Staff & Board of Directors

Staff

Amy Navejas
Executive Director
Amy Navejas, a North Carolina native with a decade of nonprofit leadership experience, has had many accomplishments over the years with her work at United Way of Cumberland County as well as Better Health, an agency that worked to address unmet healthcare needs. Some of Navejas’ past successes include: stabilizing the annual giving campaign; obtaining grants to update outdated technology and safety needs; transforming a $21 million trust into a digital process; launching new and successful fundraising events; and improving program integrity and outcomes.

Navejas graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and Psychology. She earned her Juris Doctorate (JD) degree from the Norman A. Wiggins School of Law at Campbell University. She has prior experience in nonprofit management, case management, outreach, community events, human resources and professional development. Navejas has also been an active board member for several local nonprofits.

“I am thrilled to join the North Carolina Down Syndrome Alliance in supporting families and individuals in our community. As a mother of three, I am a strong advocate of seeing all children reach their full potential and celebrating their unique talents and traits. Together, we can continue to educate our community and improve inclusion and support,” says Executive Director Amy Navejas.

Dawn DeSoto
Assistant Director
Dawn DeSoto was raised in a family that has supported her to develop her own idea and embrace her creative mind. She started volunteering and fundraising at an early age has always felt the need to give back to the community.

Her ability to conceptualize, plan, and oversee execution of events provides a thorough and precise service as an event planner. Dawn has volunteered as the event coordinator for her local community center. She also gives back as the soccer director for a local soccer league. With creativity and commitment to excellence Dawn DeSoto designs and executes events that will be memorable for both the participants and the organization.

Dawn and her children live in Clayton, NC with their two dogs. She loves coaching youth sports and attending crossfit. Getting away to the mountains for a long hike is her favorite down time.

“There can be no greater gift than that of giving one’s time and energy to help others without expecting anything in return”- Nelson Mandela

Liza Narducci
Operations Coordinator
Liza Narducci’s connections to the IDD, and specifically Down syndrome, communities have been life-long, stemming from childhood friendships and carrying on through volunteer experiences and previous occupations. With bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education, Liza spent the first 13 years of her career as a middle school educator, witnessing the power of inclusive school settings first-hand and honing her skills in controlling chaos. In 2018, she welcomed a son with a birth diagnosis of Down syndrome. His arrival proved to be a pivotal moment, causing Liza to realign her career and life goals. She became a Supports Broker, working with adults with IDD to navigate their self-directed services through the Medicaid Waiver program. Liza thrives working behind the scenes and enjoys bringing sense and order to complex situations. She is thrilled to now bring her unique skill set and passion to her role as Operations Coordinator for the North Carolina Down Syndrome Alliance.

Originally from rural New Jersey, Liza relocated to North Carolina in 2022. Connecting with the NCDSA had an incredibly positive impact on helping her family to settle into their new area. After volunteering in the NCDSA office, she is excited to embark on a career transition and officially join the NCDSA team. Liza enjoys reading, spending quality time with her family and friends, admiring old homes, exploring outside, and passionately cheering on the New Jersey Devils.

BetsyJohn Lane
Family Support Specialist
Hi NCDSA Community, I am BetsyJohn Lane. It’s so exciting to join the NCDSA family, as the Family Support Specialist. As a mother of 3, with my middle daughter having Down syndrome, the NCDSA is near to our hearts and is a vital part of our support system. It is a joy to give back and serve a community that has supported our family over the last 6 years!! 🙂

I am a NC girl born and raised, and met my best half in college at ECU (Go Pirates)! We have lived in the Knightdale area since 2008. As a former K-6 educator and Instructional coach right here in Wake County, I have always believed high quality education is a right for all students! It is a passion of mine that we strive to create and sustain communities that provide equity and access for ALL! My personal and professional experience make me eager to get to work serving and supporting the families of the NCDSA. I look forward to building connections and relationships with our amazing families, partners, stakeholders, and friends!

I LOVE spending quality time with my amazing family, I call it my beautiful mayhem 😉 Whether it be making crafts, going on bike rides, cooking delicious meals together, trips to the beach or mountains, or just a good ole dance party in the kitchen, with them is my favorite place to be!

Emma Wissink

Family Support Assistant

Meet Emma Wissink, a dedicated individual who wears many hats in both her professional and personal life. Originally from the enchanting city of Amsterdam, Netherlands, Emma now calls Cary, North Carolina, her home, where she balances two remarkable roles.

In her role as a Family Support Assistant with the North Carolina Down Syndrome Alliance, Emma extends a helping hand to new and expectant families. Her responsibilities include preparing Welcome baby bags, prenatal packets, and collaborating closely with the Family Support Specialist to ensure the best care for families. She also contributes to the planning of T-21 club events, creating inclusive spaces for families in the community. Furthermore, Emma plays a key role in maintaining the donor database, supporting the organization’s mission to make a meaningful impact.

But that’s not all—Emma’s talents don’t stop there. She also serves as the Head Barista at the Durham location of 321 Coffee, where she crafts exquisite coffee experiences for customers, perfecting each cup with her expertise and dedication.

Emma’s educational journey led her to Wake Technical Community College, where she gained valuable knowledge and skills that she now applies in her roles.

Outside of her professional life, Emma finds joy in a vibrant array of hobbies and interests. She’s a fervent lover of live concerts, soaking up the sounds and energy of the music scene. Emma also relishes the company of friends, always ready to create cherished memories and share laughter. On the tennis court, she brings her competitive spirit to life, showing her prowess in both the world of sport and the world of coffee.

Emma Wissink is a dynamic individual, enriching the lives of the families she supports and the coffee community she serves, all while embracing the richness of life’s diverse experiences.

Alyssa Jacobs
Marketing & Social Media Coordinator
Alyssa Jacobs welcomed her son with Down syndrome in January 2022. The support her family received from the Down Syndrome Awareness Group (DSAG) of Baton Rouge (from their prenatal diagnosis, to the birth of their son, to their move to North Carolina) paved the way for Alyssa’s passion to be involved with Down syndrome awareness and support. Upon moving to North Carolina shortly after the birth of her son, Alyssa was welcomed by NCDSA with open arms! After attending a New Parents Support meeting, she knew she wanted to get involved and is thrilled with the transition from volunteer to staff.

With a bachelor’s degree in strategic communication and master’s degree in higher education administrative leadership, Alyssa has experience in marketing and higher education student affairs. Serving as the communication specialist aligns her passion for contention creation, education, and advocacy for a community she is thrilled to be a part of!

Originally from Wisconsin, Alyssa and her husband live in Mebane, NC in their red door house (as her toddler has named it) with their 2 children and 2 dogs. She enjoys reading, staying active, and traveling (the most recent adventure being a Grand Canyon rafting trip). She is a new, but proud, Duke football fan and can be found cheering on the team during home games!

Board of Directors

Jeff Lineberry
President
Jeff is a North Carolina native, growing up in Raleigh. A graduate of UNCW, Jeff earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. Jeff has served in various marketing roles from Marketing Manager to Director of Marketing for a number of companies before starting his own company, Lineberry Marketing Consultants, LLC, in 2009. Jeff is looking forward to using his marketing experience to help increase the visibility and development efforts of the NCDSA.

Jeff and his wife, Lizzy, are the proud parents of three beautiful children; Adelaide, Graydon, and Hanna.

Jeff and Lizzy were introduced to the world of Down syndrome when they received a prenatal diagnosis at 12 weeks with Hanna. Hanna was born in 2018 and after some early health challenges, including open heart surgery, Jeff has an appreciation and understanding of what many new parents go through in those early years. Jeff wants to help improve the quality of life of those with Down syndrome and their families and is a passionate supporter of full inclusion and equal rights for those with disabilities.

Jeff regularly attends and volunteers at his church, serves as a leader in Adelaide’s Y Guides crew and has coached Graydons’ Tball teams. In his free time he enjoys gardening, wood carving, hunting and fishing as well as spending time with friends and family.

Anthony “Tony” Nicholson
Vice President
Tony is a member of the firm of McPherson, Rocamora, Nicholson, Wilson & Hinkle, PLLC in Durham. He graduated from the University of North Carolina School of Law in 1998 and has practiced in the Durham-Chapel Hill area since then. He focuses his practice on estate planning and special needs law, as well as the related areas of elder law and public benefits planning. Tony is a Board Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Probate Law and Elder Law by the North Carolina State Board of Legal Specialization, as well as a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) by the National Elder Law Foundation.

Tony is a member of many committees and organizations related to estate planning, elder law and special needs law including the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and the North Carolina Bar Association (Sections on Estate Planning and Fiduciary Law, and Elder & Special Needs Law). Tony is a past president of Chapel Hill and Durham Elder Care Resources, and he is active on the Section Council of the Elder & Special Needs Law Section of the North Carolina Bar Association. In addition, Tony is a member of the Durham Orange Estate Planning Council.

On the weekends, Tony enjoys cycling, boating and fishing, and supporting the local restaurant scene with his wife and son.

Adam Cato
Treasurer
Adam has been in the financial services industry since 2001 and is currently a Team Lead for Southern First Bank in Raleigh. He is a graduate of Augusta University with a degree in History. Adam serves as President of the North Raleigh Exchange Club, and as a board member for the Fellowship Home of Raleigh. Adam is passionate about supporting those with Down syndrome and their families.

He and his wife Kelsie have 3 children. Adam enjoys coaching his children’s sports teams, playing basketball, and going to the movies.

Matt Cooper
Secretary
I’m Matt Cooper, a product manager in the software industry. I’ve spent most of my career building tools for software developers at Microsoft and GitHub. More importantly, I’m the proud husband of Christy and dad of Tierney and Kellan. Kellan’s diagnosis of Down syndrome arrived several months before he did, which gave us plenty of time to freak out before finding our way back to joy. With the help of the resources and friends at NCDSA, not to mention watching Tierney forge such a strong, unconditional bond with her little brother, Kellan’s future is bright and his potential is unbounded.

Outside of work, you might find me playing Minecraft with the kids, trying out new beers across the Triangle, or listening to history, architecture, game design, and economics podcasts.

Diane Cavanagh
Board Member
Dr. Diane Cavanagh retired to Hampstead with her husband Kevin after a 40 year career in special education. She began her career as a self contained classroom teacher of young children with Down syndrome, forging a longtime relationship with the Ds community. She continued teaching in the public schools until earning her doctorate at Columbia University. In 1991, she began her tenure as a professor in the Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania. As a university professor, Diane shared her passion for working with children and families with Down syndrome by mentoring future teachers and focusing her research and service in this area.

Diane brings a wealth of experience to the NCDSA board. She has served on several boards that included: Catholic Charities Department for Persons with Disabilities; Pocono Parents of Down Syndrome; and, Equi-Librium Therapeutic Horsemanship. She also served on and chaired committees dealing with advocacy issues for individuals with disabilities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. She was President of the New Jersey Chapter of Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) , as well as faculty advisor to the university CEC student chapter. She co-chaired many Buddy Walks and was the faculty liaison for Special Olympics Pennsylvania. Diane has presented at many national, state and local conferences, sharing her expertise in working with individuals and families with Down syndrome, as well as other research initiatives that focused on inclusion and collaboration.

Since retiring to the beautiful coastal community of Hampstead, Diane remains a strong advocate for the disability community. She shares her passion by volunteering as a local coordinator and bocce coach with the North Carolina Special Olympics. She is also a member of the Retired Seniors Volunteer Corps, the founder and facilitator for the Kiwanis Aktion Club and a volunteer at Camp Victory Junction. Her personal interests include traveling with her husband, being an active member of her church, training for and racing in sprint triathlons, quilting, and working as a therapy dog handler with her black lab Murphy.

Dr. Jason Ho
Board Member
Jason Ho is originally from Kinston, NC. He graduated from North Carolina State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry and a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry. He then received his medical degree from East Carolina University School of Medicine and completed his pediatric residency there. He went on to complete a pediatric cardiology fellowship at Indiana University and a pediatric electrophysiology fellowship at Vanderbilt University.

He then worked at the University of Florida College of Medicine for six years prior to returning to Raleigh and joining WakeMed Physician Practices. As a pediatric cardiologist, he has followed a number of patients with Down syndrome.

Jason and his wife, Melissa, have five children, including his oldest who was born with Down syndrome.

Kate Westmoreland, MD
Board Member
I am Kate Westmoreland, a NC native from Winston-Salem and went to both undergraduate and medical school at Wake Forest University. After becoming a pediatrician, I moved to Africa, to care for children, teach, and conduct research. After completing training in pediatric hematology oncology at UNC, I joined faculty at UNC and returned to Africa. I am a NIH-funded clinician scientist with a research focus on chemotherapy toxicity and incorporating patient reported outcome tools to improve symptom management and quality of life of her patients with Burkitt lymphoma in Malawi Africa.

In 2022, after nearly a decade in Africa, I moved back to Chapel Hill, NC with my husband, Rodrigo, and daughter, Amara, to welcome our baby girl. Izabel has Down syndrome and had open heart surgery when she was 3 months old. Izabel fills our family and all of those around her with endless love and happiness and we are honored to be a part of the lucky few.

I am thrilled to be on NCDSA board! I am passionate about improving our medical system for children with Down syndrome and a fierce advocate to improve things on a local, state, and national level. In my career, I am expanding my research to now also focus on children with Down syndrome undergoing treatment for leukemia. I enjoy running, yoga, traveling, and most of all spending time with my family.

Santo Caivano
Board Member
Originally from Westchester, NY, while completing school at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, Santo fell in love with the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area and has called it home for almost thirty years. Santo has been involved in the community his entire life as his amazing younger brother has Down syndrome and drives Santo to be the best he can be in helping others.

Santo has over 25 years of technology and leadership experience and currently leads a team at Cisco Systems. Prior to Cisco, he worked for IBM, but spent much of his career building startup teams and companies, one of which sold to Cisco in 2011.

Santo, his wife, two daughters, and their red Labrador retriever live in Raleigh and enjoy spending time with friends and family, as well as giving back to their communities through several great causes including Rise Against Hunger, Military Missions in Action, The V Foundation for Cancer Research, and the CMT Association.

Beth Cosgrove
Board Member
Hi, I’m Beth Cosgrove! I’m originally from Arlington, VA but now happy to call the Triangle home. I always knew I wanted to work with children and families. I started my career as a pediatric nurse and a pediatric nurse practitioner working in primary care in Washington, DC for the Children’s National Health Network. However, after encountering the many roadblocks’ families face to establish health care for a child with special health care needs, I returned to school to complete my doctoral studies focusing on the care coordination for families of children with Down syndrome. I was excited for the opportunity to stay at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as assistant professor teaching pediatric nursing. I continue to focus my research on supporting families of children with Down syndrome and empowering parents with regards to health care management. I love being an advocate and supporter of the Down syndrome community, serving on the First Call and Medical Outreach Committees as part of NCDSA, and for the opportunity to serve on the Board of Directors. I live in Durham with my husband and pups and have recently welcomed my parents to Durham as well.
Vicki Wrigley
Board Member
Originally from Scotland in the UK, Vicki moved to North Carolina in 2016 and now calls it home. Vicki is a proud public school teacher and has worked for WCPSS since moving here. As a teacher, Vicki understands the importance of providing all children the support and tools they require in order to become successful learners and the best versions of themselves.

Vicki and her husband Josh, welcomed their first child in January of 2022, a son named Jamie. His diagnosis of Down syndrome was a surprise, but a very happy one! Soon after Jamie’s birth, Vicki found connection with other families and the Down syndrome community thanks to the NCDSA. Jamie is a rockstar, and at only 2 years old, has fought and beaten cancer. Having a child go through such intensive treatment has given Vicki a good insight into some of the medical challenges our community can face.

Vicki is a fierce advocate for her son, her students, and all members of our amazing Down syndrome community. She is passionate about serving as an NCDSA Board Member and is excited to be a part of growing and strengthening this wonderful organization.

Noel Marshall
Board Member
Residing in Raleigh, NC with his three sons, Noel balances his professional responsibilities with a fulfilling family life. He also has a special bond with his brother Shaun who was born in 1992 with Down syndrome. Shaun has infused Noel’s life with empathy and a deep understanding of diverse perspectives of the Down syndrome community.

Noel has built a notable career in criminal justice. A graduate from John Jay College in New York with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, Noel currently serves as a Criminal Systems Officer at the Federal Correctional Complex in Butner, NC, a role in which he ensures the integrity and security of the criminal justice system.

In addition to his career, Noel is dedicated to community service. He is actively involved in mentoring programs for youth in Raleigh, reflecting his belief in the power of positive influence and the importance of nurturing future generations. This commitment to mentorship demonstrates his dedication to making a meaningful impact beyond his professional duties.

He is looking forward to deepening his roots in Down syndrome community and is looking forward to his journey with the NCDSA.

Heather Harrell
Board Member
I’m Heather Harrell, a proud North Carolina native that grew up in Holly Springs and now resides in Garner with my family.

My husband John and I, along with our older two children, Gabe and Reese, joyously welcomed Ellie into our lives in February 2023. Our journey with Ellie began with a prenatal diagnosis, leading us to the incredible support of NCDSA. As Ellie underwent open-heart surgery at just 5 months old, the NCDSA community enveloped us with compassion and assistance. It became clear that NCDSA wasn’t just an organization; it became our extended family.

Becoming a stay-at-home mom after Ellie’s birth has allowed me to provide her with the utmost support. Every day, my mission is to advocate for individuals with Down Syndrome and educate others on how beautiful a life with Down syndrome is.

I’m thrilled to be part of the Board of Directors, contributing to NCDSA’s mission of advocacy and support, just as they’ve supported us.

Tara Moore
Past President Advisory Board Member
Tara received her Masters in Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her undergraduate from Appalachian State University. She has dedicated her life to serving people with intellectual disabilities and has a passion for ensuring that everyone is living the most inclusive and fulfilling life.

Tara is a returning member to the board directors and looks forward to helping NCDSA advocate, serve, and support children and adults with Down syndrome and their families.