Congratulations to the 2020 ACB/JPMorgan Chase Leadership Fellows award winners! The ACB/JPMorgan Chase Leadership Fellows awards program annually recognizes five ACB members who have demonstrated leadership abilities. This year's award recipients are Regina Brink from Sacramento, CA, Sajja Koirala from Honolulu, HI, Meryl Shecter from Windsor Mill, MD, Koni Sims from Sioux Falls, SD, and Wanda Williford from Trenton, NJ. They will be honored this year during the virtual ACB Conference and Convention and also be able to participate in special leadership development sessions. Recipients will also get free access to the 2021 ACB Conference and Convention in Phoenix, Arizona.
Tremendous thanks to the DKM First-Timers Committee for all their hard work interviewing the numerous candidates and helping to select the recipients.
2020 ACB/JPMorgan Chase Leadership Fellows:
Regina M. Brink of Sacramento, California obtained two B.A. degrees from California State University at Fullerton in Sociology and Ethnic Studies. Her work following college included employment as a counselor at Head Start and WIC. She also worked as a Program Coordinator for the Society for the Blind, as well as served as the chairperson for three years of the Parent Policy Council, an administrative board over the 7 county Head Start programs in Sacramento. She was recently elected president of the local ACB Capital Chapter of California Council of the Blind. Regina is currently a member of the Art Access Committee for the Crocker Art museum and helped them develop their Touch tours and offer disability awareness workshops for their docents. Regina has appeared in about 10 productions with her local Sacramento community theater productions, including the Short Repertory Theater, Ovation Stage, and California Stage. She is currently working as a workshop facilitator for the local adult program for developmentally disabled actors and recently directed a theater production with an all-blind cast, performed for blind and sighted audiences.
Sajja Koirala of Honolulu, Hawaii holds a bachelor’s in psychology, a master’s in social work, a certificate in women’s studies, and a graduate certificate in disability studies. She is currently pursuing a PhD in communication and information sciences at the University of Hawaii. Her research interest includes media accessibility and audio description. Sajja has been working as a research assistant on the UniDescription Project since 2017, and has played an instrumental role in audio-describing the brochures of around 100 US national parks. She has been an active member of the Hawaii Association of the Blind (HAB) for the past 9 years, where she serves as the chairperson of the contact committee, and regularly participates in various community activities organized by HAB. Sajja has worked as a student writer for her college’s student publication, and is a former radio talk show host. She has volunteered for the Center on Disability Studies at the University of Hawaii, and at Helping Hands Hawaii, where she worked closely with people with various disabilities. Sajja also mentors younger members who are new to the organization, as well as actively participating in advocacy efforts in support of all people with disabilities.
Meryl Ann Shecter of Windsor Mill, Maryland is a retired government employee with service extending to the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration. She speaks 5 languages (English, Spanish, French, Hebrew and Yiddish). Her degrees include a bachelor’s in Spanish and French from Adelphi University, Garden City Long Island, New York and a master’s in Spanish from Fordham University in the Bronx, New York. She also studied accounting at St. John’s University in Queens, New York. Meryl currently holds the office of vice president of the American Council of the Blind of Maryland (ACBM), and she serves as chair of the membership committee for her chapter, Central Maryland Council of the Blind (CMCB), along with recent service as vice chair of the legislative committee. Other service areas include serving on the Special Projects Committee for the State of Maryland, serving as a Baltimore County Election Judge (assisting those who are blind, disabled and elderly, wanting to use the ballot marking device) and member of the Consumer Advisory Committee for Accessible Transportation (CACAT). Meryl’s passion to make a difference and bring positive change was inspired by a conversation with Durward K. McDaniel years ago, when he told her that she had the potential to become a leader for ACB.
Koni Sims of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is a graduate of South Dakota School of Massage Therapy. She is a Certified Sports Massage Therapist, Certified Lymphedema Technician, and a Certified Medical Massage Practitioner. Koni is currently serving her first term as President of South Dakota Association of the Blind (SDAB) and has worked to enhance affiliate operations by implementing policies, such as: a Financial Policy for effective service, budgeting practices and transparency while holding the office of treasurer; Conflict of Interest Policy and a Confidentiality Policy. She is also in the process of developing and introducing guidelines to ensure greater efficiency in regard to documentation and reporting. Koni has been an active member of the board of directors for the past five years; serves as chair on the publicity and legislative committee and co-editor for the affiliate newsletter. She is treasurer of her chapter, Siouxland, and she served as president for two terms. On the national level, Koni is a member of the ACB Transportation Committee and will be a facilitator/presenter during the transportation workshop during the upcoming ACB convention. In regard to her community, Koni serves on the Citizen Advisory Committee (under MPO, Southeastern Council of Governments) and the Sioux Falls Pedestrian Advisory Committee.
Wanda Denise Williford of Trenton, New Jersey attended Temple University in Pennsylvania as an Accounting major. She worked for New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company for 24 years as a Senior Property Casualty Underwriter. She maintained an Insurance Producers license in that capacity. Wanda stepped up at a crucial time in her affiliate and is currently serving her first term as president of New Jersey Council of the Blind (NJCB). She has taken the lead in planning, developing strategies to position the organization for growth and she has initiated a fundraising campaign to ensure that their scholarship program continues to thrive. She is also serving her first term as vice president in her local chapter and eagerly assists members in conceptualizing the benefits of technology and how it supports personal independence. Additionally, she is working to promote community awareness of her organization, by creating ads for the local newspaper, along with planning the annual summer bash. Wanda recently became involved with advocating for equal access to the Absentee Ballot in her county through the provision of online voting in support of voters who are blind having the privilege of voting independently and privately.