About the Board of Directors
DRNC’s Board of Directors is a diverse group of individuals who are passionate about the rights of people with disabilities. All or most of our Board members are disabled or have a family member with a disability. The DRNC Board of Directors seeks to reflect the ethnic, racial, geographic, socioeconomic and disability diversity of North Carolina.
Selection of Board members is based on current diversity and skills needed, as well as knowledge, connection and commitment to advancing the human and legal rights of people with disabilities. Apply to serve on our Board (also available en español).
DRNC Board Members
James Booker (Piedmont Region)
James Booker is originally from West Virginia and graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan College. He moved to North Carolina a little more than a decade ago. His work in the field of disabilities began when he worked as a counselor at a summer camp for children with disabilities. After graduating, he became a teacher’s assistant in public separate schools, working primarily with children with profound medical needs. He has since become a clinical supervisor to a direct care provider, and he has served on the Deaf-Blind Advisory Council. He and his wife have spent the last several years as foster parents to children with disabilities. The biggest influence in James’ life is his son, who he adopted at the age of three. His son suffered a TBI as a result of Shaken-Baby Syndrome and is deaf and blind. Not a day goes by that James doesn’t learn something new from his son, and he will do anything to make his life just a little easier.
Dr. Crystal Bowe (Mountain Region)
Crystal is a family physician from Ahoskie, NC. She attended North Carolina A&T University for her undergraduate studies, University of North Carolina – Greensboro for graduate studies in romance languages, and East Carolina University for medical school and residency. Prior to becoming a physician, she was a teacher in the Greensboro area. Crystal’s interest in disability rights stems from her experiences caring for her aunt and uncle, who both have intellectual and developmental disabilities. She is a strong advocate for her patients (young and old) and works to help them achieve the goal of full inclusion and independence in life.
Adebola Desalu (Central Region)
Bola relocated to Raleigh from the northeastern part of the United States for a management position with Sprint’s RelayNC program, a service that facilitates telephone calls for people with hearing impairments. She travels the state and has heard many frustrating tales of discrimination against deaf people. Bola, who has a hearing impairment, has volunteered with national and state organizations serving people who are deaf. Upon learning about Disability Rights NC, she felt a connection to its cross-disability mission as a way to put critical mass behind issues of civil rights, advocacy/law enforcement, and policy development. She has degrees in PR and social work, using the latter in an earlier career counseling people with mental illness.
Tina Dicke (Eastern Region)
Tina is a North Carolina native and currently resides in Hope Mills. She has worked at Legal Aid of NC for more than two decades. As a litigation paralegal, she assists eligible clients in the areas of disability and public benefits. In addition, as a certified Navigator, she provides consumers with enrollment and post-enrollment assistance regarding affordable healthcare matters. Tina also served as a judge and chief judge on the Administrative Court of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina and later served as a justice on the tribe’s Supreme Court. Tina understands the needs of persons with disabilities on a personal level as she has survived cancer on two separate occasions and also manages a rare lung condition. She is a true advocate for ensuring equal justice for all and is extremely excited to serve on the Board of Disability Rights NC.
Bryan Dooley, Chairperson (Piedmont Region)
While earning a degree in history at Guilford College, Bryan won numerous leadership awards and scholarships, wrote for The Guardian newspaper, and worked as a diversity coordinator. Bryan is now a journalist and columnist with Camel City Dispatch and a board member at The Adaptables Center for Independent Living in Winston-Salem. Bryan, who has cerebral palsy, is an advocate for people with disabilities. He began advocating from a young age, earning state and national awards by high school, including the Yes I Can award in assistive technology from the Council for Exceptional Children and the Matthew Graziadei Achievement Award. He participated in the Youth Leadership Forum and numerous youth groups, including the National Youth Leadership Network and the American Association of People with Disabilities. He completed the NC Council on Developmental Disabilities Partners in Policymaking program in 2014 and actively participates in the Advancing Strong Leadership in Development Disability Initiative, NC Post-Secondary Education Alliance, Community Emergency Response Team, and the Centerpoint Consumer and Family Advisory Committee.
Victoria Ekstrand (Central Region)
Victoria (Tori) is an assistant professor in the School of Media and Journalism at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, where she teaches media law and researches web accessibility for people with disabilities as a First Amendment issue. She spent ten years teaching at Bowling Green State University in Ohio after receiving her Ph.D. from UNC in 2003. Before that, she worked for The Associated Press in New York for nearly a decade; her last position there was as director of Corporate Communications. Tori has students, colleagues, friends, and family members with various physical and mental health disabilities. She shuns “inspiration porn” in media stories about people with disabilities and firmly believes that disability law and policy must be crafted with and by those it affects: “Nothing About Us Without Us.”
Hoppy joined DRNC’s Board in March of 2019. He has previously served the ACLU of North Carolina on the board and as president and general counsel, and has served on the Human Relations Commission in Winston-Salem, including a year as Chair. Hoppy has been practicing law for 40 years, with his primary practice focusing on civil litigation in employment law, disability (LTD) claims, civil rights work, personal injury claims, and commercial and business issues. He currently resides in Forsyth County, and has received multiple awards for his work, including Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year in North Carolina by the North Carolina Bar Association, and the Frank Porter Graham Award by the ACLU of North Carolina for 2011 for longstanding and significant contributions to the fight for individual freedom and civil liberties in North Carolina. Hoppy also joined with two other lawyers to represent Guantanamo detainees. Hoppy is proud to support DRNC’s excellent and critically important legal work.
Itnuit Janovitz Freireich, Treasurer (Central Region)
Itnuit was born in Mexico and grew up living in both Mexico and France. She graduated from North Carolina State University with a doctorate in mathematics and was a professor at the Center for Research and Advanced Studies (CINVESTAV) in Mexico City and later at St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh, NC. She currently works as a children’s book distributor. Having had very difficult experiences with navigating the special education and early intervention systems, she is interested in helping parents of children with special needs gain easy access to the assistance and information needed to ensure their children receive the services and education they require. She also is interested in advocating for better inclusion services in the public school system.
Rachel Fuerst, Vice-Chairperson (Central Region)
Rachel is a partner with Henson & Fuerst, a law firm founded in eastern NC by her father and two friends. Much of her professional work involves clients who have been abused, neglected, or injured in group homes and nursing facilities. She represents clients before the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Social Security Administration. As the granddaughter of a person with sensory and age-related disabilities, she is keenly aware of the challenge of disability on the family and wider community. Rachel appreciates Disability Rights NC’s focus on systemic change as a way to proactively impact institutions and policies. She is especially interested in improving conditions in group homes and nursing homes, saying “If more North Carolina citizens are involved with disability rights, then we have a better chance of convincing those who make the laws that more is needed to protect those who are most vulnerable.”
Kim Lan Grout, Secretary (Central Region)
Kim Lan is a writer, photographer, and disability advocate in Durham. She is the founder of the Redefining Disabled Project and a co-founder of the Accessible Icon Project–Durham, NC. When she was 18 years old, after a long saga with a congenital vascular syndrome, Kim Lan elected to have her left leg amputated above the knee to save her life. What most people would consider her disability, she considers her liberation. Now, 15 years post-amputation, Kim Lan lives a full life alongside her husband and their two daughters, the younger of whom was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at just two years old. It is with this love for life and love for her “broken” body that she works to make our world more inclusive and aware; fights the able-istic status quo; and seeks to show our community that disabilities don’t have to be the end of one’s life, but rather can be a source of love, tolerance, patience, and determination.
Denise “D” Jones, Immediate Past Chairperson (Eastern Region)
D is an individual with autism who shares her tools for living an independent life with other individuals with autism through guest speaking events at ECU Department of Occupational Therapy, TEACCH, and other programs across North Carolina. She provides personal insight to help professionals understand how to better serve people with disabilities. She has been a Physical Therapist Assistant for more than twenty years and is a provider for in-patient and outpatient care services. She also has served as an adjunct instructor at Craven Community College in its Physical Therapist Assistant Program. D received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Rutgers University, a second bachelor’s degree in liberal arts science from Neumann College, and her associate’s degree in physical therapy assistance at Union County College. She first became involved with Disability Rights NC when she attended the DATE volunteer training. She wants to be a voice for others.
Evan joined our board in March of 2019, and has been a pro bono attorney volunteer for Disability Rights NC multiple times. He opened his own law practice in 2014 and resides in Beaufort County. Graduating with a B.A. in Economics from the College of William & Mary and subsequently earning his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law, Evan has a great deal of experience in negotiating and litigating fair housing-related disability claims including filing the first federal lawsuit to enforce the U.S. Justice Department’s regulations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. He also represents many people with disabilities regarding their social security and VA disability claims. Evan has mobility impairments of his own after sustaining injuries from high school and college sports. He admires DRNC’s board and staff members’ commitment and determination to achieve equality for all, and hopes to ensure that North Carolina’s residents with disabilities have a voice and champion across the board.
Gaile Osborne, PAIMI Advisory Council Chairperson (Western Region)
Gaile is a native of Alamance County and currently lives in the Western Region with her husband and two children. Her desire to get help for her children—adopted from significant trauma backgrounds—led her to a full-time career as an advocate at FIRST Resource Center; which offers services for persons with disabilities and the people who love and support them. Prior to joining FIRST in 2014, Gaile spent 17 years as a special education teacher in North Carolina. She has her master’s degree in special education from UNC-Greensboro and currently holds NC teaching certification in four areas. Gaile brings experience to the board as a parent of a child with special needs, an advocate in schools in western NC, and a former special educator.
Jill Britton Scercy (Eastern Region)
Jill has lived in North Carolina for more than 35 years. She lives in Greenville with her husband and has three grown children. She graduated from East Carolina University and is a licensed marriage and family therapist. She worked in public mental health and then private practice with families and children with mental health challenges and developmental disabilities. Eleven years ago she began working for the UNC-Chapel Hill TEACCH Autism Program and is now the director of the Greenville center. Jill has been involved both locally and on the state level with advisory councils for public education. As the mother of a son with Autism, she co-led a parent support group for 14 years. Jill is honored to serve on the board where abilities are emphasized and all rights for individuals are protected.
Sheila joined our board in March of 2019. Her education includes a Bachelor’s of Science, with a Biology major and Chemistry minor, from Johnson C. Smith University; a NC Teacher Certification from UNC-Charlotte; an Associate’s Degree in Human Services from Central Piedmont Community College; and a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Duke University. She is also currently a candidate for a Master’s of Divinity at Hood Theological Seminary in Salisbury. She is the proud parent of a son with dual developmental disabilities, and she has worked as a parent and family advocate since 2002, when she started a support group for parents of children with disabilities in Mecklenburg County. Sheila founded ParentVOICE in 2004, a program that provides education, support and resources for parents of children with disabilities, and has also served on several mental health committees and collaboratives, including two terms on the PAIMI Advisory Council. As chairperson on the PAIMI Advisory Council, she liaised with DRNC’s Board of Directors and was motivated by the zeal of the members and staff. She appreciates the importance of the board’s work to the mission of DRNC.
Cheryl Mulloy Villemagne (Western Region)
Cheryl is a registered nurse with a master’s degree in nonprofit organizational management. Most recently she was VP of Quality Management for Easterseals UCP NC & VA, retiring in 2016. Cheryl is returning to the DRNC board after a five-year absence, having served as secretary and treasurer. She remained on the finance committee in the interim. Cheryl began working with children with intellectual disabilities as a teenager during summer camp. She is passionate about self-determination, individual choice, and advocacy for people of all ages with developmental, physical and intellectual disabilities and mental health challenges. Cheryl lives with her husband in Waynesville in the beautiful Smoky Mountains.