Board of Directors
Interim Board Chair
Originally from El Salvador, Irma Velasquez, a social entrepreneur, has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1963. After graduating from the University of San Francisco, she pursued a career in financial services. Upon the birth of her son, she left business to devote time to her family and to her lifelong passion for art. In the late ‘90s, Irma founded De Colores, an art school dedicated to children’s innate creativity. However, soon after De Colores was up and running, her son was diagnosed with autism, her love for her son and her understanding of the needs of the individuals and families affected by autism, inspired her to start Wings Learning Center. In 2005 she was honored with the prestigious Jefferson Award for her work in community and public service. This is a calling that continues to drive her commitment to non-profit Boards that educate, support, and advocate for individuals with disabilities. She is an active member of the following Boards: Autism Society of America San Francisco, Northern California Woman’s Caucus for Art, Bay Are Housing Corporation, Rident Park and Wings Learning Center. She is an artist, a writer, life coach, and entrepreneur who believes in the transformative nature of the creative process and in the positive change that the arts offer to our world community.
La Donna Ford MD
La Donna graduated from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences with a doctorate in medicine. After her residency in anesthesiology, she entered public service in the United States Air Force followed by a stint in private practice. After the diagnosis of autism in her son, La Donna left medicine to devote her time to her son.
La Donna is dedicated to helping her son achieve independence and happiness. She and her son are active in many mountain and lake sports activities. La Donna is committed to working with Wings to guide her son into a productive adulthood.
Phil Shemanski, Board Treasurer, grew up in West Los Angeles and received his undergraduate degree from the UC Irvine. In 1980 he received his Master’s degree in Taxation from Golden Gate University (SF). Phil worked for 25 years as a tax accountant, 22 years as a CPA in the Palo Alto tax practice of Ernst & Young where he was part of a successful partner team, managing several tax specialty groups. Phil recently founded the startup ”Renewing the Renaissance™”—a company developing an online art school that also is dedicated to working with talented artists with challenges.
Uli K. Chettipally, MD, MPH.
Uli is a physician, researcher, and innovator, who is passionate about using technology to solve clinical problems. He is interested in finding solutions to the current epidemic of autism in California. He strongly believes in providing children and adults affected by autism with education and skills which will enable them to lead a productive and independent life. He and his wife live in the San Francisco Bay Area with their 3 children. Their daughter, Siri, a graduate of Wings Learning Center, has a successful online business selling jewelry she makes: www.DesignsBySiri.com
Health Technology Pioneer
Malekeh Amini is the Founder and CEO of Ava Health Technologies, a healthcare software company dedicated to improving diagnosis and treatments in Autism, ADHD and other brain disorders. Prior to Ava Health, Malekeh was the Senior Vice President of Product & Business Development at Base Health where she provided the vision connecting new breakthroughs in medical science to the needs of healthcare organizations and consumers.
A former consultant with the Boston Consulting Group and the Parthenon group, Malekeh has provided strategic, operational, and fundraising advice to healthcare and education organizations globally. Malekeh also sat on the fundraising Board of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, and is the Fund Chair for her class at the Harvard Business School. Malekeh has also served two terms on the Parent Association Board at the Crystal Springs Uplands School and is currently engaged with fundraising and outreach for Moms Against Poverty (MAP) and the Iranian American Women’s Foundation (IAWF).
Malekeh earned bachelor’s degrees in communications and computer science at University of Southern California, where she also received a master’s degree in systems engineering. She has an M.B.A. from Harvard University.
Emeritus Chairman of the Board
Safa Rashtchy is a Silicon Valley investor and advisor, and sits on the boards of several start-ups and global organizations. Safa has also been involved with Wings Learning Center since the early years, when his son, Alborz, joined Wings as a student. From 1997 to 2007, Safa was a Managing Director and Senior Research Analyst focused on Internet media and marketing, and the Lead China analyst at Piper Jaffray and Company. He led the firm’s expansion efforts in the Internet industry and its expansion to China, as well as active involvements with leading Web 2.0 companies. Currently, Safa is working on formation of a new type of venture capital concept, Think +. Safa is currently on the boards of Capshare, Wings Learning Center, and The Mexican Museum (San Francisco- Smithsonian). He is also on the advisory boards of Snapwire, Ava Health, ChinaVenture (China), and Early Bird Alert.
Safa cares deeply about quality-of-life approach for individuals with ASD and is now heavily focused on programs for young adults with ASD. Safa is also deeply involved with start-ups and technologies that are helping with management of therapies and data analytics for individuals with ASD. Safa holds a Master’s degree in business administration, summa cum laude, from Boston University and a Bachelor’s degree in engineering from Purdue University.