Board of Directors
Claudia Richarte- Board President
Claudia S. Richarte is a Senior Academic Advisor at the Matador Advising Hub. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Child Development and Psychology in 2000 and a Chicana/o Studies degree in 2009. Claudia further pursued her passion for learning by successfully obtaining her Master of Arts in Educational Administration with an emphasis in Higher Education in 2014 from California State University, Northridge (CSUN).
Claudia has always felt a passion for service in the Down Syndrome community, having a nephew and three cousins with Down Syndrome. The focus of her work within this community emphasizes independent living, self-help skills, and personal empowerment. Claudia is dedicated to advocating for those who may not be able to advocate for themselves and helping them to find their voice. Through her work, Claudia strives to educate others, break stereotypes, and eliminate negative stigmas associated with Down Syndrome. She is humbled and grateful for the opportunity to raise awareness of the Down Syndrome community as a member of the DSALA Board.
Yesenia Holwager- Vice President
Yesenia is a native of Los Angeles County and is a retired Deputy Sheriff. Her years in public service include 16 years as a civilian employee for the Santa Monica Police Department and 15 years as a Deputy Sheriff for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. She took pride in serving her community for 31+ years and enjoys her involvement with DSALA. She loves being an advocate for her big brother with Down Syndrome, Buddy. They spend a lot of time together creating Down Syndrome awareness by sharing his smile and laughter on social media. She’s honored to be selected as Vice President for DSALA and looks forward to advocating with DSALA and making a difference in the Down Syndrome community.
Wayne Geffen- Chief Financial Officer
Wayne Geffen began his career in accounting for corporate entities as an Accounting Manager and Senior Accountant. In 1984 he became Vice President and Controller for a multi-unit retailer. Wayne has held Vice President and Controller positions since 1984. In 2010 Wayne started his Consulting Firm, assisting existing and start-up businesses by providing strategic financial and operation guidance. In 2012, Wayne was hired as Vice President of Finance for a large international grocery company chain with several high-volume stores in Los Angeles.
Melanie Dow- Board Secretary
Melanie Dow is a professional copy editor and has served in the publishing industry for over five years. She also has experience in marketing, mainly focusing on blogging and social media platforms, which she brings to DSALA.
Melanie spent more than two years working as a nanny to a toddler with Down Syndrome and has since been an advocate for those with Down Syndrome. She joins DSALA with her skills in marketing, social media, and blogging in hopes of helping the organization’s online presence
Sam is an Appeals Specialist in the Healthcare industry. She received her bachelor's degree in psychology from Chapman University with a focus on Child Development. She began working with children with Down syndrome and Autism when she was in Junior High school and continued to do so after becoming a Pre School teacher. She is excited to join the board and be an ambassador for the Down syndrome community!
Lisa Marie Maturkanic
Lisa Marie Maturkanic has over 15 years of experience in the environmental consulting industry, where she has served in multiple capacities in administrative, operational, and financial functions. She graduated in 2013 with a B.A. in Economics from CSU Channel Islands, close to her home, where she raised four small children. Ms. Maturkanic’s volunteer experience includes serving as Committee Chair for the Boy Scouts of America, as a Parent Representative for School Site Council (SSC) for a local elementary school, as well as being the liaison for the school’s first-ever FIRST Lego League participation, an effort to focus broaden children’s exposure to STEM activities. Ms. Maturkanic is pleased to join DSALA in their efforts to support local families and raise awareness about Down syndrome, having grown up with a close family friend who had a daughter, Linda, with Down Syndrome. Linda taught Lisa the virtues of acceptance, patience and understanding, love, and even how to pick out a boyfriend! But most of all, Linda taught a young Ms. Maturkanic the importance of remaining positive, which has served Ms. Maturkanic well in her life. Linda passed away a few years ago, and Ms. Maturkanic dedicates her service in her honor.
Raised in Agoura Hills, Ranjani Reyes is a graduate of Agoura High School class of 2014 and Miller Transition Center. Upon graduating, she worked in retail for the Macy’s Department Store before deciding to pursue a career in acting with The Performing Arts Studio West, Born to Act Players, and the Triple Threat Program at The Miracle Project. Ranjani loves performing comedy, dance, writing, and singing. She has appeared in #NotSpecialNeedsPSA, The Politician, Atypical, Speechless, Jubilee, and the 48 hr film festival ‘Get Over Her Day.’ In her free time, Ranjani loves to volunteer and help other up-and-coming actors.
Jordan Nichole Wall
Jordan is a student at LA Harbor College and a working actress. She has been on shows like The Politician and Stumptown and in commercials for Comcast, Google TV, Instagram, FabFitFun, and Goodr. She is a Special Olympics athlete and has been a Special Olympics Global Messenger since 2016. She competes in swimming, bowling, tennis, and cheerleading and aspires to be on American Ninja Warrior. Jordan’s hobbies include singing, dancing (ballet, hula, hip hop, and tap), horseback riding, boogie boarding, painting, and playing the piano, guitar, ukulele, and tambourine. Jordan wants to help people with Down syndrome of all ages to chase their dreams.
Fanfan Wang is a film director, producer, and life coach. She earned her master's degree in filmmaking and was selected as a visiting scholar at USC. Fanfan has 16 years of international film co-production experience. She has four years of life coaching experience. Her feature film, Beijing Carmen, won numerous international awards. She was involved in the Award-nominated film Mongol and Mao's Last Dancer. Also, her documentary film, Taste Of Body, won multiple international awards.
Fanfan's multifaceted career includes being a consultant for HBO and various Foreign Embassies in China. She is on the committee of the China Children's Film Association and a member of the China Film Producers Association. Her son, who has Down Syndrome, empowered her to become a life coach and an advocate and created You Are Awesome, Inc. Fanfan looks forward to bringing creative energy with DSALA into the DS community and furthering the awareness of Down syndrome to the public.
Tom Von Der Ahe, Jr.
Stephanny Freeman, Ph.D.
Theodore Feit, M.D.
Marlyse de Laat