Blind persons and partners recognized for outstanding personal, business achievements

Bureau of Services for Blind Persons hosts annual Achievement Honor Roll Awards

Release date: Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019 
Contact: Camara Lewis, 517-930-4928

Lansing, Mich.— Achievement Honor Roll Awards were presented to Bureau of Services for Blind Persons (BSBP) clients who are exemplary in exceeding their goals for personal success and to community and business partners for opening doors for blind and visually impaired to live independently.

Nominated by BSBP staff, clients were recognized for their post-secondary success, reaching independent living status and/or obtaining employment after vision loss through the diverse set of quality services offered by BSBP. Community and business partners were honored for being leaders in increasing opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired to achieve independence and/or employment in collaboration with BSBP.

“Our programs and services are designed to partner with and provide support to our clients so they can achieve a greater quality of life and support themselves independently,” said BSBP Director Bill Robinson. “Each BSBP client deserves to be recognized for going above and beyond the goals they’ve set for themselves. I am proud of the hard work our BSBP team members and partners contributed to elevate and support our clients.”

State services to individuals who are blind or visually impaired have proven to be invaluable to Michigan citizens to help them attain employment through vocational rehabilitation and the Business Enterprise Program and to help older Michiganders who are blind live independently through the Independent Living program.

This event took place during Investing in Abilities Month, as proclaimed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to encourage employers to hire qualified people with disabilities while increasing the public’s awareness of the contributions and skills of Michigan workers with disabilities.

Achievement Honor Roll Award recipients

Business Partners

American Waste Management, Kalkaska
American Waste Management, a mid-sized waste management company that serves the Northern Michigan region, worked collaboratively with BSBP to hire, train and accommodate Mike Sincic, a blind costumer for a phone operator and costumer service position. American Waste Management worked with Mike’s BSBP counselor to get him the equipment he needed to be successful in his job.

Grand Traverse Container, Grand Rapids   
Grand Traverse Container, a custom corrugated packaging manufacturer has grown to have more than 100 employees, but they made sure one was accommodated in every way possible. Raymond Vega, a visually impaired consumer of BSBP and had little job experience but was eager to get to work. Ray’s BSBP counselor matched him with Grand Traverse Container based on his skill sets and interests. The company hired Ray into an entry-level position ensuring he had the equipment and accommodations he needed to be successful in his job. Grand Traverse Container has been impressed with Ray’s work ethic and recently promoted him within the company.

Great Wolf Lodge, Traverse City
Great Wolf Lodge, a destination for family fun, partnered with BSBP to host a weekend-long program for 28 blind and visually impaired students to explore hospitality careers. Participants learned about the different career paths and practiced job interviews with Great Wolf Lodge staff.

Vocational Rehabilitation

Timothy Egan, 35, Flatrock
After losing his vision to a grapefruit-sized brain tumor, Tim utilized BSBP services to get his life back on track. With the assistance of his BSBP counselor, Tim managed to gain independent living skills and completed a master’s degree in social work from the University of Michigan. Tim has obtained employment at the Guidance Center in Southgate as an outpatient child therapist. He’s also a peer support counselor at the U of M hospital for cancer patients who recently lost their vision.

Lily Kolp, 28, Wyoming
The BSBP Business Enterprise Program offered an opportunity for Lily to become her own boss and run her own business at the Kent County Veteran’s Home where she runs a snack stand and vending machines. A BSBP vocational rehabilitation counselor worked with Lily to secure the training she needed to be successful in her job.

Raymond Vega, 21, Grand Rapids
As an employee at Grand Traverse Container, Ray has excelled in his role as an assistant machine operator and is described by his employer as someone who does not let barriers get in the way of his success. Before reaching out to BSBP, Ray lacked work experience and now he’s on the path to a promotion because of his great work ethic.


Independent Living

Laura Booth, Marysville
Laura is described as an advocate for herself and others and has proactively sought services for herself to live independently after a diagnosis that will leave her blind in the years to come. Laura spent four weeks at the BSBP Training Center to improve her independent living skills and receive mobility training. Laura saw a need in her community and successfully advocated to get voice crosswalks installed in her neighborhood.   

Virginia “Ginny” Hughes, 83, Wyoming
After losing her husband two years ago, Virginia was faced with living on her own with her severely impaired vision, but with help of her BSBP counselor and BSBP training she has retained most of her independent living skills. Through the necessary training, Ginny can prepare her own meals, shop and travel within her community. She now enjoys volunteering at her local senior center.

Kevin Mulvihill, 65, Westland
 

Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) Students

Calliandra “Calli” Bowman-Tomlinson, Shelby Township
Calli is described as having a remarkably good attitude and eager to succeed. While in high school, Calli was a member of the National Honor Society, swimming and diving team and was a Children’s Miracle Network Ambassador. Now, Calli is a freshman at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania where she hopes to earn a Ph.D. in physical therapy.

Abdoulaye “Rashid” Deme, Kalamazoo
Rashid is a senior at Western Michigan University where he is studying criminal justice and sociology and plans to attend law school to become a human rights attorney. Rashid’s vision loss has not prevented him from excelling academically or being a mentor for others. In 2018, Rashid obtained a job as the WMU Office of Diversity and Inclusion as a speaking facilitator which lead to a position as a full-time career counselor for high school students. Out of 30 finalists, Rashid was the only Michigan student to receive the National Federation of the Blind scholarship.

Ciara Williams, 17, Portage
Described as someone who approaches the challenge of being blind with enthusiasm and positivity, Ciara has been an inspiration and advocate for other people with disabilities. This past summer, Ciara completed a paid internship through the Advocacy Academy at the Disability Network of South West Michigan. In her role, Ciara worked as part of a team to develop an advocacy project that focused on establishing legislation to promote mental health education for students in the public schools. These advocacy efforts included traveling to Lansing to meet with members of the Michigan Legislature and their staff to discuss the need for legislation to increase mental health awareness.

Training Center

Linda Lieburn, Quinnesec
On opening day of hunting season in 2015, Linda was transported to a Green Bay hospital after going into septic shock and as a result she lost most of her fingers, toes and went blind. Since then, Linda has participated in the BSBP Rehabilitation program and has learned to read braille using her lips and various other adaptive day-to-day tasks that are unique to her since she can’t rely on touch. Linda was determined to get back to work and now serves her community in various roles including the deputy clerk, administrative assistant to the treasurer, assessor and water clerk for Breitung Township Planning Commission. Linda also volunteers as a braille teacher for elementary students.

Community Partners

Kathy Christensen, Ann Arbor
Kathy Christensen, a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS) has spent her career working with blind and visually impaired students to prepare them for post-secondary education or employment. Kathy has worked for the Washtenaw ISD for many years as a COMS, providing Orientation and Mobility training to students. She has also been a vendor with the State, providing Orientation and Mobility training to BSBP clients. Her training has helped many of these individuals become successfully employed in a variety of jobs from food preparation to social workers.

Kathleen Matthews – Kongsberg Automotive, Novi
BSBP and Kongsberg Automotive entered into a partnership to proactively promote and educate current Kongsberg Automotive employees about BSBP services. Kathleen Matthews, Director of Human Resources for Konsberg Automotive has a personal connection to BSBP since her sister has sought BSBP services after losing her vision. Because of this, Kathleen is able to advocate for the partnership at Konsberg Automotive that led to a long-term relationship with BSBP to prepare Pre-ETS students for employment through resume building workshops and job training.

Samantha Veldbloom – Lawrence Technical University, Southfield
Samantha, a Disability Service Advisor at Lawrence Technical University (LTU), went above and beyond to make sure LTU made every accommodation for a BSBP client attending the university for his bachelor’s degree in computer science with a concentration in software engineering. In most cases, BSBP share costs for braille boos, but Samantha was able to secure funds for a $60,000 math book in braille for the student. When it was brought to her attention that braille signage wasn’t available, Samantha also worked with facility staff to install accessible signs around campus and arranged for the student to earn relevant work experience with the university to ensure their website was accessible to the blind or visually impaired users.

Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) Partners

Cherrelle Singleton, Kentwood
Cherrelle is dedicated to providing quality services that enhance the lives of persons with disabilities. As a former Vocational Rehabilitation counselor, Cherrelle can seamlessly develop innovative programs and connect clients with community resources to help them reach their employment goals. She also went above and beyond to develop a program though resources at her company, Connecting the Dots to help clients better prepare for employment.

Kellie Blackwell and Diana Maddox – Disability Network Capital Area, Lansing
Rachel Mularz – Selective Case Management, Saginaw
Angela Sebald – Michigan State University, East Lansing
This team of individuals were selected as Honor Roll recipients because they worked collaboratively to put on a successful TNT: Transitions in Training program held during the summer for Pre-ETS students. Each of these professionals stepped up to meet the needs of the program, even providing overnight staff supervision throughout the duration of the camp.

University of Michigan – Center for Ergonomics, Ann Arbor
Clive D’Sousa and Sheryl Ulin were instrumental in the year-long planning and implementation of the 21st Century Transportation Conference held at the University of Michigan’s M-City Campus. The conference featured national speakers who specialize in autonomous vehicles, General Motor executives and human resource staff, as well as professionals in the field who are blind and visually impaired. Clive and Sheryl were hands-on during the entire program and helped set up a networking lunch for Pre-ETS students with members of the M-City Congress, an elite group of professionals from various facets of autonomous vehicle development.

For more information about BSBP visit www.michigan.gov/bsbp or call toll-free at, 800-292-4200, TTY 888-864-1212.

Additional photos from the event can be found here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmHGinZq.