National Federation of the Blind Recognizes Thirty Outstanding Blind Students

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National Federation of the Blind Recognizes Thirty Outstanding Blind Students

Maureen Nietfeld of Colorado Awarded Top $12,000 Scholarship

Baltimore, Maryland (August 3, 2017): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the nation’s oldest and largest organization of blind people, today announced the winners of its 2017 scholarships, which were awarded at the organization’s recent national convention in Orlando. The winner of the organization’s top prize of $12,000, donated by the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, is Maureen Nietfeld of Colorado, who is studying human nutrition and dietetics and specializing in the care of organ transplant patients. "When I lost my sight I dreamed of being confident, and I dreamed of being independent and successful. I dreamed of being able to go back to work and go to school," said Ms. Nietfeld. "Thank you to the National Federation of the Blind for helping me to make my dreams a reality!"

Each of the other twenty-nine winners received, at a minimum, a National Federation of the Blind Scholarship in the amount of $3,000. In addition to their scholarship, each received a $1,000 check and plaque from inventor and futurist Dr. Ray Kurzweil, a Google Chromebook laptop, a $1,000 cash award from Google, and a certificate towards the purchase of a Talking LabQuest from Independence Science, for a total award for each winner with a minimum value exceeding $5,000. Here is an alphabetical listing of the other winners, with their home state, career goal, and scholarship name and amount (where appropriate):

  • Lindsay Ball, ME: Adaptive physical education teacher
  • Cricket Bidleman, CA: Anthropology professor ($3,000 Charles and Betty Allen Scholarship)
  • Katherine Brafford, CA: Work at the intersection of science and religion ($8,000 Oracle Scholarship for Excellence in Computer Science)
  • Aneri Brahmbhatt, IL: Record label manager
  • Shannon Cantan, HI: Business administration ($5,000 Charles and Melva T. Owen Scholarship)
  • Melissa Carney, CT: Clinical psychologist
  • Trinh Ha, AR: Dietitian
  • Afton Harper, MO: Journalism
  • Qusay Hussein, TX: Psychologist
  • Catherine Jacobson, MN: Healthcare policy analyst
  • Cassandra Mendez, OH: Assistive technology developer ($3,000 Expedia Scholarship)
  • Tabea Meyer, CO: Advocate for marginalized groups ($5,000 Charles and Melva T. Owen Scholarship)
  • Ibeth Miranda, TX: University professor
  • Regina D. Mitchell, NV: Psychologist ($8,000 Oracle Scholarship for Excellence in a STEM Field)
  • Jackie Mushington-Anderson, GA: Braille instructor ($10,000 JAWS for Windows Scholarship)
  • Efose Oriaifo, VA: Biotechnology
  • Chelsea Peahl, UT: Law/Advocacy ($5,000 Pearson Scholarship)
  • Gloria Rodriguez, WA: Disaster mitigation and emergency preparedness
  • Carla L. Scroggins, CA: International politics ($3,000 Charles and Melva T. Owen Scholarship)
  • Luke Schwink, KS: Athletic marketing/Player development ($5,000 Mimi and Marvin Sandler Scholarship)
  • Alyssa Shock, NJ: Child psychologist
  • Heather Simmons, CA: Literature professor ($3,000 Larry Streeter Memorial Scholarship)
  • Wayne Smith III, MD: Computer engineering/Data security ($3,000 Expedia Scholarship)
  • Andrew Sydlik, PA: English teacher or disability advocate ($3,000 Adrienne Asch Memorial Scholarship)
  • Sophie Trist, LA: Novelist
  • Rachel Wellington, GA: STEM career ($3,000 NFB Science and Engineering Division Scholarship)
  • James N. Yesel, ND: Entrepreneur ($3,000 E. U. and Gene Parker Scholarship)
  • Zeynep S. Yilmaz, AZ: Rehabilitation counselor education
  • Ayoub Zurikat, TX: Mental health care provider

“The scholarship program is one of our most important initiatives,” said Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “We are proud to honor these blind scholars, who are studying everything from biotechnology to sports marketing, and in so doing raising the expectations of what blind people can achieve. Their accomplishments are proof of our conviction that we, the blind of this nation, can live the lives we want; blindness does not hold us back.”

Several hundred students competed for the scholarships. A committee of blind persons representing a cross section of the NFB membership, including several former scholarship winners, narrowed the field to thirty finalists. Each finalist was then given roundtrip transportation, hotel accommodations, and assistance to attend the National Federation of the Blind National Convention in Orlando, where the committee spent several days getting to know each student. Only after that process was complete did the committee decide which scholarship to award each finalist. Nearly three thousand blind people attended the convention, the largest gathering of its kind in the United States this year.

Special thanks go to the Jesse and Hertha Adams Charitable Trust for its support of the National Federation of the Blind scholarship program.

Chris Danielsen
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2330
(410) 262-1281 (Cell)