May 2024 Newsletter


May 2024 Newsletter

Vito DeSantis Retires After 40 Years in the Field

On December 29, 2023, the National Training Center for Transformational Rehabilitation Leadership (NTCTRL) watched as one of its pioneers, Vito DeSantis, rode off into the retirement sunset after a 40-year career in the field of vocational rehabilitation (VR).

Vito began his VR career in 1984 when he joined the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CBVI) as a vocational rehabilitation counselor. From his early days at the agency, he was instrumental in the transformational changes that ultimately became a comprehensive reorganization and expansion of CBVI services and programs. Through these, the agency evolved to better meet the needs of job seekers, especially at the onset of the technology age. Vito went on to become the manager of CBVIs Southern Regional Office, and then manager of the agency’s Joseph Kohn Rehabilitation Center in New Brunswick, NJ. At the Joseph Kohn Rehabilitation Center, he implemented transformative changes that reinforced the need for students, regardless of their degree of visual impairment, to receive sleep shades training during instruction for full acclamation to blindness.  

Vito was appointed as CBVI’s executive director, assuming leadership of its three regional offices, rehabilitation training center, and educational instruction center. It was while in this role that Vito served as president of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind (NCSAB), which represents all blindness agencies in the United States, and chaired many of its committees. Vito retired in 2014 with many accolades after 30 years with CBVI. That same year, Vito joined the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) at the University of Massachusetts Boston as a senior policy fellow. In his time at the ICI, he worked on multiple projects with VR programs across the country.  

More recently, starting in 2018, Vito was integral in the development, launch, and growth of what is now the  NTCTRL, and the NTCTRL’s Transformational Rehabilitation Leadership Training (TLRT) program. The Center and the TRLT program are supported by a partnership between the ICI, the University of Wisconsin Stout Vocational Rehabilitation Institute, and the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification. The NTCTRL is dedicated to revolutionizing leadership for the VR field into a dynamic, innovative, and person-centric service delivery system that will shape the profession for the next century. Within the first two years, the TRLT program has certified almost 100 transformational VR leaders.  

One of Vito’s roles in the Center was to mentor TRLT participants. One of his mentees, Jody, shared, “Thank you Vito. This [training] was a great experience and I learned so much from your mentoring.” 

Russ Thelin, NTCTRL’s co-director shared, “I was an upstart leader when I first met Vito DeSantis. At the time, I was so impressed with his knowledge, character, and the way he influenced everyone. Over the many years I have had the opportunity to interact with him, I consider Vito one of the most impactful mentors I have had in my life both professionally and personally.”   

Vito’s plans upon retirement are to travel, continue learning to play the guitar, and spend time with his family. Vito has been an exceptional colleague, mentor, and friend to those he has worked with. He embodies a Transformational Leader, and all who have had the chance to cross paths with Vito are much better because of our associations with him.  

Vito, we at the National Training Center for Transformational Rehabilitation Leadership wish you the very best in your retirement. You will be missed! 


12 New Graduates 
Image of the 12 graduates

On April 18, 2024, a significant milestone was reached as 12 graduates successfully completed their training program at NTCTRL, culminating in the presentation of their capstone projects in Woodbury, Minnesota. This event marked the result of their hard work and dedication put forth to receive their Certified Rehabilitation Leadership certification. Congratulations to these individuals as they embark on new journeys.

All CRL Roundtable call

Mark your calendars and join us on June 4th from 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm, Eastern Time, for our All-CRL Roundtable call. An opportunity to gather virtually to exchange ideas, share experiences, and foster connections within our vibrant community. Register HERE

June Cohort
Limited spots are still available for our upcoming June cohort! Secure your place now by registering HERE. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out to Russ at or Erin at We're here to assist you every step of the way.

Book Corner

Who Owns the Ice House? Eight Life Lessons from an Unlikely Entrepreneur

Who Owns the Ice House? is a mindset that empowers ordinary people to achieve extraordinary results. Drawing on entrepreneurial life lessons, it chronicles the journey from life in the Mississippi Delta during legal segregation to being recognized as outstanding emerging entrepreneurs. This book inspires with eight chapters that introduce new concepts for aspiring entrepreneurs. Buying choices

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