American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults
Future Reflections Convention Issue 2015 AWARDS
Presented by Patti Chang
Reprinted from Braille Monitor, Volume 58, Number 8, August-September 2015
From the Editor: With every passing year we recognize the increasing value of the National Federation of the Blind's scholarship program to our national organization. Members of previous scholarship classes stream back to take part in convention activities and assume responsibility, doing anything that they can see needs to be done, including serving as mentors during the following year for the members of the current scholarship class. Each July everyone looks forward to meeting the new scholarship class and to hearing what its members are doing now and planning to do in the future. This year's class included two tenBroek Fellows, meaning that they have been previous recipients of an NFB scholarship.
In keeping with tradition, the first appearance of the scholarship class occurred during the meeting of the NFB board of directors. Members were introduced by Scholarship Committee Chair Patti Chang, who gave the finalist's name and home state, followed by the state where he or she attends school. Here is what the winners said about themselves.
Katie Adkins, Kentucky, Kentucky: Thank you, Madam Chair, and good morning, fellow Federationists. As several of you know by now, I'm in the second year of my master's at the University of Louisville in elementary education. Once I finish this degree, I plan on starting a PhD in education administration in hopes of becoming the first blind principal in Louisville, Kentucky. What many of you do not know by this point is one of the reasons why I will be the first. It is not because there haven't been other blind individuals who have come before me with those qualifications. It is because the district has established policies that make it impossible for blind people to be hired. The difference between me and these other individuals is that they backed down from these challenges, and I will not. Thank you.
Douglas Alt, Michigan, Georgia: Hi, thank you for inviting me. My name is Douglas Alt. I grew up on an apple farm in western Michigan. I dreamed one day of carrying on the family farm. A car accident tragically changed that. I've since gone back to school; my new goal is to be a professor at Michigan State University in the horticulture department. I may not be able to sit behind the wheel of a tractor anymore, but I feel that with education and extension I can do my part to feed the world. Thank you very much.
Karen Arcos, California, California: Good morning, everyone. My name is Karen Arcos, and I am a first-generation southern Californian of Colombian and Mauritian descent. I earned my bachelor of arts degree in psychology and a Spanish minor from the University of Southern California this past spring. Also during my time at USC I was co-founder of an experience-based support group and a mentoring program for visually impaired youth and their families in southern California called Survive or Thrive. I now plan on pursuing a PhD program at the University of California-Irvine in cognitive neuroscience. I would like to thank the Scholarship Committee and all those involved in selecting me as a scholarship recipient in this year's cohort. Thank you.
Annika Ariel, California, Massachusetts: Hi, everyone. It's really great to be here today. I just graduated high school about a month ago, and in the fall I'll be moving from sunny California to freezing cold Massachusetts to attend Amherst College. I'm planning on double- or triple-majoring in English; political science; and another major they have called law, jurisprudence, and social thought. In the future I really want to be a disability rights attorney, so hopefully you'll see me here in about ten years.
Liliya Asadullina, Pennsylvania, Colorado: Good morning, my Federation friends. I'm really happy to be here today thanks to the Scholarship Committee and President Riccobono. I was born in Russia. I immigrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, when I was three due to cancer of the retinas. I immigrated here for medical treatment. Having this cancer (I had cancer twice) has made me a stronger person, and I am wanting to give back and help others in need. So I am majoring in integrative healthcare and minoring in pre-health in Denver, Colorado, at Metropolitan State University of Denver. I can't wait to open up doors for blind employees and to be able to work in the medical field successfully without discrimination. I just can't wait to make a difference in this world, so thank you for having me here.
Michael Ausbun, Nevada, Nevada: Good morning, Federation family. Thank you to President Riccobono, the members of the board of directors, and the Nevada affiliate. I am honored and humbled to be here before you today. I am studying at the University of Nevada in Reno--which is not near Vegas! I am studying political science with an emphasis on public policy and philosophy, with the hope to earn my juris doctor degree and a PhD in philosophy and to go on to do policy advocacy for marginalized individuals, including blind people and other marginalized groups. This is a really special day for me, actually, because this day specifically marks the seventh month of me being in the Federation. Seven months ago I attended my state convention for the first time and was advised by Mr. Anil Lewis to apply for the scholarship, and I did so. The subsequent day I was elected to the position of Nevada Association of Blind Students secretary. It followed that the second day of this convention I was elected to a board position for the national, so I'm here to stay for a while. I hope to assist in the development and establishment of a legacy and hope to continue the dream so that we can live the life we want. Thank you.
Brianna (Bre) Brown, Texas, Texas: Good morning, Federation family. I am so excited to be here, and I would like to thank the Scholarship Committee for allowing me this opportunity. I am currently a junior at Texas State University studying special education. And outside of school I have had the proud honor of teaching for the past four summers at the Louisiana Center for the Blind for our summer programs and at our Houston BELL Program for the past three years with the exception of this year. I am extremely passionate about teaching blind children. I feel that blind children deserve an equal education, and I want to play a role in helping our blind students get the education they deserve and showing that they can live the life they want, just like I have learned. Thank you.
Mary Church, California, California: Good morning, Federation family. My name is Mary Church, and I'm from California. I'm at a community college right now, and hopefully in a couple--maybe two, two-and-a-half years--I will be going to Stanford. I am a major in liberal arts right now, and then I will be moving into sports psychology. I am also a horse enthusiast, earning my license in equissage this summer. I am shooting for the stars with all of you because dreams do come true. I am so excited to be here. It is quite an honor to be with all these wonderful leaders and all of you. So thank you to the Scholarship Committee, thank you to President Riccobono and to everyone in my Federation family who has made this moment happen. Have a great convention, everyone, and I look forward to talking to you.
Chase Crispin, Nebraska, Nebraska: Good morning. My name is Chase Crispin. I'm from Blair, Nebraska; I'm a recent high school graduate--I'm one of the young ones of the scholarship class this year. In the fall I will be attending Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, majoring in K-12 music education and minoring in Spanish. I plan to be a middle school (seventh and eighth grade level) band director and help students enrich their lives with music as I have been able to do. I am truly honored to be here and really excited to use the connections I am building this week at my first-ever NFB convention to make myself a much stronger student, teacher, and independent individual in the future. Thank you.
MarChé Daughtry, Virginia, Massachusetts: Good morning, my Federation family. I will actually be abandoning my home state to move to Massachusetts to go to school at Williams College. I will be majoring in women's studies and political science, with a double minor in African studies and justice and law studies. My long-term goal is to go to law school and earn a joint PhD and JD, and my even-longer-term goal is to help students in grades K-12 gain more access to Braille. I'd like to make Braille the go-to and a necessity--not a decision that is sometimes made too late--since Braille has changed my life, and I hope that it will be able to change the lives of every other blind child. I would like to thank my Federation family and the Scholarship Committee for helping me to live the life that I want, and I hope that everyone else will be able to do the same.
Bryan Duarte, Arizona, Arizona: Hello, everyone. I am Bryan. I attend Arizona State University as a software engineering undergraduate and also graduate--I was accepted into the program as a four-plus-one, so I'll be taking my graduate studies with my last semesters of my undergrad. Instead of giving you all my résumé here today, I wanted to share with you my reason. It's a little philosophy I came up with, saying that leaders lead, servants serve, but it takes both to make change. As I stand here alongside my fellow scholars and with the leaders of the NFB behind me, I have to say this competition has already won with me being a servant for these leaders. I want to thank you all, and I'm looking forward to it.
Alexandra Engraf, North Dakota, North Dakota: Good morning, everyone. Growing up on a farm in southwestern North Dakota, my parents instilled in me the concepts of compassion and hard work. And today I have definitely realized those are going to be concepts I use quite widely in my career, especially and specifically since I will be working in the human services field. But I have not shared with you yet why I do it. So, after an individual who was really significant in my life committed suicide, I decided that I wanted to be a counselor, focusing on suicide prevention and intervention in the university system with college students. So hopefully there I will use my compassion and hard work to make a change in this issue that I see, and I want to be the change. Thank you.
LaShawna Fant, Mississippi, Mississippi: Good morning. My name is LaShawna Fant, and I am from a state in which two kings were born: the king of rock and roll, Elvis Presley; and the king of the blues, B. B. King. This fall I will attend Mississippi College and work toward obtaining a doctoral degree in counseling. Again I want to say from my heart that I appreciate this royal opportunity.
Robert (Tripp) Gulledge, Alabama, Alabama: Howdy, y'all! Good morning, Federation family, thank you, President Riccobono and members of the board of directors. This is my first NFB scholarship and first convention, and I couldn't possibly have had more fun. I would also like to thank my state president, Ms. Joy Harris, whom you heard a little while ago. She obviously wrote me a really nice recommendation, and she's cool anyway. I have recently graduated high school--like some of the others I'm a baby. I'm headed to the loveliest village on the plains, Auburn University, this fall--War Eagle. I will be double-majoring in music performance and music education to teach first a little bit of high school, and then ultimately I'll pursue a doctoral degree and take a position at a university teaching music theory and directing wind bands. Thank you, and I'll be here all week--seriously.
Dezman Jackson, Maryland, Online: Good morning, Madam Chair. Thank you, board of directors. I'm Dezman Jackson of Maryland. It is truly a humbling honor to be a part of such a distinguished group and to be with my Federation family. In addition to my duties at Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, I will be continuing at the George Washington University with a master's in public health, concentrating on community health education and policy to help people live the healthy life they want to live. This truly has been a gift and an honor that I intend to keep giving away, being a part of the Federation. Join me in helping to keep building the Federation. Thank you.
Mary Abby Jusayan, Rhode Island, Rhode Island: Good morning, everyone. My name is Mary Abby. I was born in the Philippines, but now I live in Providence. I attend school at Rhode Island College. I'm a sophomore. My major is elementary education, and I strongly believe that the blind youth should be empowered and shown that blindness is not a limitation and does not dictate where you can go and what you can do. So I'm going to be a teacher for the blind, and, when I've graduated with my bachelor's, I will attend U Mass Boston, hopefully in a few years. This is my first convention as well; I'm really excited to be here, and I just want to thank everyone for giving me the opportunity to be here.
Kaitlyn Kellermeyer, Texas, Texas: Hello, everyone. As she said, my name is Kaitlyn Kellermeyer, and I'm an economics major at Texas A&M University. I'd like to start off by thanking the board and the committee for this amazing opportunity. Over the past year and a half that I've been a blind person, I've learned a lot about what it means to advocate for myself, and I've been able to be an advocate at my university as well. I'm hoping to go into the homeland security field because I really believe in the importance of professions and work that protect and empower people to live the lives that they want to live, even if they don't know who the people who are helping them do that are. So being here at my first NFB convention, it's been so wonderful to be able to see the ways in which this organization has protected and empowered the blind community so that we can go on to do amazing things and have opportunities like you've given me. So I just want to say thank you so much for everything that you've given to the blind community and to me, and I'm so excited to be here.
Miriam Lozneanu, South Carolina, South Carolina: Hello, everyone. Good morning, NFB family. I am from Clemson University in South Carolina, and I am the first deaf-blind student, and my major is computer science. I really enjoy learning this, and it is my goal to make apps that provide easier communication and improve living for those who are deaf and deaf-blind. I am learning a great deal, and I want to learn about a better life, and I want that for everyone else as well. Thank you so much for choosing me for this scholarship, and enjoy your time here and meeting one another. Thank you.
Nefertiti Matos (tenBroek Fellow), New York, New York: Good morning. I stand before you feeling extremely honored, privileged, humbled--oh my goodness--to be here once again. I am currently studying toward a bachelor's degree in community and human services with a double concentration in disability studies and mental health counseling. I am also an assistive technology instructor for the New York Public Library and a proud triathlete on a competitive level. I want to thank everyone who chose to believe in me yet again as I continue to forge meaning and identity through building upon this unstoppable, unparalleled, just amazing Federation. Thank you so much. Let's go!
Sarah Meyer, Indiana, Indiana: Good morning. I feel so thankful and honored to get to be a part of this incredible, momentous event this week. I especially want to thank the members of the board of directors for allowing us this opportunity to speak, and I really want to thank the Scholarship Committee and the state affiliates of Indiana and Colorado for investing in my life in so many incredible ways so far. Being a part of the Federation the last few years has truly taught me the meaning of family and has helped me to learn so much about myself, including the fact that I love advocacy and love to advocate for others. I will be pursuing two master's degrees at Ball State University in Indiana. I will be studying counseling psychology and social psychology because I have a passion for instilling hope and compassion into those who are struggling. And I am grateful to the National Federation of the Blind for instilling its belief in me so that I can instill that belief in others. Thank you.
Mark Myers II, Missouri, Missouri: Hi, everybody. My name is Mark Myers, and, as she said, I'm from Missouri. I will be attending Missouri University of Science and Technology in the fall, starting a double major in computer science and electrical engineering. I owe so much to the NFB. I actually got involved with the NFB when I was in seventh grade with the LAW Program back in 2009 and then again in the 2011 Youth Slam and the Project Innovation and STEM-X. I've just had so much experience with the amazingness of the NFB, and I am just so grateful for everything that they have done for me. Thank you.
Crystal Plemmons, North Carolina, North Carolina: Hello, everyone. It is a privilege to be here. I am a senior at Western Carolina University. I am majoring in English literature with a minor in professional writing. I am going to go on to get at least a master's degree, and then hopefully I will be able to work at my dream job of teaching English at a community college. There are two major things that I want to get done: one is to show everyone in my community, or to keep showing them, I should say, that blindness doesn't stop me from doing anything I want to do, and the other thing is to go out and show other blind people in my area that they can do the same thing. Thank you.
Jason Polansky, Maryland, Pennsylvania: Good morning, Federationists. My name is Jason Polansky. I grew up in the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland, and I graduated from high school in 2014 (last year). I knew that before college I needed some good foundational skills of blindness, so I went to the Louisiana Center for the Blind and graduated last month. Then I had the great pleasure and opportunity of working in the Buddy Program teaching technology and being a mentor and positive role model for middle school students. In the fall I plan to attend Messiah College in Pennsylvania. I have a lot of different interests, so I'm going to go in an undecided for now and explore, but I just want to thank my state president, Sharon Maneki, President Riccobono, all of the great mentors who I've had the pleasure to meet and get to know and learn from, and my Federation family as a whole. Thank you.
Karolline Sales, Louisiana, Louisiana: Bom dia, good morning. Guys, I always had dreams, and I always did everything to achieve my dreams, but I could never imagine that this time it would be so perfect, really. Because this country [welcomed] me with wide-open arms and not only the country but at the Louisiana Center for the Blind where I took my training for a year, and Pam Allen, Ms. Pam Allen--thank you for everything. Also, right away after finishing my training, I stepped into teaching at the BELL Program, the little cute kids. After that the Buddy Program, where I helped with translation from English to Spanish, and now I have my students here and counselors for the STEP Program, it's very exciting. I took my undergraduate degree in Brazil in languages and arts, my postgraduate degree in accessibility, and now I'm planning to get my master's at Louisiana Tech in rehab teaching, about which I'm very excited. So again, thank you, Patti Chang; the committee; Ms. Pam Allen; Ms. Bethel Murphy, who helped me apply [applause]--yeah, she deserves that. Thank you to everybody for making my dream come true. Good luck, and have a great convention.
Kaitlin Shelton, (tenBroek Fellow), Ohio, Ohio: Good morning, everyone, and thank you so much to the Scholarship Committee. I'm really humbled and honored, and it's a pleasure to be in such a talented scholarship class this year. I am a senior music therapy major at the University of Dayton, and my goal is to work in a pediatric hospital using music's ability to accomplish nonmusical goals and overcome physical, language, and other barriers. I hope to ease discomfort for my patients as well as to help them gain the confidence to live the lives they want. I recently returned from a ten-day service trip for music therapy and music education students in Jamaica, where I did some clinical work in infirmaries and a school for children with special needs. This experience showed me that the NFB's conviction that no one should be ashamed of their disability or feel that they have a hindrance in their life is totally true, and especially so for people in a developing country. So in the Federation I am only growing stronger in this belief, and I am president of the Ohio Association of Blind Students currently. I aspire to do much more in the future, and I am so thankful and grateful to the mentors I have had thus far who have enriched my life so much. I totally intend to pay it forward in my career and in the Federation. Thank you so much, and have a great convention.
Christopher Stewart, Kentucky, Kentucky: I've never said this before; I'm a bit nervous, but let's see how it feels. Good morning, my Federation family. Feels pretty good--I look forward to saying it for many years to come. This is my first convention. My name is Chris Stewart, and I'm a third-year law student at the University of Kentucky. When I first spoke with Cathy Jackson a little bit over two years ago now, I got the feeling that something was going on in this organization. And as I attended my state convention, I got the feeling that a little bit more was going on in this organization. And now that I'm here at the National Convention, I've found out that there is way more going on in this organization than I could have ever imagined. I've met so many incredible people, so many incredible mentors, and to all the members of the Scholarship Committee, to every single one of you who has donated your time, your efforts, or to all of you who aren't involved in the Scholarship Committee and have ever given contributions to the fund or to the general fund, thank you so much for making this possible. I'll leave you with an anecdote rather than going through my résumé, but I'll be happy to give one to you. I have them in large print, and I'll Braille one if you want. But I'm the first blind member of the law review in the 105-year history of the publication, and, when the academic dean told me that, he said, "How does that feel? That's a pretty remarkable accomplishment." I thought about it, and I thought: You know, what's more important? What I've learned from this Federation, what's far more important than being the first blind person to do anything, is to make sure that I'm not the last blind person. Thank you all so much; I look forward to meeting as many of you as I possibly can. Thank you.
Teri Stroschein, Oregon, Oregon: Good morning, board of directors and Federationists. I'm Teri Stroschein; I'm from Oregon. I firstly want to thank everybody in the Federation for all of the work that they've done to date, because that's what's positioned me well for my future. Thank you very much. I lost my vision a couple years ago after completing my nineteenth year of teaching high school math. I love the high school environment, but I decided it was time for a change, so I'm currently pursuing a degree in school counseling at George Fox University in Portland, Oregon. I'm really excited about what my future presents. I thank you for your support in letting me pursue my dreams, and I hope to help tomorrow's youth and today's youth pursue theirs.
Kelsi Watters, Wisconsin, Minnesota: Good morning. My name is Kelsi Watters, and I believe in building bridges. I am a senior at St. Mary's University of Minnesota in Winona, where I am currently studying psychology and pastoral and youth ministry with the future goal of becoming a spiritual counselor. I have already built and crossed several bridges in my life, some exciting, some challenging, and some both. I am doing a double internship this summer, the first part of which is at Franciscan Mayo in La Crosse, and the second remaining half at Marywood Franciscan Spirituality Center in Minocqua, Wisconsin. I am truly honored to be here with my Federation family, building a bridge for a better future for the blind community. I'd like you to know that this scholarship is coming at a truly gift of a time for me. In December my brother was in an accident in which he sustained a traumatic brain injury. Kyle is on the road to recovery, and he is working hard. If Kyle can build the bridge to his own recovery, it almost seems fair and easy that I should build my own bridge with the support of my Federation family for a better future for the blind community. Thank you.
Hannah Werbel, Washington, Washington: Hello, everybody. Thank you so much for this opportunity again. This is an amazing organization. I've just recently graduated from high school and will be a freshman at the University of Washington this upcoming fall, studying electrical engineering. My goal is to be working on cutting-edge technology and to show that there is room for the blind in this ever-growing field. I've actually already had the opportunity to work on research through a fellowship program I was in last summer. The software I created is still being used to analyze data from research experiments. I've had the opportunity to talk to the National Science Foundation about my research, and I am now possibly going to be an author on a scientific publication, which is pretty cool to do before entering college. It just goes to show that we are just as capable as anybody else, and anybody can do anything as long as they put their mind to it. Thank you.
Tamika Williams, Alabama, Alabama: Good morning, Federation family. I'm so proud to be able to call all of you my Federation family for about ten years now, and I want to be able to call you that for a long time. If I had to choose one word to describe myself, it would be tenacious. I am very determined, strong-willed, and persistent. I'm sure Ms. Joy Harris and my local president, Ms. Minnie Walker, could back me up on that one. I'm very active in my state and local affiliate, and I'm ready to give all of that to the national level. I am going to the University of South Alabama to pursue a degree in interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in human services. My short-term goal is to be a social worker with blind services, and my long-term goal is to become an entrepreneur. Thank you.
At the banquet Scholarship Committee Chair Patti Chang made the following remarks: "I thought that since we are celebrating our seventy-fifth convention and our fiftieth year of awarding national scholarships that I would take the time to share some of the history of the program with you and some of the facts that I find fascinating. We have given away 902 scholarships since 1965. Total monetary awards have exceeded $3 million. The highest dollar scholarship we have awarded was the Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship. It was first awarded in 2000, it was given in the amount of $21,000, and it was awarded to Angela Sasser. This $21,000 scholarship was awarded in recognition of the new century. It was the first time we renamed the Action Fund scholarship in recognition of Dr. Jernigan. The second-highest scholarship we have ever given was called the Distinguished Scholar. It was awarded in 1991, and it was awarded in the amount of $20,000 to our own Pam Allen.
"The very first scholarships were given out in 1965, and they were awarded to Jeffrey Henry Diket of North Carolina and Joyce R. Fields of Arizona. We gave two separate payments of $150 each. Now that's actually equivalent to receiving $2,257.80 in 2015 dollars.
"The longest-running scholarship was named after Howard Brown Rickard. It lasted for forty-five years, from 1965 through 2010. It was originally established by a bequest from Thomas Rickard in honor of his father. Thomas was a long-time Federationist who practiced law in Lander, Wyoming. Interestingly enough, the income from his practice and his interest in mines constituted the principal for the bequest. He attended school in California, and he in fact was taught by Dr. tenBroek at the University of California.
"The first scholarship application only required transcripts and a 250-word essay. We did not require proof of blindness. The first year we required convention attendance was 1971.
"A tenBroek Fellow is a student who has won more than one national scholarship. There have been fifty-seven tenBroek Fellows. It seems that the first reference to tenBroek Fellows is found in the 1996 Braille Monitor. No tenBroek Fellow has ever won a third scholarship. The state with the most tenBroek Fellows, appropriately, is California. They have seven.
"The first year that Ray Kurzweil presented the winners with additional awards was 2000. At the time Scholarship Committe Chair Peggy Elliott said, 'Dr. Kurzweil, as you can tell, was a friend of Dr. Jernigan. In honor and in memory of Dr. Jernigan, he will add to the money I've already told you about.'
"Finally, the committee has had only six chairpersons in its fifty-year history. This year we, the National Federation of the Blind, are awarding $124,000 in scholarships, but that's not all. We expend many resources to develop the next generation of leaders. In the scholarship program we use human capital in mentoring our scholarship finalists, and of course we use monetary resources in assisting our scholarship finalists to attend our convention. So allow me to present to you our fiftieth scholarship class."
After the scholarship class was introduced and the amount of each award was announced, Ms. Brianna (Bre) Brown was invited to address the convention in recognition of her winning the $12,000 Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship presented by the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults. Here is what she said:
"Good evening, Federationists. I am truly honored to be the recipient of the Kenneth Jernigan scholarship. I would like to thank the Scholarship Committee for all of their hard work, dedication, and belief in us. I would also like to thank my friends and family for all of the support that they have given me over the years. About seven years ago I felt confused and worried, but that was only until a few of our dear Federation family members came into my life and truly showed me the possibilities for blind people. Shortly after I joined, I was strongly encouraged to attend the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Attending LCB helped me to build the skills, confidence, and self-advocacy that I would need to be successful in my life. It is because of all of you and our empowering organization and everything that we have accomplished over these past seventy-five years that I stand before you today with the opportunity to live the life I want. Thank you."
$3,000 NFB Awards: Katie Adkins, Douglas Alt, Karen Arcos, Annika Ariel, Liliya Asadullina, Michael Ausbun, Mary Church, Bryan Duarte, Alexandra Engraf, Robert Gulledge, Miriam Lozneanu, Nefertiti Matos, Mark Myers II, Crystal Plemmons, Jason Polansky, Christopher Stewart, and Kelsi Watters.
$3,000 Adrienne Asch Memorial Scholarship: MarChé Daughtry
$3,000 Charles and Melva T. Owen Scholarship: Tamika Williams
$3,000 E. U. and Gene Parker Scholarship: LaShawna Fant
$3,000 Lillian S. Edelstein Scholarship for the Blind: Teri Stroschein
$3,000 Pearson Award: Dezman Jackson
$5,000 Larry Streeter Memorial Scholarship: Mary Abby Jusayan
$5,000 NFB Awards: Chase Crispin, Karolline Sales, and Kaitlin Shelton
$8,000 Oracle Scholarship for Excellence in Computer Science: Hannah Werbel
$8,000 Oracle Scholarship for Excellence in STEM: Kaitlyn Kellermeyer
$10,000 Charles and Melva T. Owen Scholarship: Sarah Meyer
$12,000 Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship (funded by the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults): Brianna Brown
Following the convention, a number of our scholarship recipients sent letters of appreciation to Patti Chang and the Scholarship Committee. Here is a moving thank-you letter from one of the members of the Scholarship Class of 2015.
I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for all of your hard work on the Scholarship Committee to make convention such a wonderful experience for all of us. I know you put in many hours of hard work, and I truly appreciate it. I admit that I had no idea what to expect from my first convention and first real exposure to the NFB, but convention was one of the most amazing experiences that I have had. Our scholarship class really connected, found unique values and ideas to share, and bonded. I made many new friends that I will keep in touch with for years to come. Before convention I felt like I was going at many of these things alone--I did not know of anyone else who was blind and studying music education or who was teaching sighted students. I learned so much from each of my mentors, and meetings such as the Blind Educators Division and the Musicians Group gave me so many ideas. I left the convention with pages and pages of notes on my Braille Sense that will be extremely beneficial to me in the future. It was an honor to have this experience. The money will, of course, be a huge help and make it possible for me to avoid taking out a student loan this year. Though the money is awesome and truly appreciated, the people I met and the connections I made will be so much more valuable to me long-term. I would have never expected to learn so much in just a few days, to find so many new friends, or to feel so motivated and empowered by the ideas I discovered. I'm so thankful to you and all the members of the Scholarship Committee for making this possible, not only for me but for all of us in the 2015 scholarship class. Other experiences, including meeting Mr. Kurzweil, just made the convention experience perfect.
I am planning to return to convention next year with a few others from this year's scholarship class, and I am also planning to run for a board or officer position in the Nebraska Association of Blind Students. In Nebraska, youth are not encouraged to join the NFB. I always knew NFB existed but did not know just how much I could learn from other members. Our towns are spread far enough apart here that each district with a blind student reinvents the wheel on many simple issues. I hope NABS can connect students and teachers in the state to share these ideas and get youth into the organization to find mentors for their long-term goals, just as I did at convention.
Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to grow as an individual and realize how much support is out there. I hope you have recovered from convention and that we will meet again next year. Please pass along my greetings and thank you to the Scholarship Committee and to Ms. Dyer as well. They were all awesome!
Do you happen to have an address where I could send a thank you to Mr. Kurzweil for his generous contributions to the scholarship package?
Thanks again, and please keep in touch.