Special Needs CEO

Cynthia Sewell, long-time leader at New Horizons for the developmentally disabled, retired last month.

By Helen Floersh Monday, January 9, 2017

For the past 40 years, Cynthia Sewell has dedicated her career to improving the quality of life for those with intellectual disabilities. As a young adult, she was named the inaugural program director of Therapeutic Living Centers for the Blind, where she oversaw the development of the San Fernando Valley’s first residential facility for individuals with special needs. Later she established the first behavioral day program for the Tierra del Sol Foundation and worked with Social Vocational Services Inc. to help developmentally disabled people secure stable employment. Today, Sewell is best known for her contributions to New Horizons, a North Hills nonprofit that provides services and support to individuals with special needs. She joined the organization in 1988 as residential director, and was promoted to executive director four years later. She was promoted again in 2009 to chief executive, and until her retirement in December oversaw more than 400 staff members, 1,600 developmentally disabled adults and an annual budget of $16 million. She will remain with the organization for another year as executive consultant. Sewell sat down with the San Fernando Valley Business Journal to discuss changing public perceptions of disabilities, memories of the cookie business and her proudest moments of service.  

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