Board of Directors
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
We warmly welcome you on behalf of the Unique Sweets Board of Directors. We are proud to guide an organization that champions the empowerment of individuals living with Autism and other Developmental Disabilities. Our mission is to cultivate an environment where every person has the opportunity to gain valuable job skills, foster social interactions, and expand their capabilities across personal, community, and professional spheres. Our shared passion drives us to enhance the inclusivity and impact of our initiatives continually.
As stewards of Unique Sweets, we facilitate dynamic, enriching activities such as baking events, virtual cooking classes, and social outings, providing a perfect blend of learning, creativity, and socialization. Through our peer support groups, we’re helping to build a vibrant community where individuals can form lasting relationships and grow in independence. We are steadfastly committed to aiding in the transformation of our participants’ lives, helping them achieve their employment aspirations, and unveiling their unique potentials. We stand united in our belief that each person, irrespective of their differences, possesses the potential to make remarkable contributions to society.
Liza was first introduced to Autism in 1999 when her son was diagnosed. As her son grew older, she realized the limitations he would face as an ASD adult. Therefore, with that in mind, she created Unique Sweets, a home-based business that used baking to practice the skills he would need to succeed in life. They began making cupcakes and pastries from home and gradually added other participants and parents….In 2021, Unique Sweets officially incorporated as a non-profit organization led by a group dedicated to continuing the mission of creating a safe space where young adults could develop job skills, socialize with others and develop meaningful relationships while practicing essential life skills.
Classically trained in French cuisine, Lisette landed a highly-coveted externship in a 2
Michelin-star Chicago restaurant where she was assigned desserts. When Lisette’s second child, Maylani, was born and diagnosed with autism, she put her professional life on hold to focus on her family. Once her daughter entered school, Lisette worked in bakeries, honing her craft.
Once Lisette learned about Unique Sweets, she decided to use both her experience as the
mother of an autistic child and her baking expertise to help teach autistic adults life skills. Now, as Vice President and board member of Unique Sweets, Lisette is working toward changing public policy for individuals with disabilities. Lisette, through her business, Desserts by Lisy, has created custom cakes and desserts for all occasions. Lisette lives in a Chicago suburb with her husband Matthew, and their daughters, Layla and Maylani.
Charles Strecker was born in Chicago, Illinois, in the June of 1998. He started at Unique Sweets as a participant and quickly moved to host its cooking class series before eventually joining the board as participant advocate and liaison. He is a classically trained opera singer who works as a CNC operator while finishing his political science degree.
Sylvia Bonilla-Kochanski is a social worker with Chicago Public Schools. Sylvia holds a Masters in Social Work from the University of Illinois at Chicago Jane Addams and is licensed by the Illinois State Board of Education. Sylvia provides holistic support to all Chicago Public School students including crisis, individual and group interventions. Sylvia became a volunteer with Unique Sweets three years ago in order to explore resources available to the families she works with and has truly enjoyed working alongside so many dedicated participants and advocates. Sylvia enjoys spending time with her family and friends as well as, participating in a book club, working out and raising money for Special Olympics. Sylvia has participated in the Chicago Polar Plunge for the last five years.
Yadira has been eating, breathing, sleeping, challenging, and accepting autism since 2011. She is a dedicated warrior, advocate, and author.
She holds an M.A. in International Relations and Diplomacy, speaks three languages, has lived in six countries, and has traveled to another twenty-seven. Many experiences and newly discovered ones prepared her to become the mother of Thomais.
Yadira has worked as Editor for Trade Publications – Food industry; Logistics- Cement Industry; Part-time Professor in China; Teacher Assistant supporting kids, and adults with developmental disabilities. Presently, she works with foster care youth and supports various organizations in Middle Tennessee.
Carlos Cardenas, CAE, has been a board member of Unique Sweets since the summer of 2022.
Carlos is a cofounder of Association Latinos, a nonprofit with a mission to increase and advance Latino leadership, representation, and inclusion in associations. He is the Senior Director of Information Technology at the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA) and the Chair of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Technology Professionals Advisory Council. He is a Diversity Executive Leadership Program (DELP) alum and a former United States Marine Corps Sergeant, serving five faithful years.