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.
Vanessa Cuellar Youth Organizer
I was raised in the outskirts of Patterson, CA - the apricot capital of the world. As a middle school student in 2008, I began to volunteer for the city's Parks and Rec department working with youth. Soon after in 2010, I was hired by the City to continue my work with the community in both middle schools and high schools. We worked in collaboration with Stanislaus County in order to reach the youth in nearby cities. During this time in 2012, I started my own peer support group called "Be A Friend" for teenagers living with depression; I was able to do this with the help of my sister and close friends. With "Be A Friend," I had the opportunity to host assemblies on anti-bullying at local schools and meet amazing people.
I moved to Sacramento in early 2015, where I joined Sacramento Job Corps' group of staff working with at-risk youth. A few of my accomplishments at Job Corps include the establishment of a Women's Club, a Gay Straight Alliance, Spanish Club, and becoming the soccer coach. After a few years, I decided to branch out in order to help and support a wider variety of youth within our communities. I am now a Youth Organizer at CFILC, and am very excited and hopeful!
I am a first generation Latina American with Spanish being my first language, as my parents immigrated to this country from Ocotlan, Jalisco, Mexico.
I will be transferring to a university in 2019 to obtain a Bachelor's Degree in Sociology after obtaining my Associate's Degree from Sacramento City College.
In my free time, I enjoy soccer, volleyball, yoga, hot Pilates, singing Christmas music, and spontaneous trips to San Francisco at 1:00am to visit the Golden Gate Bridge.
Brenda Wheeler Information & Advocacy Specialist
Brenda Wheeler is the Information and Advocacy Specialist at CFILC. She developed an early interest for helping people with disabilities when she met her uncle with down syndrome while visiting family in Mexico. At the age of 14, she volunteered in the Special Education classrooms in her high school. After graduating High School, she went on to volunteering at Learning Solutions, who offer a range of services to children with a variety of disabilities. With the experience she acquired from Learning Solutions, Brenda went on to babysitting kids with disabilities. Brenda plans to return to college in the Spring of 2020 to pursue her career in Occupational Therapy and hoping to one day be able to apply all of her experiences to helping others.
When not in the office, you can find Brenda with her husband and kids exploring different lakes throughout Northern California, traveling, eating at their favorite restaurants, or watching movies at home.
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!
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.
Kathrine Crowley AT Access Coordinator
Kathrine is the Assistive Technology (AT) Access Coordinator for CFILC. Her role is to raise public awareness about access to AT and provide technical assistance and training to Independent Living Centers and community members to improve programs and ultimately outcomes for our consumers who use AT.
Kathrine attended University of California, Davis (UCD) and obtained bachelor's degrees in anthropology and English with a minor in psychology. Before attending UCD, her early life and career was spent participating and advocating with the Disability community. At UCD, she was able to continue her passion by participating in various activities impacting marginalized communities. She studied and interviewed a wide scope of groups, ultimately studying abroad in Ecuador. She lived with indigenous communities and learned about their struggle for autonomy in the wake of government and corporate attempts to strip and mine their lands. This experience taught her much about the strength of community organizing and what a collection of determined individuals can accomplish together.
Kathrine enjoys traveling, with the goal of visiting all seven continents in order to beat her father's record of having visited six. She enjoys hiking, white water rafting, swimming, reading, solving puzzles and playing board games with her husband, sisters and nephew. She and her husband have adapted many of their board games in order to make family game night a seamlessly accessible event for her sister Becka, who has Down syndrome.
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.
Megan Cowdell Program Manager
Megan is a Program Manager 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.
Jose Guerrero Graphic and Web Designer
A Southern California native, the military took Jose all around the world. Once back he chose the Central Valley has his final destination and attended Fresno State for his B.A. in Graphic Design upon being honorably discharged. Jose is forever grateful to CFILC and various campus veterans organizations for his successful transition back to civilian life and has been using his newly acquired skills strictly for non-profit organizations and causes.
As an artist, he enjoys creating sociopolitical art pieces and his works have been shown in the Gearbox Gallery in Oakland, Gregory Kondos Gallery in Sac City, Conley Art Gallery at Fresno State, and the Fresno Art Museum as part of a collaborative art project.
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.