilian Carnival 2017, to shed light on situations in the community that have been overlooked. She is very excited to be a part of the CFILC team and is ready to immerse herself in new experiences and become an advocate.
Stephen March Financial Lending Specialist
As the Financial Lending Specialist for the FreedomTech loan program, Stephen brings his extensive background in Finance to CFILC. He holds a B.S. in Business Administration with emphasis in Finance from California State University, Sacramento and over 10 years of experience in the mortgage lending industry. For 6 years, Stephen specialized in a government insured loan program designed to help low income seniors stay in their homes and age in place. His passion lies in finding creative solutions that will empower people to live full lives.
Stephen's excited to utilize his experience and education in finance to help people with disabilities purchase assistive technology.
He is currently returning to school to pursue a Masters degree in Social Work. In his free time, Stephen enjoys songwriting, movies, hiking, and spending time with friends, family and his dog Chandler.
Karen Sanchez Program Director
Karen Sanchez joined the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers family in February 2018. Karen's role with CFILC is Program Director where she will oversee the many innovative programs CFILC offers to the community. Karen grew up in Napa, California and has always had a love for working with children. She attended Sonoma State University, completed her BA and began a rewarding career in Early Childhood Education.
Karen went on to pursue a long career in the field of Early Childhood Education with over 15 years experience working in an Early Head Start/Head Start program as the Child Development Director. In her role as Child Development Director, Karen developed partnerships with special education providers to identify children with disabilities and to provide access for all children to integrated preschool environments. Parent advocacy and education were also a part of her role to ensure that parents understood their right to have their children participate in inclusive early childhood education classrooms. Karen was very active in the Early Childhood community and held executive positions on many boards and councils that advocated for quality early childhood programs in Napa and Solano counties.
Karen is very excited to join the CFILC team! In her free time you can find her spending time with her family, attending live music events or curled up with a book.