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Our 2024 Board of Directors

Meet The Board of Directors

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Lisa Sarmiento
President

Greetings, I'm Lisa Sarmiento, originally from Madison, WI, but my life's journey has taken me on quite an adventure through 5 states and 4 countries. Born on August 15, I've always had a soft spot for the color blue – it's like a piece of the sky wherever I go. My family is my anchor: Geovanny, my Ecuadorian partner for a remarkable 25 years, and our two incredible kids. Zolia, at 18, is already conquering college, while Viviana, our spirited 12-year-old with boundless enthusiasm, adores gymnastics, dance, music, and the company of friends. I find my bliss in the great outdoors, whether it's hiking, biking, swimming, or simply tending to the yard. Equally content at home, I cherish quality moments with family and friends—be it gaming, puzzling, or escaping into the pages of a captivating book. In the corporate realm, I navigate the intricate world of Accounting Transformation and Business Integration at Walmart. Fueled by curiosity and a talent for simplifying complexity, I relish strategic thinking. I'm thrilled to bring my professional expertise to foster DSCNWA's growth and advance inclusion for individuals with Down syndrome in NWA.

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Sharen Bense
Vice President

Hey there! I'm Sharon Bense, proud native of Cedar Hill, Texas. Born on July 4th, I've embraced independence and a love for community throughout my life.​ My world revolves around my wonderful family - my husband Zsolt, two lively dogs and a curious cat. Every day is an adventure with this lively bunch. Green is my color, tacos my go-to comfort food, and when it comes to books, Ken Follett is my literary escape. Beyond words, I find joy in backpacking, gardening, kayaking and biking. Currently, I’m rocking two years on the board, and proudly just accepted the role of vice president. Energetic, risk-taker, care-giver–that’s me in a nutshell. I also co-founded Clover Community School six years ago, driven by a vision of offering something refreshingly different for students. Here's to embracing life’s adventures and making a difference!

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Cyndi Najar
Treasurer/Governance

Hello, I'm Cyndi Najar, proud to call Sand Springs, OK, my hometown. Born on June 5th, I find joy in sharing life with my husband Eddy and our two sons, Matt and Jeremiah. Our furry companions—Holly Bell, Loki, Mari, and Thor—complete our vibrant household. Purple hues paint my world, and the aroma of Thai cuisine always brings a smile to my face. As a devoted reader, the Harry Potter series has a special place in my heart, and I find solace in the world of hydroponic gardening. For King and Country provides the soundtrack to my days, and my scientific curiosity drives my interest in the subject. Embarking on a new adventure, I'm honored to be a first-year board member at DSCNWA, bringing my skills as a communicator, organizer, and compassionate advocate to the table. Each day brings new proud moments on this journey. Beyond the boardroom, you might hear the nickname "Cyndipooh" floating around. It's just another facet of the person who is passionate about making a positive impact and fostering connections within the DSCNWA community.

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Aubrey Gibby
Secretary

Hello, I'm Aubrey Gibby, hailing from the beautiful town of Eugene, Oregon. Born on May 7th, I come from a large and lively family, and my feline companion, Snowball, shares my adventures. In my world, turquoise reigns as the favorite color, and I find joy in savoring Thai or Mexican cuisine. The Book of Mormon captivates my reading list, and my heart beats for outdoor activities, quality time with nieces, and anything related to the arts. Music is the soundtrack to my life, with a penchant for country and Christian tunes. As a student of occupational therapy, I've embarked on a fulfilling journey, now extending my passion to DSCNWA as a proud first-year board member. My journey began with a year of volunteering, culminating in the honor of contributing to the organization's mission. Describing myself in a nutshell, I am service-oriented, passionately spontaneous, and, according to friends, the "crazy" one at gatherings. Fun Facts: I've taken a leap of faith with an open-air jump from the Las Vegas Stratosphere at 829 feet and even navigated the skies by flying an airplane. Looking forward to making a positive impact at DSCNWA.

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Jessica Nieves
Family Support/Spanish Speaking Liason

Greetings! I'm Jessica Nieves, proudly from Rogers, Arkansas, and my birthday falls on September 13th. My world is beautifully chaotic with my husband Ricardo and our wonderful children: Idaly, Michelle, Sofia, and Mary. To complete the picture, we have a furry friend named Bruno. In the realm of favorites, black is the color that speaks to me, and Asian cuisine is my go-to comfort food. Anything penned by Nicholas Sparks finds a place on my reading list, and when I'm not engrossed in his novels, you'll find me baking up a storm. Grupo Frontera sets the tone for my musical preferences. Since February of 2023, I've had the honor of serving on the board, and some proud moments include contributing to the success of the 2023 Step Up Walk and ensuring a delightful spread of food for the event. Describing myself in a nutshell, I'm known to be nice, funny, and efficient. Beyond board responsibilities, I revel in the joy of being a mom, thrive in the midst of chaos, and insist on having music as my constant companion. Looking forward to more moments of laughter and impact within the DSCNWA community!

Danielle Pezely
New Parents/Family Support

Hello there! I'm Danielle Pezely, proudly from Kaysville, Utah, and celebrating my birthday on March 19th. My heart is full with my husband Brandon and our amazing children: Isabelle (10), Bradley (8), Caden (5), and Jordan (1.5). In the realm of favorite things, the hues of blue and green catch my eye, and I have a soft spot for ice cream, bread, and potatoes. While my reading time has been occupied by life's adventures, I find solace in gardening and the soulful tunes of Rascal Flatts. Entering my 7th year as a board member, I've found pride in significant milestones, from hiring our first employee to helping shape our memorable Step Up walks. Connecting with new and expectant parents sooner has been a rewarding part of this journey. Adventurous, supportive, and resourceful describe my approach to life. When not immersing myself in board responsibilities, my family and I are on a culinary adventure or exploring bike trails in NWA. And, yes, I absolutely love all things Christmas. Looking forward to more adventures and connections in the wonderful world of DSCNWA!

Maggie Washington
Fundraising

Greetings! I'm Maggie Washington, proud to call Hot Springs, Arkansas, my hometown. Born on May 30th, my heart is full with my husband Joe, my wonderful parents Laurie and Bill, and my brother Trent Timmons. Our family is complete with our furry companions Rudy and Duke, who celebrate birthdays on March 10th and April 21st, respectively. Black is the color that resonates with me, and Mexican cuisine is my culinary delight. When it comes to reading, I'm drawn to the worlds of romance and mystery. Beyond the pages, my interests include weight lifting, and the tunes of Kelsea Ballerini are the soundtrack to my workouts. In the academic realm, English captures my fascination. As a first-year board member at DSCNWA, I find immense pride in collaborating with a dedicated team. Compassion, loyalty, and empathy guide my interactions both on and off the board. A fun fact about me: my older brother Trent, who has Down syndrome, inspired my journey to become a special education teacher. His influence has shaped my commitment to making a positive impact, and I look forward to contributing to the DSCNWA community.

Jennifer Sims Marketing

Hello everyone! I'm Jennifer Sims, originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and celebrating my birthday on February 22th. My family brings me endless joy with my husband Brad and our fantastic trio: Will, Vivi, and the delightfully named Bear. Our canine companions, Frank and Murray, share our home, and we celebrate their birthdays together on April 1st. In the realm of favorites, purple is my go-to color, and sushi is my ultimate culinary delight. I'm a sucker for sappy and romance novels, and in my downtime, you'll find me sweating it out with my early morning workout group. Music speaks to my soul, and I can't pick a favorite band—there are just too many to love. As for subjects, food is a delightful fascination. Embarking on my first year on the board, I'm proud to have contributed to the success of the 2023 Step Up Walk. Describing myself, I'm known to be positive, goofy, and loving. Fun facts about me include having a twin sister, enduring a long-distance relationship with my husband before marriage, and previously finding fulfillment in philanthropy with the Alzheimer's Association. Excited to be part of the Down Syndrome Connection of Northwest Arkansas community!

Our board represents a cross-section of our community and have a passion for our organization and those we serve. The members work hard to ensure long-term sustainability of the organization and oversee that the funds raised directly serve our mission.
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