Graduate Council

Meet the Guiding Eyes Graduate Council

The Guiding Eyes for the Blind Graduate Council consists of nine graduates and two advisors. Members of the Council are from around the world and vary in age, lifestyle, and occupation. Shared amongst this far-reaching group is a deep commitment to Guiding Eyes and a strong desire to give back to the school.

 

The Graduate Council has three main roles:

  • To assist Guiding Eyes staff in public relations work and in the recruitment of new guide dog users.
  • To serve as a liaison between Guiding Eyes staff and the graduates, and to provide critical consumer information to the school.
  • To assist Guiding Eyes with other activities as requested.

 

One of the main responsibilities of the membership is to conduct an Exit Survey with clients who have just completed training in residential class or at home. Council members enjoy speaking with new grads; it’s a time to share experiences and obtain valuable feedback on the training programs. New grads should receive a phone call from Council members within two months of receiving their new guide dogs.

Council members are often asked to represent Guiding Eyes at conferences throughout North America. It is a great way for potential guide dog users to hear first hand information about the school and its training program.

 

A council member serves a term of three years. A selection committee chooses three new members every spring. If interested in applying to be a graduate council member, please contact the Graduate Council at gebgradcouncil@gmail.com.

 

If you would like to contact the Grad Council please email us at gebgradcouncil@gmail.com or you may email individual members.  Refer to their greetings and contact information below or a downloadable Word document is available here.

Hello graduate community!

My name is Andrea Conner, President of the Guiding Eyes Graduate Council for the 2022/2023 term year. The Graduate Council is comprised of up to nine (9) graduates who each serve a term of three (3) years. We serve as a liaison between the graduates and our school, Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

 

As President of the Grad Council, I’d like to be one of the first to “welcome” you to Guiding Eyes and our community. You will find that it is a warm and friendly place. One of our roles as a member of the Grad Council is to help graduates feel more connected to the Guiding Eyes family.

 

We look forward to seeing you on our GEB grads only email list, Facebook groups, and the Graduate Quarterly Call meetings.

 

We give back to our school in many ways, one being completing an Exit Survey Form with a Council member after you conclude your training. We appreciate your time and the feedback you share.

 

Please reach out at any time if we, the Grad Council, can help you in any way. Our email address is: gebgradcouncil@gmail.com

 

All my best to you and your canine partner,

Andrea Conner
Guiding Eyes Graduate Council President

Andrea Conner and Guiding Eyes Gretzky

Council President

Greetings fellow grads – My name is Andrea Conner.  I am honored to be here; to work with our Guiding Eyes family. I may be chronologically aging, but I am young at heart and young to vision loss.  I travel with my second GEB dog, a male yellow lab named Gretzky, AKA the “Resilient Rebel.”  We graduated in the April, 2016 class.  I closed my home daycare provider business in 2009 after 35 years and now manage a small franchise business with a focus on wellness and nutrition.  For fun, you’ll find me dancing!  I am active with my hometown, Wauconda, Illinois, Lions Club and the Woman’s Club.  Taking an active part with the Graduate Council will tap into my abilities.  I have the desire to support and assist each of you, our graduate community,  with a voice that can reach out to the appropriate GEB staff if you have comments, questions or concerns.

 

Andrea and Gretzky
Wauconda, Illinois

andreaconner5157@icloud.com

 

Becky Davidson and Guiding Eyes Ballad

Council Vice President

I may be familiar to some, as I served as Manager of Consumer Outreach and Graduate Support at Guiding Eyes for 21 years until I retired in June, 2020.  I am a Guiding Eyes graduate working my fourth guide, Ballad, a female, yellow Lab who became my partner in June, 2019.

 

I am actively involved in advocacy work with the American Council of the Blind (ACB). I serve as chair of ACB’s national Environmental Access Committee which deals primarily with pedestrian safety issues. I also serve on the Guide Dog Users, Inc. (GDUI) Advocacy committee and am 1st Vice President of the North Carolina Council of the Blind. I recently joined the board of directors of the Metrolinas Association for the Blind (MAB) here in Charlotte.

 

I have a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. Prior to joining Guiding Eyes, I worked for 24 years as an Employment and Training Counselor in Western New York State.

 

My husband, Ron, also a Guiding Eyes Graduate, and I moved here to Charlotte from New York state in September, 2017. We both enjoy reading and traveling. Ron is a woodcarver and I am into folk music. I play guitar, autoharp, mountain dulcimer and ukulele and am always looking for folks to play music with. I also love tandem cycling when I get a chance.

 

The Guiding Eyes Graduate Council is a vital part of the greater GEB community and I look forward to connecting with and serving my fellow grads as well as our guide dog school.

 

Becky & Ballad

Charlotte, North Carolina
beckyb1120@gmail.com

Cindy LaBon and Guiding Eyes Gardenia

Council Recording Secretary

Hello fellow grads, my name is Cindy LaBon and I live in Gaithersburg, Maryland known to many as the Montgomery Region just north of Washington D.C. After being outsourced from a Labor International I took up another career as a Benefits Counselor otherwise known as a Community Work Incentive Coordinator (CWIC) contracted by the Social Security Administration. While working having a guide dog is absolutely fabulous because we have to visit many offices around the state and Gardenia never forgets once we have been there. Gardenia being my first guide dog has been the best experience an individual could have.  We love to travel, and our favorite places are Alaska and cruising the Caribbean. Guiding Eyes is the only school that I would attend because of the fact that the training is geared to my lifestyle. Grocery shopping is my guide’s favorite because she can identify 44 items in the store.  She also selects her favorite cashier.  No, I do not allow her to select the meat or seafood!

 

Cindy and Gardenia
Gaithersburg, Maryland

cindylabon@gmail.com

Pat Leahy and Guiding Eyes Hogan

Hi Fellow Graduates, Pat and Hogan here. We’re looking forward to serving on the Council. For the past 29 years, I’ve been fortunate to have guide dogs help me navigate daily life. Guiding Eyes for the Blind provided all four of my exceptional guides. Hogan and I were matched in June of 2018. We live on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

 

I grew up in Timonium, Maryland, and have been blind since birth (with just a little bit of peripheral vision). Hogan grew up in the Cleveland suburbs with his great puppy raisers, Jeanne, Vicki, and Larry.

 

Over the years, I’ve served Members of Congress and a Cabinet Secretary. I currently work for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, ensuring our elections are secure and accessible. During my free time, I enjoy meeting up with friends, gardening, working out at the gym, performing a little stand-up comedy, and playing the harmonica and drums.

 

As for Hogan, he likes fetching his rubber ball in our upstairs hallway, playing hide and seek around the house, and chilling at the park. Most of all though, Hogan loves being a guide dog and hanging with me. Like he always says, “Being a guide is fun work and a cool career.” Please reach out to us with any questions or just to say hi.

 

Pat and Hogan

Washington, DC

Pat.r.leahy@gmail.com

Ann Chiappetta and Guiding Eyes Bailey

Greetings from Annie Chiappetta and yellow lab Bailey from New Rochelle, New York. I am an Indie Author and retired family therapist. Giving back to Guiding Eyes has been a long-time passion for me since receiving my first guide dog in 2009. I love meeting people and listening to stories and life experiences.  Giving presentations on living with blindness and working with a guide dog are some of the subjects I talk about to adults and school-age children. I am glad to be serving on the Graduate Council.  Reach out to me anytime – I am looking forward to hearing from you.

 

Annie and Bailey
New Rochelle, New York

anniecms64@gmail.com

Deborah Groeber and Guiding Eyes Iris

My name is Deborah Groeber and I joined Graduate Council in April 2020.  I live outside of Philadelphia, PA.  I have had six guide dogs, all of them from Guiding Eyes, and my current guide is an exuberant Yellow Lab, Running Guide, named Iris.


I had two careers – one in Finance, and one in Law – but am now retired.  I enjoy running, volunteering, playing golf, skiing, travel and church activities.  In my 35 years as a guide dog handler, I have worked to educate the public about blindness, guide dogs and Guiding Eyes. Over the past two years I have enjoyed working on Graduate Council and serving the Guiding Eyes graduate community and the School.  I look forward to continuing to serve you over the coming year. Please feel free to contact me at any time.


Deborah and Iris
Glenside, Pennsylvania

Deborah.Groeber@gmail.com

Jywanza Maye and Guiding Eyes Wyatt

Hello fellow graduates! My name is Jywanza and I was appointed to the Graduate Council in April of 2021. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. I currently reside in Indiana, where I work for the Department of Defense. I have many interests such as: traveling, fashion, learning about skin products, reading and enjoy meeting new people. I am currently working my third guide dog Wyatt. Wyatt is a hard-working yet silly black Labrador and he makes me smile every day. I am thrilled to be a member of the Graduate Council and to serve the graduate community! If you have any comments, questions, concerns or if you just want to say hello, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

 

Jywanza and Wyatt

Indianapolis, Indiana

Jkm11224@gmail.com

Nate Kile and Guiding Eyes Edgar

Hello, Guiding Eyes community! My name is Nate Kile and I live in Anchorage, Alaska. I received my Guide Edgar in August of 2017. He is my first guide dog, and he won’t be my last. We have zig-zagged around the country, traveled throughout our state and we keep putting on the miles. I enjoy reading anything and everything, strumming my acoustic guitar, being active, trying new foods and building new relationships.

 

I have owned several businesses, been a massage therapist, recording engineer and currently work as a Program Director for the Alaska Center for the Blind, and a second position as a Director of Educational Services for TechVision, an organization providing instruction to blind students throughout the country. Feel free to contact me any time!

 

Nate and Edgar
Anchorage, Alaska

nkile@alaskabvi.org

Tyler Shaffer and Guiding Eyes Edric

Hello all! My name is Tyler Shaffer and I reside in Windham, Maine with my current guide dog, Edric. He is a big goofy yellow Lab who I graduated with in January of 2020. Edric and I love traveling, exploring trails around where we live, and getting plenty of playtime. I recently graduated from college with a degree in marketing and am currently studying to take the LSAT which is an acceptance test for most law schools. I am ecstatic to be serving on the Council for my first term and cannot wait to speak with new graduates!

 

Tyler and Edric

Windham, Maine

tylershaffer990@gmail.com