All Blind Children of Texas was created in the spring of 2004 to assess the educational opportunities of blind students in Texas and help provide programs, services and materials that will fill in the gaps in both core and expanded curricular areas. The Board of Trustees of the 501(c)3 organization is comprised of experts in the field of education of the visually impaired, including several who are blind themselves as well as parents of visually impaired children.
The Board works closely with the administrative staff of Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Teachers of the Visually Impaired and Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists, and Education Service Center specialists to support the needs of the 9,000 visually impaired Texas students.
Christine Sahliyeh has been an active volunteer at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired since February 2013. Christine’s passion for helping visually impaired kids stems from her father, who was born with glaucoma and, despite spending most of his life completely blind, earned a PhD and is a college professor. Christine’s experience growing up with a blind parent helps her relate to the kids with whom she volunteers. Christine’s goal as the newest board member of ABCTX is to see that more visually impaired kids reach their full potential.
Christine earned her B.B.A. from the University of North Texas in Denton, but is proud to call Austin home. She works full time at an Austin-based tech company, focusing on marketing and online merchandising. When she’s not working or volunteering, she enjoys spending time with her family, cooking, being outdoors, and traveling.
Lee Sonnenberg is the father of a child with a visual impairment. He has served on the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Board of Trustees since 2013 and is one of the members of the Board who have a child who is blind or visually impaired. He is pursuing a master’s degree in special education with an emphasis on visual impairment and certification as a teacher of the visually impaired from Texas Tech University. Lee works with educators to help them understand the complexities of families who have children who are blind or visually impaired.
Lee and his family are actively involved in The Springs Fellowship Church, the Llano Emmaus Community, and the Children’s Miracle Network at University Medical Center in Lubbock. He served as president of the Frenship North Ridge Elementary PTA and secretary of the Frenship Terra Vista Middle School PTA. Lee also works with the West Texas Cluster in support roles for various camps, conferences, and training events. He is a past nominee for the Texas Tech University President’s Excellence in Diversity and Equity Award. Lee is also on the Board of Directors of Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
Lee is the associate director of Texas Tech University Transportation and Parking Services. He spends his spare time watching his three kids at band and choir concerts, swim meets, and golf tournaments.
Mel Finefrock is blind and a former ABCTX scholarship recipient. She graduated from the University of North Texas in 2013 with a bachelor of arts in English and an undergraduate certificate in rehabilitation studies. Currently she works as a freelance editor for independently published fiction authors and, occasionally, professors publishing scholarly articles. She also has a long-running history of volunteerism with several organizations such as REACH, Inc., Springcreek Church, UNT's Office of Disability Accommodation, the Alice Givens Jones Foundation, and of course All Blind Children of Texas. Mel has received an award from the Texas State Independent Living Council for her service to the disability community, and her poetry has been recognized by the University of North Texas and the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities.
Mary Sue Welch, who serves as President of the Board of Directors, is a graduate of The Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI). Mary Sue notes that her twelve years at the School for the Blind were very beneficial to her 30-year working career for the federal government. Mary spent the rest of her working life serving people with all types of disabilities.
Learning Braille, and having a true passion for the marvelous tool it is, allowed her to perform many work tasks independently. She served fourteen years on the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Board of Trustees as secretary, vice-president, and president, and has been president of the All Blind Children of Texas Board of Trustees since it was created. Being a part of an organization providing services to enrich the lives of blind and visually impaired children is her passion and her privilege.
We sadly announce that Dr. Phil Hatlen passed away on January 14, 2016.
Dr. Hatlen received his undergraduate and Master's degrees at San Francisco State University (SFSU), majoring in elementary education and special education, with an emphasis in the education of students with visual impairments. He subsequently earned a doctorate in education at the University of California, Berkeley.
In the mid-1950's, Phil began his career as a teacher of students with visual impairments who were included in regular classrooms. He served as principal of the California School for the Blind from 1962 until 1966. During his following twenty-four year tenure as a professor at San Francisco State, which hosts one of the leading personnel preparation programs in the United States, he prepared students and orientation and mobility instructors for work with blind and visually impaired students. In 1990 he left San Francisco State to become Superintendent at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He retired in 2007.
Phil served as president of the Division on Visual Impairments of the Council for Exceptional Children; and as president of the Association for the Education of the Visually Handicapped (AEVH). He was very active in the formation of the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER). Phil founded the Living Skills Center for the Visually Impaired, and he also served as Executive Director of the Blind Babies Foundation. He was co-chair of the National Agenda, and is a past-president of the Council of Schools for the Blind.
His awards include the Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Award in 1994, the prestigious Migel Medal by the American Foundation for the Blind in 1997, and the Mary K. Bauman Award in 2000. Phil was inducted into the APH Hall of Fame Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field
Billy T. Brookshire has over thirty-five years of experience in rehabilitation and training. He has presented workshops throughout the United States and Canada on a variety of topics, including Personality Types, Self Esteem, Body Expression, Stress Management, Assertiveness, Team Building, Time Management, Giving Feedback, Dealing with Change, Dealing with Difficult People, and Letting Go. He served as President of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired and Executive Chair of the Intergovernmental Training Council.
Billy currently serves on the boards of All Blind Children of Texas, The Texas Association for Education and Rehabilitation for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TAER), and the Hall of Fame for Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field. His awards include Virgil Zickel Award for Excellence In Product Development from the American Printing House for the Blind in 2003; the Aubrey Boyd Tipps Memorial Award from Texas Association for Education and Rehabilitation in 1999; the Sammy K. Rankin Outstanding Member Award from Texas Association for Education and Rehabilitation in 1995; the Distinguished Service Award In Rehabilitation from South Central Association for Education and Rehabilitation in 1993; the Arkansas Traveler in 1991; and Admiral of the Texas Navy in 1986.
Billy recently retired from the Division for Blind Services where he served as Blindness Training and Development Specialist for 30 years. He is currently a training consultant and public speaker in private practice, and the award winning author of the book: Loving Me: A Guide To Creating and Presenting Workshops on Self-Esteem.
Paula Margeson has worked in the Disability Rights movement for more than thirty years and is committed to the principle of equality for all people. As a person who is totally blind and the mother and grandmother of individuals with visual impairments, and a consultant in the disability field, she has both a personal and a professional interest in improving the quality of life for people with disabilities.
As an employee in the nonprofit sector, Paula is well aware of the many challenges organizations which serve the disability community face. She has been involved in resource development for such organizations since 1982. Currently, she is the youth outreach coordinator at REACH of Dallas, where she helps to prepare young people with various disabilities to transition from public school to adult life. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology from California State University at Fullerton.
Paula conducts disability awareness presentations for educational and community groups and public and private agencies on topics that include grant writing, the independent living movement, and community integration. She has participated in numerous documentaries and instructional videos. Currently, Paula serves on the Rehabilitation Council of Texas, and the Housing and Health Services Coordination Council, both governor-appointed boards that assists the state with disability program planning. In her spare time, she directs a disability ministry at her church, is a veracious reader, and loves to cook.
Paula notes, “I am privileged to be a member of the governing board of All Blind Children of Texas. I understand firsthand the importance of the organization’s mission. I am blind and I grew up in Texas, the oldest child of an impoverished family. It wasn’t possible for me to take advantage of many opportunities that would have enriched my life, because my parents did not have the money required for such activities. With state aid, I was able to obtain a college education and have had a long and successful career. I volunteer for several good causes, but none is as meaningful to me as serving on the board of All Blind Children of Texas. What a wonderful way for me to give back.”
Mary Rhodes attended Nixon-Clay Business College and in 1969 worked for the University of Texas as an assistant to the elderly. She retired from the University in 1999, with 31 years of service and continues to work part-time at The University Health Services today. Mary worked part-time with Family Elder Care for 15 years.
In her spare time Mary enjoys cooking, but most of all, she enjoys spending her free time with her two beautiful grandchildren. Mary says, "If I were asked to name my greatest accomplishment, it would be raising my son to be a strong, caring and honest person."
Margarine Beaman is a local business owner and member of several nonprofit boards. She is a winner of the American Foundation of the Blind Migel Medal, which honors professionals and volunteers, whose dedication and achievements have improved the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Margarine volunteers in many areas of the community.