NOPBC Board of Directors
2017-2018 Board of Directors
Officers (two year term thru 2018)
President: Kim Cunningham (Texas)
Kim is married and the parent of two adult sons, Ricky and Ryan, and one adult daughter, Kayleigh, who is blind due to retinopathy of prematurity. Kayleigh is currently a senior in college majoring in elementary education. Kim joined the NFB in 2007 after attending her first NFB National Convention. Kim has served on the Texas Parents of Blind Children (TPOBC) board for 7 years and is the current president of TPOBC. Kim’s husband, Bobby Cunningham, is a behind-the-scenes supporter of the NOPBC creating databases and being our official photographer. She also serves as a parent coordinator for the Texas BELL programs. Kim has a passion about Braille literacy and has advocated for many Texas families in the education system. She also stays busy trying to keep up with her 6 grandkids!
First Vice President: Laura Bostick (Louisiana)
Laura is the proud mother of Lindsay, a bright and beautiful 14-year old who was born blind. Lindsay is currently in the 8th grade and is an excellent braille reader and cane traveler. Laura and Lindsay joined NFB when Lindsay was just a baby, and they’ve been actively involved ever since. Laura studied biomedical engineering at Texas A&M University and worked for over 17 years at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in the human space flight area. She first considered changing careers when her daughter was born blind in 2002, and she needed to learn to navigate the special education maze. Her experiences with her own daughter’s education, as well as her work with the many other families she met through her involvement with parent organizations, sparked her interest in a career in special education. Laura returned to school in 2008, completed her master’s degree in special education in 2010, her graduate certificate in visual impairments in 2014, and her doctorate in education in 2016. She is certified to teach K-12 special education and visual impairments, and she holds national certifications in literary braille and Unified English Braille (NCLB and NCUEB). She is currently a visiting assistant professor in the College of Education at Louisiana Tech University teaching special education courses to teacher candidates.
Second Vice President: Holly Miller (New Jersey)
Holly has been a board member since 2010. She is a supervisor with a major food service company and helps run her husband's electrical business. She lives in Oceanport NJ with her husband, two sons and three Greyhounds. Holly became involved in the National Federation of the Blind when her son Hank's school refused to provide Braille instruction. After a lengthy Due Process hearing, Hank is now well on his way to becoming a successful Braille user! Along with being on the board of NOPBC, Holly is the president of Parents of Blind Children-NJ.
Secretary: Penny Duffy (New Hampshire)
Penny lives in New Hampshire with her two children, Sam (age 15) and Abby (13). Abby became blind at age 6 due to a rare genetic mitochondrial condition. Penny found the NFB and NOPBC a few months later in late 2010. "Finding the NFB was a great stoke of luck. Choosing to stay and raise my daughter with the NFB philosophy is one of the best parenting decisions I have made," she notes. Abby is an active girl enjoys ski in the winter and rowing in summer. She attend local general public school and is a braille reader.Penny is president of the NH Parents of Blind Children and also on the National Federation of the Blind-New Hampshire 's board of directors. She has recently started working in the public education sector in finance. Penny has a strong passion for Braille literacy and striving everyday to help both her children to "Live the life they want."
Treasurer: Sandra Oliver (Texas)
Sandra Oliver is an audit partner at Ernst & Young LLP and President of the Texas Parents of Blind Children division. Sandra is also a wife and mother to three smart and beautiful boys aged 11, 10 and 7, with youngest son, Nick, born totally blind. Nick has grown up going to NFB Conventions and attending BELL programs since he was 3, and is a smart, strong Braille reader and independent young man!
Board Members (one year term)
Jean Bening (Minnesota)
Jean lives in Arlington, Minnesota with her husband Allan. They have one daughter, Megan, who recently graduated with her bachelor degree in Information Technology and a minor in Psychology. Megan is continuing college to earn her masters degree in IT. Megan lives independently in an apartment off campus. When Megan was diagnosed with LCA at 6 months old, they did not know anyone who was blind. They got involved with the NFB/NOPBC when Megan was 6 years old. Jean notes she became a board member of the NOPBC so she could be a resource for parents of blind children, to share what they have learned in the 22 years of raising their daughter, and to reassure parents that their blind children can grow up to be independent, successful adults. The Megan Bening Memoral Fund.
Pamela Gebert (Alaska)
Pamela and her husband, Steve, are veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. Pamela worked for the Army Medical Department and Steve is a retired Naval Flight Officer. The Geberts have three children: a son in high school, a middle school-aged daughter and a son in the fifth grade. Their middle child, Julia, is a cane user and Braille reader. Her blindness is caused by an optic pathway glioma tumor. The Gebert Family lives in Anchorage, Alaska where they enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, including Nordic and alpine skiing, sledding, gardening, hiking, camping and fishing. Pamela is President of the Alaska Blind Children's Resource.
Corbb O’Connor (Minnesota)
Corbb O’Connor is an adventure-seeker, husband and father who came to know the life-giving message of the National Federation of the Blind through its college scholarship program. He’s held many roles in the Federation, including chapter president, committee chairperson, mentor, and friend. After graduating from The George Washington University in 2010, he attended the Louisiana Center for the Blind, a residential program where blind adults learn to non-visually travel, read, cook, and use technology. Following in his parents' careers, he started his own business—O’Consulting Group, LLC—which helps small businesses and non-profits write better to connect with their members and customers. Today, he works for one of the most trusted banks in the United States, where he helps build digital tools that are accessible for people with disabilities. He is married to Briley, whom he met at LCB; lives in Minneapolis; and has one son, Silas. Briley and Corbb are still trying to find their way back to Sandals Resort in Jamaica.
Tabatha Mitchell (Virgina)
Carlton Anne Cook Walker (Pennsylvania)
Jean Fulz (New York)
Carol Akers (Ohio)
Kimberly Banks (Florida)
Melissa Riccobono (Maryland)
Melissa has been blind since birth, due to LCA. Melissa was very lucky to have parents who were firm believers that she and her older sister, who is also blind, could and would live the lives they wanted. Melissa and her sister were expected to do the same things as their sighted brothers while growing up, and Melissa is extremely grateful to her parents for their high expectations, and all of the skills they made sure she learned before she went away to college.
Melissa earned a BA in psychology and a MS in Counseling Psychology, with an emphasis in school counseling, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She joined the National Federation of the Blind while she was a college student, and has held many leadership positions in the organization over the last 18 years. After college, Melissa worked for three years as an elementary school counselor in a public school outside of Baltimore. She left her position in order to be a stay at home mom.
Melissa and her husband, Mark Riccobono (president of the National Federation of the Blind) are the proud parents of three children. Austin is sighted, and going into fourth grade. Oriana is a first grader, and Elizabeth is a student in pre-K. Both Oriana and Elizabeth are blind.
Melissa has advocated for parents and their blind children for years, but the experience is quite different when the blind children in question are hers. She is learning a great deal about navigating the educational system, encouraging a reluctant braille reader, and helping her children become experienced cane travelers—a skill she did not feel completely comfortable with until adulthood. Melissa is honored to serve as president of the Maryland Parents of Blind Children, and as a board member of NOPBC. She looks forward to being able to help parents in any way she can by drawing from her own experiences as a blind child and adult, and from her more recent experiences as a mom of two blind children. Melissa also looks forward to learning from all of the families with blind children around the country. She believes everyone has something to learn and something to teach, and this is one of her favorite aspects of participating in the National Federation of the Blind.
Carol Castellano (New Jersey)
Carol Castellano is the Director of Programs for the NOPBC, and co-founder and former long-time president of Parents of Blind Children-NJ. Carol and husband, Bill Cucco, were happily awaiting the birth of their first child in 1984 when they were shocked with Serena's entrance to the world four months early. Her subsequent seven and a-half month hospitalization in the NICU was grueling, and taught Carol and Bill "more than we ever wanted to know" about premature babies and the difficulties that could befall them. In a hospital room in North Carolina, while awaiting news of one of Serena's surgeries, Carol and Bill were introduced to the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and its parents division, the NOPBC. As Carol tells the story, "The hospital social worker brought us some literature about blindness to read. He warned us that while this organization had some pretty good literature, we should stay away from them because they were radical and militant. My ears perked right up! I called the NFB as soon as we got back to New Jersey." Carol continues, "I loved the NFB and NOPBC from the start because they were the only organizations we encountered that said outright that our blind child had a right to a full, satisfying life and that we did not have to be grateful for crumbs thrown from the table." Serena's birth proved to be a turning point in Carol's career. She began researching and writing articles on the prevention of premature birth and was invited to join a select group of parents, physicians, and ethicists to discuss the difficult issues of decision-making in neonatal intensive care. The proceedings of this conference resulted in a landmark article, the first ever to be coauthored by parents and physicians and published in the medical journal Pediatrics. At this time, Carol also began publishing pieces on bringing up a blind baby.
Carol was asked to serve on the Statewide Consumer Advisory Board of the NJ Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. As Carol tells it, "It was a time of deep state budget cuts. I realized I was probably the only parent in the state who knew that cuts were planned to the education of blind children budget. Somehow, I had to let other parents know about the impending cuts so that we could work together to stop them." Carol contacted the few other families she knew and proposed that their small group became an official NOPBC affiliate, and thus, in 1991, Parents of Blind Children-NJ was born.
By this time Carol was attending national conventions of the NFB, where her talents were recognized by a wider circle. In 1991 she was elected second vice president of the NOPBC, and in 1997 was appointed to the Federation's national Scholarship Committee. She was the first sighted person ever to serve on that committee. Carol was elected first vice president of the NOPBC in 1998, served as president from 2009-2010, and became Director of Programs in 2011.
Carol was appointed by several NJ governors to serve on the State Human Services Advisory Council and the State Rehabilitation Council and has collaborated on many projects with the NJ Commission for the Blind. Carol's efforts have been recognized with the Diana Cuthbertson Parent-Professional Collaboration Award from the Statewide Parents Advocacy Network, the Mary O'Donnell Advocacy Award from the NJ Commission for the Blind, and the Twig Award from the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children.
Since 1988, Carol has written many articles and has made presentations in states across the country on the education and development of blind children. For 22 years she organized and conducted POBC-NJ's parent seminars and teacher trainings and co-edited POBC-NJ's newsletter In Touch. Carol is the author of four books, The Bridge to Braille: Reading and School Success for the Young Blind Child, Because Books Matter, Making It Work: Educating the Blind/Visually Impaired Student in the Regular School, and Getting Ready for College Begins in Third Grade: Working Toward an Independent Future for Your Young Blind Child. After several years of service on the advisory committee, Carol was hired as Outreach and Recruitment Coordinator for The College of New Jersey's Teacher of the Blind/Visually Impaired Program.
Carol feels very fortunate to have found the NFB while Serena was still a baby. Federation philosophy enabled her and Bill to regard Serena as a normal person and to bring her up with high expectations. Most important, Carol points out, is that because of Federation philosophy, Serena has high expectations of herself. "Serena has become an independent young woman, determined to make her mark on the world because of the Federation. The Federation was our backbone as we battled to get Serena what she needed—and many times that was just getting the school to look at her as a normal student." Carol continues, "So many times, when someone would say to us, 'But she can't do that, she's blind,' we could respond, 'Oh yes she can. We know plenty of blind people who do that,' because we had met so many capable, active people at NFB events."
Carol's family enjoys hiking, traveling, and vacations at the Jersey shore. Daughter Serena just completed graduate courses at the Rutgers University School of Social Work and son John works as a policy analyst in the office of the governor of Rhode Island.
President Emerita: Barbara Cheadle (Maryland)
Barbara Cheadle, President Emerita, is one of the founders of the NOPBC and is the founding editor of Future Reflections magazine. Barbara, who served as NOPBC President for 23 years, also worked for many years at the NFB's National Center for the Blind in Baltimore, where she directed children's programs and served in many other capacities. Barbara and her husband John's fight to get Braille instruction for their son Chaz (who has partial vision) was widely publicized in the early 90's and was one of the factors that turned the tide in the campaign for a Braille literacy provision in the 1997 IDEA amendments. Chaz earned a BA degree and works as a computer support specialist. He and his wife Emily have just had their first child.