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Director Hildreth Honored by Hadley School for the Blind

Division of Blind Services (DBS) Director Joyce Hildreth was the recipient of the Leadership in Education award presented by the Hadley School for the Blind during the Florida Vision Summit held at the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee on Feb. 8. 

The award recognizes Joyce’s commitment to education and lifelong learning, and is reflective of the success of the partnership that was formed in 2010 and will continue through September 2011 between Hadley and the Florida Department of Education DBS. The goal of this partnership is to expand Hadley's presence in Florida, concentrating on unique collaborations to better serve Hadley constituents and increase enrollment, particularly among those who want to earn a high school diploma.

Article Printed in the Tallahassee Democrat, February, 23, 2011


Personnel Announcements

Please join me in welcoming JoAnn Carrin as the Division's Communications Director. JoAnn brings extensive experience in the field of communications, having served as the former Department of Education Communications Director.  I am confident the division will benefit from JoAnn's experience in both external and internal communications as well as outreach efforts.  You can expect to hear from her as she becomes more acquainted with the Division and develops processes that will improve our communication strategies.  In January, we announced that Melanie Etters would serve as the Communications Director.  However, Melanie was re-appointed to the Agency for Persons with Disabilities shortly thereafter and re-assumed her duties there. We wish Melanie well. 

I’d also like to extend a warm welcome to Yvonne Gulley who joined the PROSIM project as a business analyst, replacing Kiran Barad.  Yvonne brings more than 20 years of business analysis, project management, and software development management experience to the PROSIM project.  Yvonne has worked in a consulting capacity for the state of Mississippi, the Marines, and NASA.  For the past 12 years, Yvonne has worked in Florida state government for the Office of Legislative Information Technology Services as a development manager.  Yvonne brings a strong testing background, excellent communication skills, and a Project Management Professional certification to DBS.

The following individuals have either joined the Division, retired, or were promoted. For those who have joined us, we welcome you to our team. Congratulations to those individuals who were recently promoted.  And we wish the retiring employees best wishes for the next chapter in their lives.



New Employees

Joyce Hildreth


Miami Lighthouse Music Program Grad Receives Scholarship

by Virginia Jacko

Miami Lighthouse is proud to announce that the first Spencer Educational Empowerment Scholarship grant of $5,000 has been awarded to Natalia Sulca.  Natalia was a student in the Miami Lighthouse Better Chance Music Production Program™, and recently performed at the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl festivities, singing "God Bless the USA.”  She also sang at the Miami ceremonies for the swearing-in of recently-elected Congressmen. 

The Spencer Educational Endowment Fund was established by a private donor to help provide educational opportunities for Miami Lighthouse clients and interns.  Natalia is truly a talented singer and songwriter whose compositions and performances have been featured on Miami Lighthouse CDs. She currently attends the competitive and prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston on a music scholarship.  She received vocational rehabilitation at Miami Lighthouse and instruction in songwriting, music performance, and production through its groundbreaking music program.

"Natalia has been a joy to work with, and our music instructors are thrilled with her success,” said Miami Lighthouse CEO Virginia A. Jacko.  Miami Lighthouse Music Director Harold Cobo and Music Engineer Antonio Cobo recorded the background music for Natalia’s Orange Bowl performance with other music students at the Miami Lighthouse Henry and Inez Stone Music & Sound Studio.

Natalia is fluent in Braille and an ardent champion of the importance of Braille instruction. She is also a voracious reader, and graduated from Michael Krop Senior High in Miami in 2010 with a 4.0 GPA.

"I'm a great believer in Braille, because without it you just don't have access to a full range of knowledge," said Natalia. "The music instructors here at Miami Lighthouse have been wonderful, and I will always be grateful for their help," she said.

For more information about Miami Lighthouse CDs and the Better Chance Music Production Program™ visit


Lakeland Transition Student in National Competition

by Geraldine Kressin

In Lakeland (District 7), Marc Grosskopf's Transition Student, Matthew Oliver is making headlines. Lacking sight but not insight, 18-year old Matthew, a high school student at Lakeland's Harrison School for the Visual and Performing Arts is a talented young man. He composes his own music in Braille, and also enjoys all the activities of the summer and year-round transition program with Tampa Lighthouse/Winter Haven. In addition to participating in many activities like a typical teenager, Matthew is also a gifted pianist. He was recently chosen as one of the two winners in a statewide competition for students with disabilities. He will be one of the representatives of the state during the national award ceremony, and, if chosen, will be afforded the opportunity to play piano at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.  

Although he has congenital blindness, Matthew sees no reason to keep his blindness a secret.  Matthew has always shared his blindness and acknowledges that his musical talents give others an opportunity to learn the true abilities of a person who is blind.  Matthew’s gift for piano has earned him a chance at winning the national championship, and regardless of the outcome, we at DBS are proud of his achievement, as he represents Lakeland DBS and District 7 throughout the state.


Inside DBS — Upcoming Changes and Improvements

by JoAnn Carrin

Beginning in April, we will publish Inside DBS during the first week of the month.  Please send your stories about upcoming or past events, including digital photos with captions.  Be sure to send news stories about clients and staff so they can be highlighted.  If you also have ideas and suggestions for improving our newsletter, please share them with us.  The new deadline for submissions will be the 24th of each month.  This will create a quick turnaround for April submissions.  We look forward to hearing from you all. 


Meeting Announcements

The Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind will conduct its next quarterly meeting in Miami at the Embassy Suites Airport, 3974 NW South River Dr., April 7, 2011, from 8:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., and April 8, 2011, from 8:30 a.m. until 12:00 p.m.  For a copy of the agenda, when available, contact Phyllis Dill at (850) 245-0392, or via e-mail at

The Council will also conduct a Public Forum on April 7, 2011, from 4:00 -5:30 p.m. at the same location.  This is an open meeting with no agenda. 

In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, persons needing a special accommodation to participate in these meetings should contact the local DBS office, no later than five working days prior to the meeting, at (305) 377-5339 or toll free at (888) 529-1830. You may also contact us through the Florida Telephone Relay system, by dialing 711.


End Zone

We encourage you to let us know what’s going on in your district or facility, so that we may highlight your great stories in the newsletter. The publication date for the Inside DBS newsletter will fall in the first week of each month, with the submission deadline being on the 24th of the month. Comments, suggestions, and submissions should be directed to:

Ashley Evans
Phone:  (850) 245-0310

Additional useful links and telephone numbers:

MIS Help Desk:
Phone:  (850) 245-0360

AWARE Help Desk:
Phone:  (850) 245-0395 or 1-866-841-0912

Division of Blind Services Website:

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