Meet Our Board of Directors
"Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others." Booker T. Washington
Karélix Alicea, M.S., BCBA, ITDS, Executive Director
Karelix Alicea is the founder of The Lotus Children (TLC). She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and an Infant Toddler Developmental Specialist (ITDS) with over 20 years of experience working with children and families affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Miss Alicea received her master's degree in psychology with a specialization in behavior analysis from Florida International University (FIU) and is in the process of completing her doctorate degree in Organizational Leadership and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) from Nova Southeastern University. Karelix currently dedicates most of her time to Lotus Behavioral Interventions, a natural environment-based ABA company servicing children with autism that she founded in 2009. Her experience as the founder of Lotus Behavioral Interventions led her to realize the desperate need for ABA services for children not only in South Florida, but throughout the world, who have no health insurance or whose health insurance policies do not cover services and whose families cannot afford to pay for the medically necessary services their children need to reach their fullest developmental potentials. Karelix firmly believes that ABA therapy should be made available to every child with autism, despite their geographic location or financial situation. Her vision for TLC is to create a network of ABA providers that service underprivileged children and families affected by autism throughout the world.
Josefina Beyra, M.S., RBT, Board Member
Josefina Beyra is the proud mother of two high-spirited children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). As a highschool student, Josefina knew she would always work with children. For over 10 years, Josefina coordinated a youth group program with retreats, service projects and recreational activities. The experience ignited Josefina's career in education and her devotion to community outreach. She has served over 500 children of low-income families in Miami-Dade county's urban public schools. An artist at heart, she holds a B.A. in Art History, an M.S. in Art Education and is currently in the process of completing her doctorate degree in Education with an emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) at Florida International University. Josefina is a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) with the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). In her professional teaching experience, Josefina has led grant-funded enrichment initiatives such as the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program at Charles R. Drew Middle School and the Florida Grand Opera Residency Program at Westland Hialeah Senior High School. After her children's diagnoses, Josefina has taken an interest in special education and community programs for children with ASD and their families. In 2016, Josefina developed a social media presence for SpectrumFamily on Instagram where she frequently shares tips for parents of children on the spectrum. In 2017, Josefina hosted the inaugural 2017 Spectrum Fair, a community event benefitting children with autism and their families throughout the South Florida area. She looks forward to an active involvement with The Lotus Children (TLC), benefitting a cause that is so close to her heart.
Sharon Alexander, MHSc, ITDS, Board Member
Sharon Alexander is a child development specialist with over 20 years experience working with children impacted by learning and communication disorders and their families. Having been invited to join national academic honor societies, she graduated summa cum laude from Florida International University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology. She also received a Masters in Health Science degree from Nova Southeastern University, graduating with highest honors. She has acquired extensive graduate and clinical training in the fields of child development, behavior analysis, developmental psychology, and various treatment approaches.
Sharon has had the opportunity to engage in a vast array of clinical experiences. She was a member of the original exclusive behavioral team at the Miami Children’s Hospital Dan Marino Center in Weston providing one-on-one behavioral services to children. She has frequently participated on multidisciplinary teams whom assessed and developed treatment plans for children with communication and learning disorders. She was also a member of a team which collaborated with Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center in formulating an early intervention program for children suspected of exhibiting symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of autism. She is an approved Infant Toddler Developmental Specialist (ITDS) through the State of Florida’s Early Steps program.
Sharon has had various opportunities to share this information and experience with parents, professionals and students. She has taught undergraduate psychology and behavior analysis courses at Florida International University in Miami, Florida. She has presented at various national conferences. She has provided direct training and guidance to therapists working with children with communication and learning disorders both locally and internationally. She has coached parents on techniques to facilitate generalization of developmental skills while engaging in their child’s everyday routines. Sharon has also been involved in parent coaching in Europe to empower parents to become active participants in their child’s treatment plan. Sharon has been the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Unicorn Children's Foundation for the past 13 years and is looking forward to further expanding her reach through her work with The Lotus Children (TLC).
Emily Zubi, Board Member
Born in Jersey City, NJ, Emily Zubi is a true visionary and creative dynamo. Emily was one of the first Hispanic women to infiltrate Wall Street where she trained MBAs at Goldman Sachs in presentation and sales skills. In the 90's, Emily was instrumental in launching MTV for Latin America. She went on to launch 10 other television networks including Nickelodeon, E! Entertainment, HBO Latin America and even her own media company. Having once been a woman struggling to be successful in a man’s world, Emily started Miami Women Who Rock (MWWR), a non-profit corporation that serves as a platform to help other women’s lives and careers flourish and to acknowledge the amazing women succeeding in her own community. MWWR is an innovative network of South Florida women and businesses that believe in giving back to the community by hosting events that support health-related initiatives on a year-round basis. With over 25 years of experience spanning seven industries and multiple Fortune 500 companies, Emily has built a thriving career in international business and leadership development, marketing, sales and advertising. Emily is kind, compassionate, and generous to everyone she knows; but she is also one of the most tenacious people you will ever meet. Her motto is, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try, and try again, and never stop trying!". She is passionate about being a TLC board member who can further support women worldwide by caring for what they treasure most: their children.
Janet Grace Eves, DNP, RN, Board Member
Dr. J. Grace Eves has been a Registered Nurse for over thirty years. After graduating as a nurse in Canada, where her nursing career started, she completed a Bachelor of Arts in Interpersonal and Group Communication, a Masters of Management, and a Doctor of Nursing Practice. As a nurse in Canada, her experience led her from staff nursing on a medical unit to being an Intensive Care Nurse, a Nurse Educator, Public Health Nurse, and a Home Health Coordinator. Her career in Canada took her from the southern area of Ontario to living in the Northwest Territories, among the First Nations and Inuit population. After more than ten years of nursing in Canada, she moved to the United States where she discovered Forensic Nursing and Mental Health Nursing. These experiences lead her to spend over thirteen years serving people with developmental disabilities, including a tenure as the Director of Health Services for a non-profit organization. In addition to practicing nursing, Dr. Eves has had the opportunity to be an adjunct professor at Trinity International University and the University of Phoenix, facilitating students to meet their educational goals while creating an environment where students can obtain, process, and understand information. Dr. Eves is also a published author to two books entitled "Below Zero Nursing" and "Inner Peace". Currently, her career is all about health promotion and wellness as she serves as clinical lead at a health solution company in the Health Promotion and Wellness Department. The combination of experiences within Canada’s universal medical system and the medical system here in the United States has given Dr. Eves a unique perspective on health care.
Synthia Guzman, B.A., Board Member
Synthia Guzman graduated from Florida International University with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and has over 10 years of experience working in the mental health community and with families affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD). She served at Compass Health Systems, Memorial Regional Hospital and Hollywood Pavilion Hospital, where she had the opportunity to clinically and administratively assist patients diagnosed with a variety of psychiatric disorders. Synthia currently works at OPKO Pharmaceuticals with the Marketing Access Team promoting a drug for chronic kidney diseases. She enjoys missionary work, including her 2018 trip to Haiti where she volunteered her time to help 45 beautiful children who were left homeless and orphaned following the wrath of Hurricane Matthew. Synthia is actively involved in community and charity events related to children’s causes and works hard to ensure that her involvement with The Lotus Children (TLC) will make a lasting impact in the world.
Karla Briceño, B.A., Board Member
Karla graduated from Florida International University (FIU) with a bachelor’s degree in dance and a minor in education. In her professional career, she has shared her passion and love for the art of dance with such professional organizations as the Miami Heat, Miami Marlins, the University of Miami and American Dance Alliance (ADA). Karla began her teaching career over 20 years ago at Coral Gables Senior High School where she mentored countless young adults and guided their dance careers into the collegiate and professional industries. In 2011, she inaugurated the dance program at Westland Hialeah Senior High (WHSH) where she is currently a full-time teacher and dance coach. Karla’s professional experiences at WHSH allowed her the opportunity to teach dance, motor movement and body awareness to students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) for the first time. Karla enjoys supporting and promoting community enrichment with the inclusion of children with autism by organizing and hosting numerous performance opportunities and cultural shows throughout the year. Ms. Briceño takes most pride in affording low income communities immersion in to the fine arts through dance and firmly believes that every child deserves the chance to flourish in any setting. Karla was actively involved in the planning and dance performances for the 2017 and 2019 Spectrum Fair hosted by ABA for Families benefitting autism children and families throughout the South Florida area. She also participated in the 10th Annual Miami Dade College Family Health and Safety Fair and hopes to one day travel to Nicaragua for charity work servicing underprivileged children in her home country.
Melanie Sterner, B.A., Board Member
Melanie Sterner has a passion for guiding individuals with disabilities with the developmental resources and education necessary to prepare them for success. A native of South Florida, Melanie is a dedicated educator who is well respected by her colleagues, students and families throughout her career at Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) Department of Exceptional Student Education (ESE). With over 10 years of experience in today’s diverse classroom environments, Melanie supports students with disabilities through the curriculum, instructional and behavioral practices tailored to meet their educational needs. She has a bachelor’s degree in Special Education from Florida International University and is a highly qualified ESE teacher with certifications from the Florida Department of Education in ESE Grades K-12 and Pre-Kindergarten/Primary Education Age 3 - Grade 3. She also has great experience serving children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Melanie began her career with M-DCPS’ ESE department as a Supported Employment Job Coach in collaboration with the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD), where she earned additional certifications in Best Practices in Supported Employment and Introduction to Social Security Work Incentives. She now serves as a District Transition Specialist servicing various high school students with disabilities with the linkage required for transition into employment, postsecondary education and/or community agency support benefiting the individual needs of each student. Melanie has volunteered at various events and charities throughout the community and is especially devoted to continue volunteering at M-DCPS’ Annual Prom for High School Students with ASD.
Melanie proudly founded Linking Forces to support adults with disabilities as a pathway to independence by obtaining and maintaining steady and successful employment. She is truly honored to be a part of TLC’s Board of Directors and bring her love, vision and expertise to benefit children and adults with ASD in our community.
Reinaldo Alicea, Board Member
Reinaldo is an operations manager with over 18 years of experience managing global business operations for United Parcel Service (UPS). His experience in operations has defined him as a skilled operator with strengths in problem solving, self-development, and team building that has been fostered over many years of cross-functional involvement. Reinaldo is also currently a board member, treasurer and business advisor for The Lotus Children (TLC). In addition to his professional roles, has a long history of being deeply immersed in community leadership activities as exemplified by a career-long involvement with the United Way, the Cuban National Council (CNC), the Hispanics Inspiring Student's Performance and Achievement (HISPA) program, and the Latino Business Resource Group. His mentorship role across these organizations have allowed Reinaldo to positively affect the lives of youth in his community. He is extremely proud of his role within TLC and looks forward to making a lasting impact for special needs children.