Staff & Board of Advisors

Meet The People Behind The Center

Philosophy

As a New York State Licensed Business School and a 501(c)(3) charity with a mission of self-sufficiency for both persons with and without mental and physical disabilities, we believe acquiring job skills that employers want is critical to getting and keeping a good job.

To insure our students and instructors are aligned with the evolving job skill demands of the marketplace, the Center is fortunate to have parents, providers, educators and talented Corporate leaders to guide us.

It is with great pride that we introduce you to the Center’s Team ––

Don Fitch – Executive Director

Don Fitch – Founder, Executive Director

Don earned his B.A. in Psychology from N.Y.U.’s College of Arts and

Science, and a Masters in Mental Health Counseling from Long Island University. He interned at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Westchester. He founded the Center for Career Freedom in 1998. Don has over 25 years of experience in training persons with psychiatric, intellectual and physical disabilities in Microsoft Office Skills, Vocational and Government Benefits Counseling, and supported employment.

Don also has 20 years of experience in the for-profit sector as a Marketing Consultant for such companies as IBM, Toyota, General Motors, Colgate-Palmolive, KFC, J Walter Thompson, BBDO, and the Pepsi-Cola Company. He is a member of the Board of Mental Health News and Autism Spectrum News. Don is a Vietnam era Veteran, a father of three sons and a grandfather of seven granddaughters.

Ira Minot – Board Member

Ira Minot – Chairman of the Board

Ira Minot, LMSW, a survivor of mental illness, founded Mental Health News (now Behavioral Health News) in 1999. His 10-year life and death battle with depression left him homeless, and destitute. His son David grew up in the shadow of his father’s illness and witnessed firsthand how an illness and the stigma attached to it can bring even the strongest person to their knees. With the support of many dedicated leaders of the behavioral health community, Behavioral Health News, is the nation’s leading provider of evidence-based community mental health education. Ira is Chairman of the Board at the Center.

David Minot – Board Member

David Minot – Autism Spectrum Disorders Advisor

David joined his father in 2007 to launch Autism Spectrum News. Both Mental Health News and Autism Spectrum News are hardcopy quarterly newspapers that reach over 160,000 consumers, families, treatment professionals, service providers, educators, and decision makers across the country. To learn more go to Mental Health News or Autism Spectrum News.

Dr. Don Marinaro – Special Needs Education Advisor

Dr. Don Marinaro – Special Needs Education Advisor

Dr. Don has over 35 years experience in the development, implementation and operations of Special Education Programs in the Newark, New Jersey and New York City Public School Systems. His most recent position was the Executive Director -Special Education for the Newark Public Schools where he was responsible for 7,200 students, ages 3-21, diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum, medically fragile and behaviorally challenged.

With a staff of over 1,200 employees in 35 schools, Don pioneered initiatives in model educational programs including professional development partnerships with local universities, parent education and parent volunteer academies and inclusive work-study transitional programs. He increased attendance and reduced suspension rates by over 75% and, increased graduation rates by 200%. He is an Adjunct Lecturer at Fordham’s Graduate School of Education and a consultant helping to launch a charter school for students on the Autism Spectrum in New Jersey. Don earned a Doctorate Degree in Education, a Masters in Special Education and holds NYS and New Jersey certification in Administration and Teaching. Don oversees the Cybility Tutorial development, field-testing and implementation.

James Brignoli – Master Instructor

James Brignoli – Master Instructor

James is one of only a few NYS ED Licensed Instructors who has attained Microsoft Expert Certification in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access. He is developing an Adobe Dreamweaver Website Certificate Course to be offered in late 2015. James received a B.A. in Biology from SUNY Purchase where he also completed courses in computer programming, Networking and HTML. He is an intermediate level computer programmer, fluent in CSS, JavaScript and Website Development.

Ethel Caruso –Treasurer

Ethel Caruso –Treasurer

Ethel earned her Bachelor of Science in Management and Accounting.

She came to the U.S. from the Philippines six years ago and started her own successful accounting firm specializing in small business payroll, bookkeeping and tax returns. She has donated her financial skills to develop QuickBooks to teach the essentials of payroll, billing and data entry tasks to our interns using QuickBooks Pro. Ethel also teaches Sunday School to children.

Christopher Fitch – Corporate Advisor

Christopher Fitch – Corporate Advisor

Chris has over 20 years of industry and consulting experience in the US and Europe delivering Business and Operations Strategy and large scale Transformation with IBM, Accenture, Wyeth (Pfizer), Novo Nordisk, Maersk and LEGO. With IBM, Chris recently led an M&A area to deliver $20B in acquisitions and is currently leading global strategy and transformation initiatives. In addition to graduate legal studies at University of Copenhagen, Chris holds a BA in Philosophy from Fordham, MA in Political Science from Rockefeller College, SUNY Albany, and an MBA from Oxford University. (It was Chris who coined the term “Cybility” (Cyber + Ability) to describe our student’s extraordinary talents for learning and communicating via the Computer/Skype).

Thomas Fitch – Technical Advisor

Thomas Fitch – Board Member, Technical Advisor

Thomas, a life-long friend of the Center for Career Freedom, helped launch our Microsoft Office Training Program in 1998 when he headed up the College Boards’ IT Department. He convinced them to donate ten personal computers and then set-up our three websites: freecenter.org, eonomicsofrecovery.org and cybility.org. Thomas now heads up the IT Department of a major Pharmaceutical Company.

Sondra Borek - Board Member

Sondra Borek - Board Member

Sondra attended Queens College and was employed as an Office Manager for many years for a leading communications company. After raising her three children, she re-entered the workforce as a peer counselor at the Rockland Psychiatric Inpatient Unit and at the White Plains Health Center ER. Sondra has received many honors for her philanthropy, and is a talented artist and has won several awards.

Catherine Palma – Instructor and Drop-In Supervisor

Catherine Palma – Instructor and Drop-In Supervisor

Catherine is a NYS ED, BPSS Licensed Instructor with over ten years experience teaching Computer Job Skills to persons with learning and other disabilities. She holds certificates in QuickBooks, Microsoft Office, as a Nurse’s Assistant and Peer Support Specialist. She earned her BS in Information Sciences at SUNY Westbury-Westchester, and is studying Accounting at Westchester Community College night school.