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Alabama Industries for the Blind Names Honors Workers of the Year

Jena Smith and Marquita Young are celebrated for their outstanding commitment and excellence in the workplace.

Alabama Industries for the Blind (AIB), the state’s largest employer of people who are blind, honored Jena Smith as the winner of the 2023 Peter J. Salmon Direct Labor Employee of the Year and Marquita Young as the winner of the 2023 Samuelson Career Achievement Award at its annual Blind Worker of the Year Luncheon on August 28, 2023.

“This is such a special day when we get to celebrate the blind workers of the year,” said John Mascia, Au.D., President, Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind (AIDB).

Jena Smith, who is known for her positive outlook and dedication, has earned recognition from both peers and supervisors. Smith began working at AIB in 2010 after completing a vocational training program at AIDB’s E. H. Gentry Facility and currently works on AIB’s necktie line; a production line that sews all of the neckties worn by the United States Military.

“Wow! It is such an honor to be recognized today,” said Smith about her recognition. “I love to work and learn new things. I thank everyone at AIB who has supported me.”

For Marquita Young, Alabama Industries for the Blind has played an important role in her career development. Young joined the production team at AIB in 2011 and later began shadowing AIB staff members as part of the Upward Mobility Program. She was subsequently promoted to the position of Product and Inventory Technician.

“To my colleagues at AIB, I encourage you to continue to do the good work that you do every day,” Young encouraged. “I want to share the B.E.C.C. acronym that I use to guide my work: Believe in yourself. Encourage each other. Challenge yourself to do more. Correction is a positive because it helps you grow.”

Smith and Young were presented State Resolutions by Alabama State Representative Steve Hurst and Alabama State Senators Lance Bell and Keith Kelly. Talladega City Manager, Seddrick Hill, presented City Proclamations naming August 28, 2023, as “Jena Smith Day” and “Marquita Young Day”. AIDB Trustee Ronald Garrett presented AIDB Board of Trustees Resolutions to Smith and Young. AIDB Trustee Clarence Haynes presented them with National Industries for the Blind (NIB) Award Letters. Dennis Gilliam, Ed.D., Vice President of Instructional Programs, presented each award winner with an award from the AIDB Foundation.

The Peter J. Salmon Employee of the Year Award was created by NIB’s board of directors in 1968 to honor the accomplishments of employees who are blind and who excel in their positions at NIB’s associated agencies. The Milton J. Samuelson Career Achievement Award honors individuals who are blind and who demonstrate career advancement at an NIB-associated agency or in the private sector.