Vanward Consulting Services, LLC is committed to providing world-class services to its private-sector and public sector clients with respect and professionalism while supporting the community at large. It applies these principles in its internal operations as represented by its staff and Advisors.


The Vanward Team


Gary E. Horton

Gary Horton’s career spans over Forty years in the Information Technology space spanning several industry areas including Automotive, Manufacturing, Logistics, Finance and Accounting, Insurance and more recently Utilities and Oil and Gas. His professional accomplishments include launching LeadingEDGE Management Services. The firm provided ISO 9000 and QS 9000 implementation, compliance and audit as well as IT Consulting and Staffing services. He was recognized by the Detroit business community for his innovative methodology for efficiently guiding companies through the process resulting in increased efficiency and a culture of continuous improvement. After LeadingEDGE, Mr. Horton altered his focus to applying his program/project management expertise to assisting several Energy industry companies by quickly implementing mission critical enterprise applications supporting the Physical/Financial Trading, Logistics, Finance and Accounting, and Risk Management organizations. Mr. Horton’s community service and philanthropic pursuits include serving as Vice-chair of Paint the Town, a program that encouraged Detroit area businesses to paint and perform repairs to the homes of the elderly of Detroit, Highland Park, Hamtramck, Pontiac and others. He has also offered his support to several local political campaigns, including the City of Detroit Mayoral and US House of Representatives races. In 2017, Mr. Horton lost his vision. After navigating the vocational rehabilitation process and spending time with individuals in the Blind and Low-Vision (B/LV) community, he observed an opportunity. Leveraging his experience as a continuous improvement and compliance consultant coupled with his staffing successes developed the Lean In! Program. Lean In! endeavors to encourage B/LV individuals to “Dream Big!” and offers private sector employers’ insight into the efficacy of a valuable untapped resource. Horton would say the sum of his previous experiences have uniquely prepared him for his new mission, to promote a broader inclusion of individuals with disabilities into the American Economy and as a result, the greater society.



Charlene GordonCharlene Gordon
Rehab Liaison

Charlene has worked in the field of rehabilitation for over 25 years. Her academic accomplishments reflect her interdisciplinary skillset, from her Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioral Psychology complemented by a minor in Business Management, to Master’s Degree in Blind Rehabilitation Therapy. Charlene worked as a Vision Rehabilitation Therapist for the Michigan Department of Labor’s Commission for the Blind for 14 years before retiring early to homeschool her children. During her retirement, she continued to subcontract for the state. While homeschooling, she created multiple hands-on learning experiences and platforms for youth and families with an emphasis on intercultural and interdisciplinary competency. In 2018, Charlene returned to work full-time, which allowed her to offer vision rehabilitation programs with a focus on employment skill development.




Lean In! Employment Partners

Bahzad Ballout

In 2009, Bahzad began providing technology instruction to a variety of consumers, including clients from the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons and residents of Jamaica. This training expanded to students in the  Detroit school system, thanks to the Michigan Department of Education-Low Incidence Outreach program. Having taught face-to-face and in the field, he realized what it means to instill confidence in others who learn to enjoy browsing through emails or using their smartphone to send text messages.
Aside from an associate degree acquired at Henry Ford College, Bahzad attended the University of Michigan-Dearborn, graduating with a bachelor’s in Hispanic Studies and minor in English. In addition to Arabic, he is a fluent Spanish speaker. These languages allowed him to teach individuals in each community, a fact that on many levels proved immensely rewarding.
Two years ago, he was hired by a company based in California and still works there today. Called Aira, it allows blind and visually impaired individuals to download a smartphone app and receive guidance on an assortment of tasks like reading mail and finding medication. Blind himself, Bahzad has experience with the tools and communication strategies necessary to be effective in the academic and working environments. The Lean In! program aligns with the sense of joy he gets when someone reaches a milestone that ceases to become a harsh pilgrimage. To that end, he looks forward to mentoring and fervently hopes that participants will benefit from the knowledge that he has gained.



Rashid DemeRashid Deme

Rashid Deme is a graduate of Western Michigan University where he studied Criminal Justice and Sociology with a concentration in Social Psychology. Prior to graduating from Southfield Lathrup High School, he spent numerous years studying in Senegal West Africa where he learned French and Wolof. Both languages were integral to the social aspect of belonging and would come into use years later. “My childhood was the rooting of my personal value of helping people help themselves.” Learning and advocating for equity while going through the hurdles brought by adversity when you are not the majority is something Rashid values. While he is blind, he hasn’t let that factor disqualify him from participating in the advancement of society. Rashid graduated with honors, receiving the 2020 Blind Truth Scholarship, NFB 2019 National Scholarship, Student of the Year for the BSBP 2020 and is a member of Alpha Phi Sigma. Rashid has a passion for being a beacon of light for others and assisting individuals to realize their own potential while respectfully staying committed to their personal values. He is currently working at the Boys & Girls Club of Kalamazoo as a Behavior Specialist.




Mariano “Nino” Pacini

Nino Pacini received his bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering/Programming from Wayne State University in 1986. He worked as a large systems programmer for 15 years before retiring from the field and focusing on technology accessibility issues and options. He then worked part time teaching accessible technologies to the Visually Impaired at the Visually Impaired Services office in the Detroit Medical Center for 15 years. He has also taught IOS accessibility to the same population via their iPhones. He has been a volunteer Website Accessibility Tester on several occasions for companies wishing to improve outreach into the Visually Impaired community.
Nino also worked with some automotive companies to provide automobile audibility feedback on plug-in electric vehicles.
Nino is a semi self-taught tinkerer who is fascinated by the intricacies of systems whether mechanical or electronic.
Mostly retired now, Nino volunteers many hours weekly to his local Lions Club, food pantry and various cycling organizations. He firmly believes that generosity is the key to reciprocity!

Vanward Advisors

Ryan Cojoe
President at COTOC, LLC

Cojoe, Managing Director, founded COTOC LLC in 2009 with the vision to create a firm dedicated to providing professional business services focused on people, processes and the technology that enable the people and processes. Mr. Cojoe has over 20 years of diverse project management, change management, and process improvement experience gained through consulting roles with public and private companies. Ryan earned a Masters of Business Administration from Rice University in 2008, specializing in organization behavior and corporate culture. He received a Bachelors in Science in Industrial Engineering from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA in 1998. Ryan has served on the Board of Employment Partners for LSU Dept of Industrial Engineering and he is a member of LSU’s Diversity Employment Partner Council for Engineering. Ryan enjoys mentoring young adults in his spare time.


Lemon “L.C.” Williams
Career Business Consultant

Lemon “L. C.” Williams is a career management consultant and lifelong problem solver. He is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville where he became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. He was raised to work hard, stand tall, and be honest above all. After graduation, Lemon embarked on a career in the energy industry eventually focusing on the information technology aspect. After many years of travel and experience implementing risk management systems and cyber programs for major corporations, government agencies, and public utilities; he was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and in 2014 founded The Ionado Group in Chattanooga, Tennessee, a cyber security and emerging technologies consultancy providing advanced solutions, risk reduction services, and mitigation strategies against cyber threats facing leading industries.


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