Future Reflections         Convention Report 2010

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presented by Anil Lewis

Scholarship Class of 2010From the Editor: The awarding of the National Federation of the Blind Scholarships is one of the major highlights of the NFB convention each year. Everyone is eager to meet and honor this group of outstanding men and women. Their achievements demonstrate talent, perseverance, and academic excellence. They stand poised to make invaluable contributions in a wide variety of fields of endeavor.

At the meeting of the NFB board of directors, twenty-six winners of the 2010 National Federation of the Blind Scholarship awards and four tenBroek Fellows (students receiving a second NFB scholarship) introduced themselves to the Federation. Each speaker was introduced by Scholarship Committee Chairperson Anil Lewis. Anil announced the home and school states after each winner's name.

Beth Allred, Colorado, Colorado: I was walking back to my room last night and thinking to myself, "What has the NFB given me?" What comes to mind right away is confidence. I have the confidence to walk into an airport and say, "I don't need that wheelchair because I'm blind. I can walk there myself." The NFB has shown me a way toward a future I cannot wait to discover. I'm a master's student in vocal performance at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and I plan to become a professional singer and voice teacher. I am deeply honored to be here today as a tenBroek Fellow. Thank you very much.

Sheri Anderson, Tennessee, Tennessee: I have an idea for an organization that will change the world. This organization will build a winning team, raise funds, promote awareness to foster inclusive communities, and organize on the premise of service. To discover how easy it is to gain commitment, build relationships, and obtain the full potential of this organization, look deep within yourself and reach for the hand of the person beside you. Then move forward with me into the future of the National Federation of the Blind.

Sina Bahram, North Carolina, North Carolina: This is my first time at a Federation meeting, and I'm extremely honored. I'm especially thankful for all of the ways I've learned over the last couple of days to help out, and I'm looking forward to more ways to help out and to offer my service and learn from so many others. I think the real power of this organization is the people who understand the obstacles and struggles and also share the successes we've seen over the past seventy years. I look forward to the next seventy. Thank you very much.

Alicia Betancourt, Florida, Florida: I'm getting a master's in social work, and what I plan to do with my degree is improve equality for people with disabilities to get a job so they can work alongside their sighted counterparts. I'm from a small town called Key West, Florida, and they're very closed-minded about blindness. Every time I go home, I see people staring at me with my cane. When they ask me, "How do you do it?" I tell them, "I get my confidence and my backup from the NFB. I can do whatever I want as long as I put my mind to it."

Zachary Brubaker, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania: I will be attending Penn State University with a double major in physics and mathematics. When I speak about this gift that has been given to me, I'm not only speaking about the scholarship, for which I am truly grateful. I'm speaking about the gift of the Federation. Before discovering the NFB, my support was limited to two great parents and a handful of exceptional teachers. Now I've discovered this organization that tunes out the naysayers who say, "No you can't," and "You will never," and says, "Yes we can," and "We will." I see the road in front of me, and I will continue to put one foot in front of the other to work toward progress, knowing that I have a life of service ahead of me.

Chelsea Cook, Virginia, Virginia: I am going to the great university known as Virginia Tech, and I will be majoring in physics with minors in astronomy and creative writing. I hope to take those studies to the front doors of NASA and say, "Look, it doesn't matter what the flight surgeons say, I'm going into space one day." Gene Kranz, the famed flight director of Apollo 13, once said, "Anything is possible if we will just commit." I am committed to learning. I am committed to my mentors, my friends, and my goals in the Federation. I'm committed to giving back.

Mary Fernandez, New Jersey, Georgia: I am a junior at Emory University studying psychology and music. My mentor asked me this morning, "Why did you apply for this scholarship?" I said, "Because out of every scholarship that I have won, this has meant the most to me." This scholarship is one where I know that I'm on even ground with all of these wonderful people and that it's not because I'm blind and going to school that I'm getting it. Our current president said, "Greatness is not a given; it must be earned." I may not be great right now, but I strive to be great, and I know everyone in this room strives to be great. We are changing what it means to be blind, and I know I'm going to drive in my lifetime. I really don't know how to thank you for giving me the confidence and independence that you have. Thank you so much.

C. J. Fish makes her winner's speech from the podiumC. J. Fish, Virginia, Virginia: I'm studying at Marymount University, pursuing a master's in mental health counseling. I'm truly humbled, honored, and blessed to stand before you as a tenBroek Fellow. My experiences have brought me into a family and a support network. I've been challenged to grow in ways that I never thought I could. I see blindness as a strength and an asset. I search for the good in all people and situations. I strive to live my life as an example for others, and to change society's view of blindness, one person at a time. Remember that you as individuals can make a difference, one person at a time, as well. There is always a way.

Rashi Goel, Georgia, Georgia: I am currently a sophomore at Georgia Tech, and I'm majoring in environmental engineering. As a pragmatic idealist with a lot of faith in humanity, I consider myself a community-minded activist, possessing the heart, intensity, and capabilities of fulfilling my dream to change the world. Therefore I want to work for Engineers Without Borders, an international organization that seeks to assist developing countries with various sustainable engineering projects. I have been involved with the NFB for the past two years and have really enjoyed the wonderful friends and opportunities it has provided me. Thank you.

Deepa Goraya, California, Michigan: I go to the University of Michigan Law School, and I'm going into my second year. I also have the wonderful opportunity to intern in the White House for Kareem Dale. I'm Indian and my religion is Sikh. When I was younger, my family would host religious events at our local Sikh temple. I was always shoved aside into a corner and not allowed to help in the kitchen. My mom never showed me how to cook because she was too afraid. Then I discovered the NFB, and I realized that I was needed. I was needed by my local student division; I was needed by my local chapter; I was needed by the National Center to be a leader. I went to the Louisiana Center for the Blind and finally learned to cook. I'm now proud to say that, when I'm at these religious functions, I no longer allow myself to be shoved aside into a corner. I stand alongside my younger siblings and my cousins, and I really show people what it means to be blind. Thank you.

António Guimaráes, Rhode Island, Rhode Island: I attend Western Governor's University and I plan to make my life in the teaching career, first as a high school teacher. I'd like to say that each of you must have a passion, and I invite you to join me in achieving our goals and dreams and in building a life that is rich and full.

Conchita Hernandez, Nebraska, Nebraska: Buenos días, good morning! I will be attending Louisiana Tech University this fall to become a teacher of blind students. The Federation has provided me with a family to come to, laugh with, and cry with. Salvador Allende said, "To be a student and not be a revolutionary is a contradiction." Even if we are not all students, we are all revolutionizing what it means to be blind.

Chris Jeckel, Illinois, Illinois: I'm a second-year law student at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago. I was moved yesterday when listening to the resolutions to hear the committee outline thorny issues the blind community faces on a daily basis and then to hammer out the words to address those issues. It was powerful. I'm very grateful to be here. I'm learning a lot.

Andrea Jenkins, Georgia, Georgia: I'm currently a sophomore at Valdosta State University, majoring in Spanish and minoring in French. I'm also a graduate of the Louisiana Center for the Blind. My goal is to be a Spanish and French translator and a missionary. I want to thank everyone here, including the scholarship committee, for allowing me such a wonderful privilege. I'm going to take the philosophy that I embrace so dearly and change what it means to be blind.

Kayleigh Joiner, Texas, Texas: I will be a freshman attending Stephen F. Austin University, where I will get my bachelor's in elementary education. After that it is my plan to go to Louisiana Tech University, where I will get my master's to become a teacher of blind students and an orientation and mobility instructor. The NFB has taught me that it is respectable to be blind and that blind people can go into careers such as science, technology, engineering, and math. I have a painting in my room that says, "One candle may light a thousand." I hope to be that one candle for future generations of blind students. Thank you.

Melissa Lomax, New Jersey, Maryland: For as long as I can remember, I've enjoyed helping people in any way that I can. I still do that today in my school and in my local, state, and national Federation communities. I presently attend the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. I'm a sophomore pursuing an English literature major, English writing minor, and a secondary education certificate. I've always wanted to become a teacher. With my dedication and love for writing, I hope to give my students a quality education and to better their future. I thank you very much for giving me this opportunity.

Kirt Manwaring, Utah, Utah: I will attend Brigham Young University next fall as a freshman studying political science and philosophy with an eye toward law school. Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian statesman, famously said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." I promise you that I will do everything I can to be that change and to show the community that it is respectable to be blind.

Kristin Mathe, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania: I am not the first, and for that I thank you. I have not had to blaze this trail alone and have not had to walk alone as the only blind person ever to get an advanced degree. That is a good thing. I will not be the last--and that is a better thing! Because of all of you I am able to pursue a PhD in rhetoric and public address, coach collegiate debate, and teach public speaking. I will be a professor; I will do research to understand better how movements such as ours can continue to change people's minds about a variety of issues. As I go forward, I keep in mind that there are those who will come after. I would like that road to be even smoother for those who follow. Thank you.

Esha Mehta, Pennsylvania, Colorado: I became a member of the Federation when I walked through the doors of the Colorado Center for the Blind, and that is when I began my journey. I've grown up in a culture where blindness is not accepted and it is considered one of the worst things that could ever happen to you. Because of my training at the Center and because of the support from all of you, this is not the case for me anymore. I know that I can change the world through my dream of becoming a teacher of the blind and visually impaired. Not only do I want to change the world here in the United States, but I want to help open up a center in India so that those children can have the same future that I am starting to have here. Through the Center I've gained the gift of literacy. Before I came to the Center, I did not know Braille. Now I stand before you reading my Braille notes. It is said that to be a teacher is to touch your students' lives forever. I hope to do that internationally and here in the United States. Thank you to the board and my fellow Federationists for supporting my dreams.

Tabea Meyer, Indiana, Indiana: This is my first convention, and I'm honored to be here. I'm so grateful for the confidence the scholarship committee has placed in me. I'm going to do everything I can to achieve excellence, and I thank you so much. I was born in Kassel, Germany, and there independence wasn't something that was encouraged for blind people. When I came to the United States as a second grader, the NFB was very active in helping my family prevail in a court trial in which our school was not willing to allow me and my two siblings to attend. Over the past few years I lost touch with this organization, but now I'm here and learning about the philosophy that you guys hold dear.

Josie Nielson, Idaho, Utah: I am going to be a sophomore at Brigham Young University in Utah this fall. I'm a violin performance major, and I want to write my master's thesis on developing a new method for teaching blind musicians. I came to the convention very excited, but I had a lot of questions. I know I'm not alone when I say that I was struggling to know when it was a good time to be using a cane. I do not have sight, but I'm not completely blind yet. I have met some wonderful friends over the course of these few days who have helped me understand the importance of using a cane. I want to thank those people sincerely for their support, and I want to tell you proudly that I walk away from this convention with a cane in my hand and with tools that will help me succeed. Thank you so much.

Shaun Reimers, Utah, Utah: I'm going to be studying law at the University of Utah starting next month. I plan to work hard while I'm in school and after I'm done I hope to get a great job. What motivates me most is the desire to be a good husband and father, a working citizen of the United States, and a contributing member to the Federation. Even before I applied for the scholarship, I planned to be a lifelong member of the Federation. The philosophy of the NFB is the only real option for addressing the issues blind people face. For better or for worse the NFB is stuck with me for life. I hope as a family that we can accomplish great things together.

Ashley Ritter, Indiana, Indiana: I'm going to be a sophomore this fall at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis. I am majoring in secondary English education with a minor in education policy. After my bachelor's my plan is to get my master's in teaching blind students, and after a few years of teaching I plan to make my way into the government in education policy, writing, revising, and improving the education system of America. Six years ago I was introduced to the NFB, when I was getting out of eighth grade. I was very shy. I wouldn't even admit to myself that I was blind, let alone admit it to anyone around me. The help I got is something I can never pay back, but I'm ready to pay it forward. I thank you so much for this opportunity.

Cali Sandel, South Carolina, South Carolina: I'm currently pursuing a master's in public administration at Clemson University. I am so very blessed and honored to come before you as a tenBroek Fellow. It's been a fun ride. Since my very first convention in 2006, I have served as a student division president for the state of South Carolina, am currently on the board of directors, and am helping to ensure Braille literacy in South Carolina. On Father's Day weekend my granddad said that at his high school graduation the principal said that George Washington would've been more at home two thousand years before his time than in our current society with current technology and the way things run, but the blind community is not like that. I would like to think that the founding fathers would be very comfortable with us here today and that they would be glad and proud of the movement and how far it's come. We don't always get to reap the fruits of our labor, but I'm optimistic and excited to keep pursuing the road we're traveling, and I'm so glad everybody's here with me.

Jessica Scannell, New Jersey, New Jersey: I am a senior attending Montclair State University. My major is education with kindergarten to fifth grade as my concentration. I would like to be a teacher of the blind when I graduate. I currently hold a position as secretary for the NFB Northeast Chapter of New Jersey. Thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity and have a wonderful convention.

Quintina Singleton, New Jersey, New York: I would like to begin by sincerely thanking the scholarship committee for selecting me to be a finalist. In addition to being a prestigious award this scholarship is a generous contribution toward my future, and I'm very grateful for it. I'm the secretary for the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey, and I'm also the producer of the Internet program "Through Our Eyes" with Joe Ruffalo. In September I'll be starting graduate school at New York University, working toward my master's degree in both childhood and special education. One of my main objectives as an instructor of children with special needs is to help my students discover for themselves that challenges should never be allowed to stand in the way of success. Thank you.

Yadiel Sotomayor, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico: I'm starting a double major at the University of Puerto Rico in translation and English education. I can summarize the philosophy of the Federation in three words: independence, equality, and support. Independence means that everybody in the Federation has helped me a lot because they have converted me from a shy person into an active member of society, and I know it has done the same for all of you. Equality is what we're all fighting for. Finally, support--because, if there is something a blind person wants to do, I know that he will have every member behind him.

Tara Tripathi, Florida, Florida: I'm from Orlando, Florida, a wonderful place where you all will be next year. I'm doing my PhD program in text and technology at the University of Central Florida. I want to say thank you to all of you, especially our leaders, who made this scholarship possible. When you walk on a sidewalk, there are three reactions possible when you encounter a rock. You might feel the rock with your cane, walk around it, forget about it, and go wherever you're going. The second possible reaction is that you feel it with the cane, beat the rock because you are angry and maybe use some language I will not use here, and then you continue to move ahead. The third reaction is to try to remove the rock so the people who come next will not trip on it. I salute that third group of people, for these are the kind of leaders NFB has. I want to be one of them. I hope that the recognition given to me will give me enough confidence to be able to remove the roadblocks from the path of progress by the blind throughout the world. In my PhD dissertation I am trying to propose universal design for all kinds of consumer goods for classrooms, electronic spaces, and Websites. Universal design asks for access for everyone, so no segregation is tolerated by true leaders. Segregation has come back in a new way in the field of technology. We are increasingly using touchscreens, and the manufacturers ignore us. In my dissertation I will argue in favor of universal design. I thank you all for this wonderful opportunity to speak to all of you.

Kayla Weathers, Georgia, Georgia: I will be a freshman in the fall at Dalton State College. I would like to get my bachelor's degree in special education and my master's degree in teaching blind students. Many times when blind people ask me what I want to do and I tell them I want to teach blind students, it's because I want to be a mentor to them. I didn't have a lot of mentors who were blind when I was growing up. I'd like to empower my students with the Federation's philosophy that they can achieve their dreams and change what it means to be blind. Thank you so much for this opportunity.

Michelle Wesley, Illinois, Illinois: I am going into my first year of veterinary medicine at the University of Illinois, so all of you guide dog users, please consider telling your friends to get a dog because I want to specialize in working with service animals in orthopedics and rehab. I look forward to meeting each and every one of you, and again, thank you so much for having me.

Here is the complete list of 2010 scholarship winners and the awards they received.

$3,000 National Federation of the Blind Scholarships: Alicia Betancourt, Rashi Goel, Deepinder "Deepa" Goraya, Christopher Jeckel, Andrea Jenkins, Kirt Manwaring, Esha Mehta, Josie Nielson, Ashley Ritter, Jessica Scannell, Quintina Singleton, Tara Prakash Tripathi, and Kayla Weathers

$3,000 National Federation of the Blind Educator of Tomorrow Award: Kristin Mathe

$3,000 NFB Computer Science Scholarship: Sina Bahram

$3,000 Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship: Elizabeth "Beth" Allred

$3,000 Kuchler-Killian Memorial Scholarship: António Guimaráes

$3,000 Charles and Melva T. Owen Scholarship: Chelsea Cook

$3,000 Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship: Shaun Reimers

$3,000 Michael Marucci Memorial Scholarship: Yadiel Sotomayor

$3,000 E. U. Parker Scholarship: Kayleigh Joyner

$3,000 Jeannette C. Eyerly Memorial Scholarship: Melissa Lomax

$5,000 Hank LeBonne Scholarship: Sheri Anderson

$5,000 National Federation of the Blind Scholarships: Maria "Conchita" Hernandez, Tabea Meyer, and Cali Sandel

$7,000 National Federation of the Blind Scholarship: Michelle Wesley

$7,000 National Federation of the Blind Scholarship: Zachary Brubaker

$10,000 Charles and Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship: Mary Fernandez

$12,000 Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship (donated by the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults): C. J. Fish

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