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Employment and independence achievements celebrated
November 15, 2023
Michigan’s Bureau of Services for Blind Persons hosts annual Excellence Awards
LANSING, Mich. — Thirteen individuals who achieved their goals for employment or independent living after vision loss, as well as five organizations that represent the values of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, were honored by the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons (BSBP) during its annual Excellence Awards ceremony on Wednesday.
BSBP, housed within the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic, recognized customers of vocational rehabilitation and independent living services, students receiving Pre-Employment Transition Services, and business and community partners during the virtual event. “We are tremendously proud of the incredible achievements demonstrated by the individuals who were honored,” said BSBP Director William Robinson. “Through hard work and perseverance, they serve as admirable examples of what can be accomplished by individuals who are blind and visually impaired.
“The businesses recognized as Excellence Awards recipients share our core values of inclusion and diversity, opening the doors to opportunity and looking beyond disability, focusing on each person’s talents and skills,” Robinson said. “I am also thankful and proud of our team members who provide meaningful services to our customers, as well as valuable partnerships with businesses and community organizations.”
Nominations for Excellence Award candidates came from BSBP staff from around the state. Recipients benefitted from the many quality services provided by BSBP staff and opportunities offered by business and community partners.
This year’s recipients included:
Vocational Rehabilitation Customers
- Aiman Faruqi – Rochester, MN
- Alonzo Morgan – Southfield
- Heather Foster – Elmira
- Hope Springstead – Wyandotte
- Kashonia Graham – Clinton Township
Pre-Employment Transition Services Customers
- Gabriel Danielson – Ludington
- John Ceus – Rockford
- Nasko Cleland – Battle Creek
- Nickolas West – Detroit
BSBP Training Center
- Ahmad Al Jaafeel – Dearborn
Independent Living Customers
- Bonnie Carolan – Byron Center
- Arthur Kirkland – Detroit
- Paula Crosby – Lake City
- Greater Detroit Agency for the Blind and Visually Impaired – Detroit
- OrCam – Cleveland, OH
- Pioneer Resources – Muskegon
- Tropical Smoothie Cafe – Battle Creek
Pre-Employment Transition Services Community Partner
- Livonia Goalball – Livonia
“I just want to say thank you so much for nominating me for this award,” said John Walton (J.W.) Ceus, an Empower University student who received BSBP’s Pre-Employment Transition Services Student Excellence Award. “Thank you so much for just improving my life skills and continuing to help me to be a better person in today's world.”
In accepting BSBP’s Excellence Award as the Pre-Employment Transition Services Community Partner, Livonia Public Schools Specialist Patrick Draheim cited the valuable role the sport of goalball has played in building connections for the district’s blind and visually impaired students.
“It feels great to be recognized for all the hard work that we've done for our goalball program; but my personal recognition does not even compare to the amount of pride that I get when I look at our students,” said Draheim. “I know it sounds kind of cliché, but our students have not just learned how to play a game, they’ve truly become family and friends through our program.”
BSBP is Michigan’s vocational rehabilitation agency for blind, deafblind and severely visually impaired individuals. Providing workplace readiness training and other vocational rehabilitation services through seven field offices, BSBP empowers people who have vision loss to achieve their employment goals. The agency works with the business customer to provide access to individuals who are blind, deafblind and severely visually impaired, opening the doors to career pathways.
BSBP provides valuable independent living and workplace readiness skills through its Training Center in Kalamazoo, which served 248 Michiganders during fiscal year 2023. The agency also supports blind entrepreneurs offering food services in state and federal buildings. The Braille and Talking Book Library, located in Lansing, ensures print material is available to all Michiganders unable to use standard print materials. In fiscal year 2023, the library served more than 8,700 patrons, disseminating nearly 690,000 audio books.
For more information on the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons, visit Michigan.gov/BSBP.
The programs described in this press release are funded as follows: Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) funded 78.7% through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) and 21.3% through State funding; Independent Living Older Blind (ILOB) funded 90% through a grant from the USDOE and 10% through State funding; Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) funded 100 percent through the USDOE VR grant. For the federal fiscal year 2023, federal grant funds were as follows: VR $19,146,385; Pre-ETS reserve included in VR $2,871,958; ILOB $994,565.