Meet Our Team

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Dan Wenzel

Executive Director

Dear Internet Travelers,

Welcome to the BLIND, Inc. Website! I am Dan Wenzel and I have the honor of serving as the Executive Director of Blindness Learning In New Dimensions (BLIND), Inc. I have worked in the field of blindness for nearly 22 years. I moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota to begin work at BLIND, Inc. in January, 2014. Although I am blind, I did not originally intend to have a career in the field of blindness. A summer spent as a youth counselor at our sister National Federation of the Blind (NFB) training center, the Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB), changed the course of my professional career.

During my eight years at CCB I taught cane travel, directed youth programs and eventually became Assistant Director. I then accepted a position at the Wisconsin Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired (WCBVI), which houses the school for the blind. During my tenure at WCBVI I was the statewide transition specialist and then served as Director of WCBVI for almost six years. While living in Wisconsin I served as President of the NFB of Wisconsin for three years and as a member of the Board of Directors of the NFB for two years. My family and I then headed east so I could work as the Manager of Youth Services at Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM). My wife, three sons and I are thrilled to be back in the Midwest. We live in Bloomington, MN.

At BLIND, Inc. the whole is greater than the sum of its parts (Aristotle). Our staff, students, graduates and friends in the NFB come together to build a learning community which believes in the abilities of the blind and provides the instruction and support needed to build your future. I hope to have an opportunity to meet you personally down the line!

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Dr. Brian Dulude

Assistant Director

I joined the Blind, Inc. team in November 2016.

A little about myself: I went through the Louisiana Center for the Blind and completed my Masters degree at Louisiana Tech University in Educational Psychology with an emphasis in Orientation and Mobility. I have had my National Orientation and Mobility Certification for over 15 years. I completed my doctorate in Rehabilitation Education in 2011 from the University of Arkansas. I also am a die hard Razorback (HOGS!) fan. I worked as rehabilitation coordinator for the state of Utah for four years. I loves cooking great BBQ and spending time with my family.

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Rob Hobson

Coordinator for Professional Development and Outreach

I am the Coordinator for Travel and Transition here at BLIND Incorporated. I started working here in January 2009.

I received a Bachelor’s of Arts in political science from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 2004. In 2007, I received my adjustment to blindness training at Louisiana Center for the Blind. After I completed my 7 months of training, I went right into the Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University for my Masters of Art in Educational Psychology with an emphasis in Orientation and Mobility. While at Louisiana Tech, I also completed all requirements for my National Orientation and Mobility Trainer Certificate.

My wife and I just welcomed an adorable baby boy to our family. I enjoy reading books on Sci-Fi fantasy, and suspense thrillers. I enjoy teaching and giving my students independence.

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ShaQuantaey (Taey) Mack

Residential Manager

I am a Georgia native- born and raised in a small town in the heart of Georgia called Sandersville. I completed my undergraduate course work at Georgia College & State University-graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Criminal Justice. I am a proud 2011 BLIND, Inc. alumni. After completing adjustment-to-blindness training at BLIND, Inc., I returned to the south, and was accepted into the University of Georgia; where I obtained a Masters in Social Work with a concentration in Community Empowerment and Program Development.

Before becoming a BLIND, Inc. employee, I worked as a home educator assistant for Athens-Clarke County Office of Early Learning. I later accepted a position with Family Connections-Communities in Schools of Athens. I have served as secretary for the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia and also served on the board of directors for Kids on the Move for Success-a nonprofit organization based in Dallas, Texas. I have worked several BLIND, Inc. Buddy Programs-teaching home management and cane travel.

I was hired as Residential Coordinator for BLIND, Inc., in April 2016. When our new students come to us, they feel unsure of their abilities and require some skills training. I enjoy watching them grow and gain confidents as they progress through the program.

When I am not working, I enjoy going to the movies and exploring the Twin Cities. I am ecstatic about being apart of the BLIND, Inc. team and having an opportunity to turn someone’s dreams of independence, into reality. Our students are living the lives they want. Blindness is definitely not holding them back!

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Jennifer Wenzel

Admissions Coordinator

I came to BLIND, Inc. to work as a part-time Life Skills Instructor in September of 2014 after working as a Daily Living skills Instructor for Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM) for a year and a half. I have over twenty years experience working with blind people of all ages. I taught seniors and other students at Blind, Inc. until September of 2016 when I became the Admissions Coordinator. I still perform other tasks such as writing the weekly class schedule and filling in on the phones when needed. I also do some in-home teaching. I should add that I am a proud graduate of BLIND, Inc.

I love the flexibility this job offers which gives me time to be home and attend school activities and appointments for my 3 sons. I also love the variety of duties which keep me interested and challenged each day. My husband Dan and I are happy to be living in Bloomington, MN. I love to cook, read, swim, tandem bike, and spend time with my family when I’m not working.

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Becky Bergmann

Home Management Instructor

I grew up in Minneapolis and earned a B.S. in General Home Economics from the University of Minnesota. I have done post graduate work in education and special education and held a vocational education license for over 20 years. During that time I taught Home Economics at Faribault Regional Center which was a state residential facility for the mentally disabled. When the facility closed I took a position as a placement consultant with a small company called Nanny Professionals. I assisted families in filling their childcare needs.

I was hired by BLIND, INC. in 2006. This position fulfilled my desire to return to the classroom setting and continue to work in the human services field.

I have been an active member of the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences for over 35 years, holding several board positions with the state affiliate. I volunteer at my church, playing keyboard and handbells in the music program and maintaining a floral garden. I am also a photographer and have been a member of local photography groups for over 30 years. I love searching state parks and the north woods for that perfect photograph. I live in Savage, Minnesota with my kitties, Oscar and Emmy.

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Chelsey Duranleau

Communications Instructor

I grew up in Claremont, New Hampshire. As a blind child and teenager, I felt very different from the rest of my classmates, and couldn’t wait to move out on my own and live in a different city. I attended and graduated from Keene State College, a small liberal-arts college in Keene, New Hampshire with a
Bachelor’s degree in Spanish in 2010. During my junior year of college, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Seville, Spain; it was one of the most
memorable experiences of my life. In the fall of 2011, I returned to Spain to work as an assistant English teacher at an elementary school in Palma de
Mallorca, where I taught conversational English to children for a year. Upon returning to The U.S. and realizing that something was missing from my life,
I decided to attend BLIND, Inc. to learn alternative techniques of blindness. I learned to travel independently, cook, use power tools and a lot of other
things that I never thought I would be able to do as a blind person. I gained the confidence I needed, and have had the opportunity to share what I have
learned as both an instructor/counselor in The Buddy Program and as a Communications Instructor in the adult ATB program. I have always enjoyed teaching
and learning, and I love seeing my students grow in both skills and confidence.

When not teaching, I enjoy traveling, trying new foods, singing, reading, skiing and being outdoors.

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Martha Harris

Communications Instructor

I am originally from Paraguay, and I was adopted when I was a baby. I grew up in Pennsylvania.

I have a degree from Louisiana Tech for Teaching blind students, and one from the University of Minnesota for Adult literacy.

My work experience includes working with the Pennsylvania Blindness and vision services, teaching blindness skills. I also worked at the Louisiana Center for the blind as the Braille and technology instructor for children. I have been working in the blindness related field for ten years, the last five of which were with Blind, Incorporated.

I graduated from Blind, Incorporated in 2010 and I was hired as Communications Instructor in 2014.

It is gratifying for me when a student learns something new and then internalizes what they learned to facilitate their daily tasks. In my spare time, I enjoy reading fiction novels and hiking.

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Chase Holladay

Industrial Arts Instructor

I believe that all people have the ability to be great. Most of life’s problems are solved by following some wise words from Mahatma Gandhi: The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

As a student at Louisiana State University I studied fisheries biology and further developed a fascination and love of the ocean that began during childhood on the Gulf of Mexico. I worked in small business, building water gardens and aquariums and eventually completed a Master’s in Teaching Science from Louisiana Technical University. In Salt Lake City, Utah I served the blind community by teaching personal independence and alternative techniques in wood shop at DSBVI, (Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired). Before college, I also spent two years as a full time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. During that time I worked with Spanish speaking people in Sacramento, California where I immersed myself in their culture. I continue to use my speaking skills at home and at work.

If I was to make a list of potential small business ideas it would include: an alpaca farm, a restaurant serving insects and hydroponic fruits and vegetables, a zero waste market. I enjoy good food from South Louisiana such as crawfish, oyster po-boys, and gumbo. When I am not teaching at Blind Inc., you can find me spending time with family, fly fishing on a backpacking trip, or asking Why not?

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Michell Gip

Youth Services Coordinator

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Mark Erickson

Travel Instructor

Hello, becoming a proficient cane traveler is an empowering skill to master in order to succeed as an independent blind person. Whatever your situation is, cane travel is completely possible, and essential for attending school, being part of the work force, and independent living.

I am a lifelong resident of Minnesota, born and raised in Cook, Minnesota. I am a veteran of the Armed forces, serving in the Marine Corps. Upon my release from duty, I embarked on a career as a skilled laborer, as an Auto body technician. I have lived and worked in Minneapolis all of my adult life. I have significant ties to the American Indian community in the Twin Cities and the region, serving on the Board of Directors at the Minneapolis American Indian Center for the last 18 years. I volunteer in the community as a cultural coordinator for family drum and dance activities. I continue to participate as a traditional singer at community dances in the city and region.

I Graduated from BLIND, Inc. in 2009. I received my Cane Travel Certification from the State of Minnesota in 2015. I have been employed at the center since 2014 as the Residential Coordinator and cane travel instructor. In March of 2016, I became a full-time Cane Travel Instructor for BLIND, Inc.

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Dick Davis

Project Coordinator

I just finished up two years as Associate Director and 14 as Assistant Director at BLIND, Inc. Following my semi-retirement at the end of 2016, I now work on projects for BLIND, Inc. – finding or supervising the construction of new housing for our students, updating our policies, procedures, and manuals, figuring out ways to bring in more money through grants and donations – that kind of exciting stuff! Honestly, it is nice to slow down to 20 hours a week and help the other guys get going on their careers. Brian Dulude, our new Assistant Director, handles our careers classes, so please call on him for information about them. I still am Chair of the National Federation of the Blind Employment Committee, where I work to get even more jobs for blind people throughout the country. I am happy to report that six blind people found jobs at FedEx in Maple Grove over the past year due to my work. And that isn’t the end yet. Blind people are an employer’s greatest untapped resource – just like gold ore waiting to be dug up or diamonds waiting to be fished out of the mud.
Other stuff I have done: seven years as Assistant Commissioner (Director) of Minnesota State Service for the Blind, six years as Administrator of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind Orientation Center and four as the agency’s Southern Area Supervisor, plus nine as a Rehabilitation Counselor, five as a Rehabilitation Teacher, and two as an Orientation Teacher (Cane Travel) at the Iowa Commission (now Department) for the Blind. I even was Interim Executive Director of BLIND, Inc. for four months, the only sighted person to run an NFB training center.

On a more interesting note, I won the Vile Puns Division of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest in 2006. Since it is a worldwide contest, I had the vilest pun in the world that year, and was published in the book It Was a Dark and Stormy Night, The Very Worst Opening Lines in Fiction, compiled by Scott Rice and published by Friday Books, London, in 2007 (see bottom of page 39). I was also featured in the Quad Community Press in the article Sometimes You’ve Got to Be Really Bad to Be Good, following my winning of the competition. (Love that title – it really is me!)

My beautiful wife Pat and I live in Circle Pines, and have three children: Susannah, who lives in Stillwater, MN with her husband Dan and their sons Miles, William, and Lucas; Amanda, who lives in Wake Forest, NC with her husband Jim and their daughter Eleanor, and Adam, who lives in Los Angeles, CA with his beloved Minerva. Look Adam up on IMDB – he’ll soon be famous as a filmmaker. The girls are already famous as moms.

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Kotumu Kamara

English Language Learning Instructor

I joined the Blind, Inc. family as a student in 2003 upon my arrival from Guinea-West Africa! After graduating from Blind, Inc., I enrolled at the Lehman Adult Education Center and earned my GED in 2005. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and a Minor in social justice in 2010, and obtained a Masters of Education in Human Resource Development in 2013 at the University of Minnesota.

Because of my passion for working with immigrants and other minority groups, between my Bachelor’s and master’s studies, I worked with Minnesota Freedom Network as a DREAM COACH VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR to promote The Dream Act; educating immigrant students at various high schools to explore issues surrounding higher education. The work I did with Minnesota Freedom Network inspired me to earn a certificate in Equity and Diversity, and in Adult Education from the University of Minnesota respectively. I came back to work with Blind, Inc. as an English Language Learning Instructor in 2014!

In addition to reading and writing in Braille, I teach listening/speaking, pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar. Because sighted ELL students learn vocabulary by reading and looking at pictures, I use Braille instruction and other teaching tools to help students correlate English terms with objects and to convey abstract concepts. I use the communicative approach mostly to teach English which is based on the idea that learning language successfully comes through easily by communicating real meaning. When interacting with my new students, I make sure to tell them that I am an immigrant because I want them to know that I can personally relate to their life experiences. I can also understand how challenging it can be to settle in another country. Especially living in Minnesota, you must not only learn a new language but also deal with a cold, freezing and snowy weather! One of my favorite parts of being an ELL instructor is to see how my students grow in improving their skills in reading and writing in Braille, and listening/speaking English. It is a great opportunity for me to work with students from diverse cultural backgrounds making my job a learning experience as well.

In my free time, I enjoy reading, listening to music, cooking, shopping, and most of all, spending time with my husband and two daughters!

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Anya Avramenko

English Language Learning Assistant

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James Gagnier

Webmaster/Network Administrator

I am originally from Ottawa Canada. I have been a computing consultant through most of my career, specializing in training, adaptive technology and web accessibility. I have worked for several Government of Canada departments, private companies as well as hundreds of individuals both from Canada and the United States, either providing one on one training, computer and adaptive technology setup or web testing for accessibility. I lost my sight in 1997, but luckily, I was aware of the different adaptive technology available for persons with disabilities as I worked in that field beforehand. I find it most rewarding when the people I help are genuinely benefiting from what I am doing for them. It’s gratifying for me when I show someone how to do something and they understand and put into practice the concept I showed them. It’s great to know that they will use the knowledge they gained to their advantage.

I met my lovely wife online in 2007. After several visits back and forth, we married in 2013, and Poof! Instant family as I gained 2 stepsons in the bargain. After a long immigration process, I moved to the United States in December of 2014 and shortly after was hired at Blind Incorporated. I enjoy working with people, and in my position as Network Manager I believe that I can impart some of the knowledge and experience I was fortunate enough to acquire through my life.

When I’m not working, I enjoy walking, reading, and collecting rare and unusual audio recordings.

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Sidonia (Sid) Starnes

Administrative Assistant

I grew up in Wabasha, Minnesota. My husband David and I have three grown daughters and a son. We are also blessed with eight grandchildren. I moved to Minneapolis when David finished his training at Blind Inc in 2007. In February of 2008 I was offered the job as secretary for Blind Inc and happily accepted the position. I went through staff training. I did this wearing sleep shades and using a long white cane for eight hours a day. My favorite class was Braille. This has been such a wonderful learning experience.

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David Brown

Technology Assistant

I’m from a small town in Southeast Georgia. I graduated from the Georgia Academy for the Blind in 2014. I knew that what I wanted to do was get trained and get a job in the Networks and Systems Administration field. I completed my training at Blind Incorporated in July of 2015 at which point I was granted the opportunity to volunteer at the center. My volunteer work morphed into a full-time job that I look forward to every day.

I plan to start college soon and study Network and Systems Administration.

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Briley O’Connor:

Seniors Service Instructor

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