The Braille Monitor                                                                                August/September, 2002

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The 2002 Scholarship Class

of the National Federation of the Blind

The Scholarship Class of 2002
The Scholarship Class of 2002: (left to right) back row: Ben Pool, Moira Egan, Mazen Abou‑Antoun, Jessica Bachicha, Tony Olivero, Jennifer Peterson, James Konechne, Emily Wharton, Sheila Koenig, and Robin House; middle row: Anil Lewis, Alex Gray, Nicolas Crisosto, Michael Jones, Josie Armantrout, David Tseng, Andrea Travis, Ashley Skellenger, Lynn Heitz, and Jesse Hartle; front row: Raquel Silva, Rick Brown, Therese McCabe, Philip So, Deana Lambert, Deja Powell, Mary Jo Thorpe, Ryan Strunk, Cindee Wobbles, and Jay Williams

From the Editor: With every passing year we recognize the increasing value of the NFB Scholarship Program to our national organization. Members of previous scholarship classes--ninety-five past winners last year--stream back to take part in convention activities and assume responsibility, doing anything that they can see needs to be done. Everyone looks forward to meeting the new scholarship class and to hearing what its members are doing and planning to do with their lives.

On banquet evening, while we are still sky-high after listening to President Maurer's address, Peggy Elliott comes to the podium, presents the year's winners, giving an academic and personal sketch of each, and announces which scholarship the person has been awarded. This year each winner crossed the platform and shook hands with Dr. Maurer and Dr. Raymond Kurzweil, whose foundation presented each with an additional $1,000 scholarship and the latest version of the Kurzweil 1000 reader software. Erik Weihenmayer, representing Freedom Scientific, also congratulated each winner and presented ten of them with technology certificates from Freedom Scientific.

The final scholarship awarded in this year's scholarship extravaganza, which took place at the banquet on July 8, was the Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship of $10,000, which was presented to Anil Lewis, who then spoke briefly to the group. His remarks appear later in this article.

But earlier in the week, at the meeting of the NFB board of directors, each 2002 scholarship winner came to the microphone and spoke directly to the Federation. Following is what they said about themselves. Each speaker was introduced by Peggy Elliott, saying first the student's name and then both the home and school states. This is what was said:

Mazen Abou-Antoun, Ohio, Washington, D.C.: How are you doing, everyone? I just want everyone to know that this is my first convention and that obviously it seems that it won't be my last. I am going to be a law student at George Washington University in the fall. I plan to join the U.S. Foreign Service. The thing I want to mention now is that I got married last summer, and my wife is sitting in the crowd. I didn't mention it at the first meeting. I didn't mention it at the student meeting, and this time will be strike three and out if I don't mention it. It is a pleasure meeting all of you.

Josie Armantrout, Washington, Washington: Hello, everyone, good morning. My name is Josie Armantrout, and I will be finishing at Green River Community College this year and going on to the University of Washington. I plan to earn a BA in sociology and a minor in computer applications and Spanish. I want to be able to work where the changes need to be done, and that's at the state agencies--teach them the philosophy and get people out of their homes and out into the world. Thank you.

Jessica Bachicha, New Mexico, New Mexico: [Jessica began by singing several bars of a song.] I am Jessica Bachicha, and I am double majoring in music and foreign languages at the University of New Mexico. I hope to pursue graduate studies in Europe and then understand how I can best serve from there. I want to sing. I want to really sing beyond the notes, beyond the rhythm, beyond the dynamics. There is a relation between languages and music, and I want to find it.

Rick Brown, Florida, Florida: Hi. I am going to be attending the University of South Florida, and one of my biggest achievements that I have come across this month is four years of a transplant (pancreas and kidneys), so I am no longer a diabetic. I am very proud of that. I plan on going for my master's in social work. I want to work with diabetics and people who are losing their sight. Thank you.

Nicolas Crisosto, California, California:

It's walking on the beach feeling the sun rise and a sea breeze;

It's running without doubts or electronic routes,

Freely through the trees.

More than that it's standing tall in class,

On stage, or on the street.

It's cuddling up with Braille books

And slating names of new people when we meet.

It's the joy of playing football with sighted friends

And knowing life and believing life doesn't end with blindness.

It's all of this and so much more.

That's what the NFB, the CCB, and the scholarship mean to me.

And I'm a math major.

Moira Egan, New York, New York: Good morning. I am a Ph.D. candidate in history at the City University of New York. I am an adjunct instructor now and plan to be a full professor when I finish. I am writing on a woman who was a nun, and it's wonderful because my being blind will be an asset. Nuns don't generally leave records about themselves, so my field in using alternative techniques will help me seek out all the little tidbits of information that are stored in various archives. My being blind will also equip me well to write her biography because she was a nurse and an administrator and a financial expert when such things were not possible for women. I think my being involved with this group will help me to search out her ways of using different strategies and breaking new ground. I thank you all for the opportunity.

Alex Gray, Massachusetts, Massachusetts: Hello. My name is Alex Gray. Next fall I will be attending Boston College, where I intend to pursue a degree in education. I hope one day to be a high school English teacher. I would like to briefly say, when I first was leaving Boston, I was unsure about how my being blind would affect my travel and how it would affect a lot of my life. As I went on, it started to make more sense; it seemed possible. Over the past three days people in the National Federation of the Blind have made it seem that everything is possible for blind people and for me. I would like to thank you for all the inspiration that you have given.

Jesse Hartle, Louisiana, Louisiana: Good morning. At last year's national convention I listened to a speech by Erik Weihenmayer and how he felt when he stood on top of the world, on top of Mt. Everest. In my life I have never climbed a mountain yet, but I know how it feels to stand high above the ground because I have stood on the shoulders of many giants in the Federation like Dr. Joanne Wilson and Pam Allen, who at a young age lifted me up. It is a pleasure for me now to serve in the Louisiana Center for the Blind Buddy program, where I have the opportunity to lift up the future of tomorrow onto my shoulders so that they may see the horizon of what is possible. I am currently working on my master's degree in history with plans to go into law in the field of sports and entertainment law. Thank you very much.

Lynn Heitz, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania: Good afternoon, fellow Federationists. I am a junior at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I will be continuing my education to get my master's degree in rehabilitation counseling. In addition to that I am president of the Keystone Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania. I am also the editor of the state affiliate newsletter and have the privilege of helping to organize other state events that are run during the course of a year. I look forward to being able to continue working with the Federation and continuing its goal of improving what it means to be blind in Pennsylvania. Thank you.

Robin House, tenBroek fellow, Missouri, Missouri: Good afternoon, fellow Federationists. I am currently a graduate student working on a master's degree in elementary counseling. I recently finished up with a second bachelor's degree in education, and I earned teacher certification in the state of Missouri. Another award I recently earned, which is an honor equal to this--outstanding teacher for the fall semester 2001 by the University of Missouri Department of Education, and it was quite an honor. Just like this, they named one person for that. I believe my vision for the twenty-first-century classroom is that students feel capable, connected, and contributing members of the classroom, community, and society. I want to thank the Federation for your continued guidance, support, and confidence in me. Thank you.

Michael Jones, Alabama, Alabama: Hello, everyone. I first want to thank all the local chapter presidents and local chapter members who raised so much money for our organization that gives great opportunities like this scholarship. I really sincerely thank you, and your hard work pays off. I am a Ph.D. student at Auburn University in vocational rehabilitation. I would like to teach university-level people and spread the philosophy of the Federation and also work in executive administration in a state agency. Thank you.

Sheila Koenig, tenBroek fellow, Minnesota, Minnesota: Thank you. I currently teach ninth grade language arts at Southview Middle School in Medina, Minnesota; and I am pursuing a master's degree in curriculum and instruction, specializing in English education. On the first day of class last fall I showed my students a videotape. On this videotape they saw me, their English teacher, securely fastened in a harness being raised up about 160 feet. With the pull of a cord, I dove to the ground and glided from side to side, pendulum style. I showed this to my students because I wanted them to see that their teacher wants to stretch her possibilities, wants to challenge herself to become more. This is what I expect of them in my classroom, and it is in fact what the Federation has given to me. Thank you for this honor.

James Konechne, South Dakota, South Dakota: Hello. I am going to be a junior at the Dakota Wesleyan University. I am studying business administration and economics, and my goal in life is to live out the Federation philosophy and prove every day that blind people can be just normal members of society. Thanks.

Deana Lambert, Arkansas, Arkansas: Good afternoon, Federationists. To get to this national convention I had to leave my mother at the airport, who was crying with tears not of happiness and excitement at my accomplishments. She was afraid. She was kind of dismayed that her daughter was going off somewhere strange to meet strangers and mentors and great people she did not know. I hope to become a coordinator of youth services. I would like to show people and teach students that I believe in them and the Federation believes in them, and most importantly, that they need to and must have every right to believe in themselves so that they can have bright and fascinating futures.

Anil Lewis, Georgia, Georgia: This is very humbling. I want to take this opportunity to express to all of you that I consider this scholarship an investment as well as an award. This award will allow me to graduate next year from Georgia State University with a master's in public administration with an emphasis in policy evaluation. I intend to use that newly acquired academic tool to establish a nonprofit center that takes advantage of my experience in job placement and training to advocate for individuals, to create opportunities for blind individuals, to help fight for equality for blind individuals, and to insure the security of the others. As far as my promise to you for an investment you are making today, I have already demonstrated my ability to give you a good return on your investment as the newly elected president of the Georgia affiliate. I work on several boards to secure equality, opportunity, and security, but with this investment that you are making today, I want to assure you that you are going to make bigger and better returns; thousands upon thousands of blind people will benefit from what you are doing for me today. Unlike Enron and WorldCom, I won't cook the books; I will give you a fair return on your investment.

Therese McCabe, California, California: Good morning, everyone. It is a pleasure and a privilege to be here with all of you. I am honored to have been selected for receiving this scholarship. I would like to take a few moments to express my gratitude to the National Federation of the Blind for providing me with the opportunity to become acquainted with the organization's philosophy. I have had very little exposure to blindness organizations, so this week has been a real eye-opener for me. I have been impressed by the sense of unity within the organization, the immense energy of its members, but particularly by the confidence and dignity and poise with which many of the speakers I have heard present themselves. I think that there is not enough of this self-confidence in blind people I have seen in the past. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to be here and to be experiencing this organization. I plan to continue with the organization if I can. I just recently graduated from high school, and I will be a freshman at UCLA in the fall majoring in English. I am considering a double major or perhaps a minor in music or language and philosophy. After college I hope to continue on to law school and some day become a trial lawyer. Thank you.

Tony Olivero, Wisconsin, Minnesota: Thank you. I am currently working on a bachelor's degree in computer science, hoping for a career in computer security and networking administration or computer consulting. I am on the LaCrosse chapter board of the NFB and the Wisconsin affiliate board, and I am the treasurer of the Wisconsin Association of Blind Students. I would just like to take a moment and thank Dr. Maurer and members of the board, the scholarship committee, and all my fellow Federationists for all the incredible opportunities that this scholarship class is getting, and I hope some day to be able to pay back everything you guys have given us.

Jennifer Peterson, Iowa, Iowa: Good morning, fellow Federationists. I am very honored to stand before a whole room full of people who have accomplished so much. This is my first convention, and I am just blown away, not because these blind people have accomplished so much, but simply because you have all accomplished so much. I have undergraduate degrees in religion, English, and human services, and I decided to continue in social work. I have just completed my first year of an MSW at the University of Iowa. I don't know exactly what I want to do with it, and the reason is that I would be happy working in a number of settings. I am interested in simply helping people empower themselves in whatever way is necessary. I am interested in any group who feels disempowered, any person who feels a sense of dependence on something or other, and I would like to help them to achieve independence in whatever ways I can do that.

Ben Pool, Alaska, Washington: Good morning, or afternoon, I suppose. Like Peggy said, I am from the great state of Alaska, the home of Eskimos and snowshoes and midnight sun and the Iditarod and, of course, myself. Next fall I will be enrolling at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, where I will be majoring in psychology. Ultimately my vocational goal is to be a radio therapist, i.e., not Dr. Ruth or Dr. Laura, but Dr. Ben and no one else. So thank you. This is my first experience with the NFB, and it's been thrilling to say the least.

Deja Powell, Hawaii, Hawaii: Aloha. Hi. My name is Deja Powell. I am originally from Salt Lake City, Utah. I graduated from high school a year ago, and I have been attending the Salt Lake Community College and have also been an active member in the Utah student division as their vice president. As of only ten days ago, I started my education at Brigham Young University, Hawaii campus. I flew in from there a few days ago on a twelve-hour flight. So if you see me nodding, that's the reason why--I skipped a night. My career goal is to become a journalist or possibly advertising, and my minor is English. This is my second convention. My first one was a great experience, and that's why I am here. Thank you.

Raquel Silva, Nevada, Nevada: Hi. My name is Raquel Silva, and I am very honored to be here today and very excited to be here. This is my first convention, and I just want to thank you all for being such a great support in my life. My goal is to be a vocational rehabilitation counselor. I am currently a junior at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I would one day like to give back what was given to me by being an example to other blind individuals and helping them get a job and find their place in the world and their dreams and hopefully how to achieve them. Thank you.

Ashley Skellenger, Florida, Louisiana: Hello. I will be attending Louisiana Tech University in the fall and will get a degree in computer information systems. Three years ago I attended my first state convention in Jacksonville, and I heard Diane McGeorge speak about the Colorado Center and what the students learn there and especially the confidence that they gained. I knew that that was something I needed and wanted to have, so as a result I attended the Louisiana Center for the Blind STEP and adult programs, and both of those were wonderful experiences. I learned so much and am still learning. I am just grateful to be a part of this convention again, and I really appreciate this opportunity.

Philip So, New Jersey, New York: Good morning, Federationists. It is an honor to be here, and this week has been overwhelming. I am from New Jersey, and I am studying economics right now at Columbia University in New York. This week I learned so much from all the people and also from the Federation's philosophy. Through that I have also learned more about myself. It is my first convention here, and I look forward to the next one and the one after that, and even more after that. Thank you.

Ryan Strunk, Nebraska, Nebraska: Good morning. You know, it's interesting: I have done a lot of work for the Federation thus far, and people have asked me, "Ryan, if you're so on fire for the Federation, why are you going into a musical education career?" I thought about this for a while, and I realized that when I stand up on a stage in front of thousands of students over the course of my career and tens of thousands of their close relatives and friends, I'm going to be showing everyone that blind people can and will participate on an equal level with the sighted population. Not only that, but I also thought it was interesting that I have to take a lot of education courses and things like that--lesson plans, working on disciplining the students, and things like this. I realized that there are only two things you really need for public education: the first is patience, which they say comes with age; and the second is philosophy. The first I'm working on, and the second I have because of the National Federation of the Blind. Thank you.

Mary Jo Thorpe, Utah, Utah: Good afternoon. I am so privileged to be here today and thank you for the opportunity. My name is Mary Jo Thorpe. I am from Woods Cross, Utah. I graduated cum laude from Utah State University. I am now attending the University of Utah interning to become a child life specialist. This is an individual who works in the hospital setting as an advocate for children and their families, who supports children in a variety of hospital procedures in preparation for surgery and things of that nature. Upon my certification and completion of this program, to my knowledge I will be the first certified blind child life specialist in the country, so I am excited for that. I am also working towards my master's in social work. I have been involved in the NFB for three years and have had a lot of opportunities to serve on the local level with our state. I am also on the Utah board of directors and serve as the Utah student division president. I am really excited to be a part of this organization. I think it is a worthy cause and has greatly helped to make me who I am and helped me come to accept my blindness and really made it easier for me to change what it means to be blind for myself. I am grateful for that.

Andrea Travis, Idaho, Idaho: Hello there, everyone. Isn't this tough competition? Wow. I am going to be a freshman at the University of Idaho in the fall, and I am really excited to go, and I think I am going to major in business administration and hopefully own my own business some day. This is my very first convention, which is really cool. It's kind of overwhelming, but it's fun. I am the Idaho Association of Blind Students vice president. Thank you.

David Tseng, California, California: Good afternoon, everybody. I will be entering my first semester at UC Berkeley this fall. I will be majoring in computer science and music, just to balance out those two fields. I would like to share one realization that I've come to. The few days that I've been at this convention, I have come to realize and truly believe that blind people can obtain any goal they want to aspire to. Now we can all say that, but to truly believe in it is another question, and seeing all the people here doing, going about their business is truly inspirational. It just makes me want to do more with my own life. Thank you very much.

Emily Wharton, Minnesota, Minnesota: Hello. Four years ago Joyce Scanlan took a chance on a young Iowan with an English degree and hired me to work at BLIND, Inc. Since then I have had the opportunity to teach and learn cane travel and life skills and computers and actually learn how to be a LAN administrator. Through BLIND, Inc., and the wonderful people I have met through National Federation of the Blind, the courage and skills and friendship that I have found here have allowed me to come with the courage to follow my greatest passion and return to graduate school so that I could earn a master's of fine arts degree in creative writing at Hamline University. I will start in the fall, and I would like to thank you all for this opportunity.

Jay Williams, North Carolina, North Carolina: I am Jay Williams, and I am from North Carolina. I got my undergraduate degree, graduating summa cum laude from NC State University. I am currently at East Carolina University to get my master's degree in counselor education. Hopefully my eastern dialect won't affect y'all. I would eventually like to open up my own private agency working with substance abuse in the adolescent population, and I guess I want to leave you with a statement that has really meant a lot to me. It is an excerpt from the children's fable of the fox in The Little Prince. That excerpt is "One sees clearly only with the heart; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

Cindee Wobbles, Connecticut, Connecticut: Hello. I really wish I had kept my maiden name about now, going last after this crowd. I will be attending Central Connecticut State University. I am in the psychology/sociology double-major program. My goal is to be a vocational rehabilitation counselor specializing in elderly services, in which I will find success because I am trustworthy, reliable, and independent. In other words, I say what I mean; I go out there and do it; and I do it on my own ability. Thank you.

Peggy Elliott: Dr. Maurer and fellow Federationists, this is the class of 2002. [applause]

Anil Lewis addresses the banquet audience.
Anil Lewis addresses the banquet audience

Monday evening, July 8, Anil Lewis of Georgia received the $10,000 Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship. He spoke briefly to the banquet audience. This is what he said:

I'm going to try, but when I get nervous, I talk real fast. I'm going to try not to make you guys use your extra-sensory ability to listen fast. [laughter] Before I say anything, I have to give much love and a whole lot of respect to the other scholarship recipients tonight. I'd like to ask you to help me in showing my appreciation to them as well. [applause]

Dr. Maurer says that nothing can go wrong except for everything else that can go wrong. Those of you who were at the board meeting remember that I said that this is a humbling honor and that it wasn't so much an award as an investment. In the tradition of awards I have to thank a couple of people. One who was not able to make it today because he is celebrating his thirtieth wedding anniversary is Mr. Al Falligan. He was the Atlanta Chapter president before I became the Atlanta Chapter president. Long before I knew him as the NFB Atlanta Chapter president, he was the guy who told me the truth about the Federation. You guys who have heard all the propaganda and the rumors know exactly what I mean by hearing the truth about the Federation. So he brought me into this loop.

The other gentleman whom I haven't gotten an opportunity to thank for what he did for me--he probably doesn't even realize what he did for me--is our president, Dr. Marc Maurer. For those of you who know me, you know that I am the father of a wonderful four-year-old boy. That came about due to a trying divorce situation. At the same time I was nursing my mom, who died in 2000 of myeloma, a type of cancer. During that time in my life, I was falling apart. My father died when I was very young, so I had very few male role models in my life. But Dr. Maurer took the time out of his busy schedule to talk to me about some of the problems and issues that I was dealing with as a future single parent who had lost his mom. I want to thank him now publicly for all he did for me.

Now for the investment part. Just as a demonstration of how all this works, Dr. Maurer made me a very strong, independent, self-sufficient single parent. I returned that investment in me by being present when the NFB had to go get a blind mother back her child in Savannah, Georgia. I also didn't hesitate when the same thing needed to happen for the grandmother in Dothan, Alabama; I was on that plane in a heartbeat. As I said at the board meeting, I am going to give you a fair return on your investment. Let me break it down in this fashion--but before I do, let me give much love and respect to my chapter, the Atlanta Chapter, and the whole Georgia affiliate of which I have just recently become the president. They have shown me so much love that I just have to give more back. That's their investment in me, and I hope they are starting to experience the return on that.

I was afraid that I was so nervous I wouldn't be able to remember what Dr. Maurer's banquet speech was about, but I do remember: "knowledge, money, and power." So I will use that to summarize the investment you have made in me. The knowledge is the knowledge that I am going to obtain through pursuing my academic education and that I have learned through Jim Gashel and his explaining the work incentives of Social Security that help me be a better job-placement professional at the Center for the Visually Impaired. And I have learned through Dr. Fredric Schroeder that learning the rules of how to play the game of the Rehab Act has made me a better professional with respect to the Client Assistance Program that I've been working with for the past six years. With that degree I obtain I want not only to teach people how to obey the rules, be accountable, but I also want to make it possible for us to make the rules.

The money part is real easy--$10,000 is a lot of money.

Lastly, the power part. You heard me use the word "I" quite a bit tonight. But I learned when I was a young Southern Baptist boy that the I is only a reflection of the power within. I would like to thank God for this moment, for the power within and for the power without--the motivation, the encouragement, the love. I've always said that I have ten thousand angels, and I realize that more than two thousand of them are in this room now. So the power I want to leave with you is the power that you have given me--the power to change what it means to be blind. Thank you very much for this honor.

Here is the complete list of 2002 scholarship winners and the awards they received:

Freedom Scientific $1,500 Technology Certificates: James Konechne, Tony Olivero, Deana Lambert, Ben Pool, and Ashley Skellenger

Freedom Scientific $2,500 Technology Certificates: Richard Brown, Jesse Hartle, Moira Egan, Deja Powell, and Therese McCabe

$3,000 NFB Scholarships: Josie Armantrout, Lynn Heitz, James Konechne, Deana Lambert, Jennifer Peterson, Ben Pool, Deja Powell, Raquel Silva, Ashley Skellenger, Philip So, Andrea Travis, David Tseng, and Jay Williams

$3,000 NFB Computer Science Scholarship: Tony Olivero

$3,000 NFB Educator of Tomorrow Award: Alexander Gray

$3,000 NFB Humanities Scholarship: Therese McCabe

$3,000 Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship: Moira Egan

$3,000 Michael and Marie Marucci Scholarship: Jessica Bachicha

$3,000 Lora E. Dunetz Scholarship: Richard Brown

$3,000 Kuchler-Killian Memorial Scholarship: Cindee Wobbles

$3,000 E.U. Parker Scholarship: Michael Jones

$3,000 Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship: Mazen Abou-Antoun

$5,000 Jennica Ferguson Memorial Scholarship: Jesse Hartle

$5,000 Sally S. Jacobsen Memorial Scholarship: Robin House

$5,000 NFB Scholarships: Mary Jo Thorpe and Emily Wharton

$7,000 Melva T. Owen Scholarship: Ryan Strunk

$7,000 NFB Scholarships: Nicholas Crisosto and Sheila Koenig

$10,000 Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship: Anil Lewis

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