Posted on February 20, 2017

On December 7-9, 2015, NABM and the NFBEI conducted the first ever Randolph-Sheppard Emerging Leaders Training Program in New Orleans.  There were 20 graduates of the inaugural training class.  The feedback from the trainees has been extremely positive.

“We are very pleased with our first effort at offering needed training to our Randolph-Sheppard leaders of tomorrow,” said Nicky Gacos, President of the National Association of Blind Merchants.  “This is a special program that provides incredible opportunities to blind people and we must make sure we have leaders who will protect and improve it for the next generation of blind people.”  The Emerging Leaders Program has been a vision of Gacos’ for several years and he deserves credit for bringing it to fruition.

There were many more applicants than there were training slots available so trimming the list down was not an easy chore.  “We were very happy with the quality and quantity of applicants who wanted to be part of this training program,” said Terry Smith, Director of the NFBEI.  “People are passionate about the Randolph-Sheppard Program and are hungry to help chart the course for its future.”

General Russell Honore, who found himself on the national stage after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, delivered the keynote address entitled “The New Normal: Leadership and Preparedness in the 21st Century.”   He laid the foundation for leadership skills needed by all leaders.  His presentation was both motivating and informative which explains the standing ovation he received from attendees.

Other presenters included current U.S. Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) Janet LaBreck and former Commissioners Joanne Wilson and Fred Schroeder.  Pam Allen, the Executive Director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind, also presented.  John Couret with Write Hook Media in New Orleans and a member of Toastmasters spoke on the importance of developing public speaking skills for leaders.  Michelle Cullison with Drystar New Media in New Orleans discussed “The Social Media Do’s and Don’ts  for Leaders”  Other presenters included Deanna Jones, Randolph-Sheppard Manager with RSA, and Eric Dell, Director of Governmental Affairs with the National Automated Merchandising Association.  National Federation of the Blind President, Mark Riccobono, wrapped up the training with a presentation on how the NFB and the Randolph-Sheppard community can be mutually beneficial to each other working on the same team.

If NABM President Gacos has his way, this will not be the last training of this type.  He hopes to offer the training again in 2016 and is looking at September in Nashville Tennessee.  An announcement will be posted on this website when the application period is open.  This class was larger than future classes because it included members of the planning committee and a couple of NABM board members who asked to attend.  Future classes will be limited to 10 – 12.  President Gacos plans on using the alums of this first class to plan next year’s class.