NIB’s Advocates for Leadership and Employment program is a signature initiative of its Public Policy Team. Each year, new employees who are blind working at NIB associated nonprofit agencies across the country join the two-year training program, where they learn about the public policy process and meet with members of Congress on Capitol Hill or virtually. After completing the training, agencies have effective advocates who can represent the interests of their agencies and the people who are blind that they employ, in the halls of Congress and in their local community.
The members of the 2022 class are a diverse group of individuals. The group includes people serving military customers at AbilityOne Base Supply Centers®, employees producing SKILCRAFT and other AbilityOne products, and employees serving in supervisory roles. Whatever their role, all share a commitment to represent the interests of people who are blind and visually impaired.
Central Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired
A senior sales associate at the AbilityOne Base Supply Center® (BSC) operated by the Central Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CABVI) at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey, Ernesto is very customer-service oriented and provides the most up-to-date price quotes as part of assisting his clients. As an Advocate, Ernesto hopes to bring greater awareness to the misconceptions about people who are blind and visually impaired and help to create more opportunities for them.
Lighthouse for the Blind of Fort Worth
Ronnie serves in the newly created role of client services coordinator at Lighthouse for the Blind of Fort Worth, where she oversees various components of client services, including facilitating support groups and workshops, coordinating blind awareness trainings and community presentations, and facilitating the volunteer program. Ronnie holds a bachelor’s degree in applied arts and science from the University of North Texas and a rehabilitations studies certificate.
Lighthouse for the Blind, Saint Louis
An accounts receivable coordinator at the Lighthouse for the Blind, Saint Louis, Tammy strongly believes that with knowledge there is power. To that end, she is ready to give back to her community as part of the Advocates program. Tammy holds an associate degree in accounting and business management from Sanford Brown College, and looks forward to speaking out and helping to bring about change and improvements on important issues facing people who are blind.
A cashier-stocker at the Envision BSC at the Mountain Home, Idaho, Air Force Base, Marybeth enjoys working with customers to find the supplies they need. Involved in public speaking since her teenage years, she has met with Idaho legislators and the state’s lieutenant governor several times to discuss the needs of people who are blind or visually impaired. In addition to working full time, she is a full-time student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business management online through Boise State University.
Association for Vision Rehabilitation and Employment
A production manager at the Association for Vision Rehabilitation and Employment (AVRE), Luigi was born in Italy, but moved to the United States with his family at an early age. Despite his vision loss, he had a long career with IBM before joining AVRE, where he truly enjoys coming to work every day. Luigi feels confident in his contributions to the company and works with an amazing group of individuals.
Virginia Industries for the Blind
A contract supervisor at Langley Air Force Base for Virginia Industries for the Blind, Tina holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science, both focused on international politics. Tina’s professional background includes work in both the nonprofit and government sectors. She has spent nearly two decades advocating at the local, state, and federal levels of government on behalf of people with disabilities.
Louisiana Association for the Blind
The production leader of laser design and die at Louisiana Association for the Blind (LAB), Denny was diagnosed with Stargardt disease while working in the oil field industry and eventually became legally blind. Denny came to LAB’s low vision center for training, and his strong work ethic helped him land a job with the agency. Since coming to LAB, Denny has started college, earning a general studies degree and working toward a degree in business administration.
Lions Volunteer Blind Industries
A textile cutter specialist at Lions Blind Volunteer Industries since 2016, Corey relocated to Tennessee from his home in Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina. Corey fills multiple roles at the agency, cutting material and tape edging, sewing, and problem solving. He holds himself to high standards and looks forward to bringing the same dedication and energy to his role as an advocate for people who are blind.
A customer service specialist at Beyond Vision’s Base Supply Center at Naval Station Great Lakes, Megan manages customer accounts and is involved in every aspect of the ordering process, from researching items to creating quotes to coordinating deliveries for customers on- and off-base. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Southern Indiana and attended the Illinois Center for Rehabilitation and Education-Wood School after losing her eyesight.
Bestwork Industries for the Blind
As a Machine/Sewing Operator at Bestwork Industries for the Blind, Arlene has worked on a variety of textile and apparel lines. She holds an associate degree as a chemical lab technician from Burlington County College and an associate degree in alcohol and drug counseling from Camden County College. She looks forward to learning about public policy issues as an Advocate and hopes to serve as an empowered voice for people in the community who are blind or have other disabilities.
Valley Center for the Blind
As director of workforce development at the Valley Center for the Blind (VCB), Reynaldo oversees work opportunities and development for employees. Reynaldo joined VCB as an intern and was soon hired as a program assistant. In his five years with the agency, Reynaldo’s career has steadily progressed. As the only person in his family who is visually impaired, he relates to many VCB clients and puts them ease as they take independent living courses or seek employment.