Career acceleration program provides fellows skills and abilities to create and sustain a more inclusive workforce

LOUISVILLE, KY (August 4, 2022)—The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) today announced the successful completion of the Centennial Cohort of the Blind Leaders Development Program. A special commencement ceremony was held in Louisville on August 2, 2022.

While in the program, the Blind Leaders Development Program Fellows received extensive training in leadership, networking, communication, and other key skills for advancing in their careers and improving their effectiveness as they achieve higher levels of authority and influence. Other facets of the program included following the Leadership Challenge curriculum, attending a series of webinars, and being paired with a successful blind or low vision Mentor who provided honest advice and feedback about what it takes to succeed in the workforce. This graduating class was given the title of Centennial Cohort, named as such in light of AFB celebrating 100 years advocating on behalf of those who are blind or have low vision throughout 2021.

“These 18 professionals have honed their knowledge and skills to take on greater authority and responsibility in their professional fields,” said Neva Fairchild, who oversees the program. “Due to their intensive learning and practice, as well as the work of their mentors, for whom we are all grateful, these graduates now have the imperative to create and sustain a more inclusive workforce.”

The Centennial Cohort Blind Leaders Development Program Fellows and Mentors include:

Aaron Linson
Angela Nicole Kimball
Cheryl Rosemary Rayburn
Christopher William Fendrick
Corietta L. Thompson
Danette Dixon
Jason Matthew Martin
Jennifer Lynn Wenzel
Jessica Lorenz
Jessica Minneci
Jorge Fernando Tarazon
Kenneth Meeker
Krystle Allen
Leah Spivey
Paul Ferrara
Ryan John Machtmes
Skylar Joseph Covich
William Howard Adams

Alia M. Abbas
Amir Rahimi
Angela Mills
Anisio Correia
Brian Celusnak
Courtney Mazzola
Jason Mandarino
Jeffrey S. Blair
Lauren Oplinger
Laurie Alice Eakes
Maxwell Ivey
Megan Smith
Melanie Peskoe
Michael L. O'Day, Jr.
Nasreen F. Bhutta
Pamela McGonigle
Rachel Longan
Raymond Hepper
Robert Gallo
Sheila Koenig

About the Blind Leaders Development Program
Studies suggest that the benefits of hiring people with disabilities include improvements in profitability (profits and cost-effectiveness, turnover and retention, reliability and punctuality, employee loyalty, company image), competitive advantage (diverse customers, customer loyalty and satisfaction, innovation, productivity, work ethic, safety), and inclusive work culture, to name just a few. Yet, few blind and low vision Americans are in top levels of leadership in the workforce. Launched in 2020, the Blind Leaders Development Program is designed to increase upward mobility and create meaningful leadership experiences for individuals who are blind or have low vision, who are already employed and in the beginning stages of their careers. The program is supported in part by the Llura Gund Workforce Inclusion Fund. Learn more at

About the American Foundation for the Blind
The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) mobilizes leaders, advances understanding, and champions impactful policies and practices using research and data. Publisher of the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness for over a century and counting, AFB is also proud to steward the accessible Helen Keller Archive, honoring the legacy of our most famous ambassador. AFB’s mission is to expand pathways to leadership, education, inclusive technology, and career opportunities to create a world of no limits for people who are blind, deafblind, or have low vision. To learn more, visit