The Braille Monitor                                                                              August/September, 2003

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The 2003 Scholarship Class
of the National Federation of the Blind

The Scholarship class of 2003
The Scholarship Class of 2003: (left to right) back row: Jennifer Justice, Michael Mello, Tonia Boyd, Peter Apgar, Holly Idler, Meleah Jensen, Adam Rushforth, Eugene Hermanson, Germán Benitez, and Mika Bowers; middle row: Arielle Silverman, Randi Strope, Tim Paulding, John Clower, Louise Walch, Maria Smith, David Paullin, Josh Gibson, Kimie Beverly, and Katrilla Martin; front row: Jason Perry, Jessie Kirchner, Jim Solem, Caroline Rounds, Joy Thomas, Nefertiti Matos, Shelley Richards, Zunaira Wasif, Harriet Go, and Janice Jeang.

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--eighty-eight past winners--stream back to take part in convention activities and assume responsibility, doing anything that they could see needed 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 reading software.

The final scholarship awarded in this year's scholarship extravaganza, which took place at the banquet on July 3, was the Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship of $12,000, which was presented to Caroline Rounds, who then spoke briefly to the audience. Her remarks appear later in this article.

But earlier in the week, at the meeting of the NFB board of directors, each 2003 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:

Germán Benitez, New Mexico, New Mexico: Good morning. I'm Germán Benitez. I attend the University of New Mexico. I just finished my first year of graduate studies. I am going to major in math and science. Thank you.

Kimie Beverly, Nevada, Nevada: Hello. I'm a student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where I am studying psychology. I am working on my degree right now. I hope to transfer to UCLA to go to a medical school so that I can get my doctorate and become a psychiatrist. Thank you.

Peter Apgar, Vermont, Vermont: Good morning, everyone. I am currently attending the University of Vermont for engineering management, dealing with mechanical engineering as my concentration. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for making me feel like such a member of the family and making me feel at home. If any of you are ever in Vermont, come up and join me.

Mika Bowers, Maryland, Maryland: Good morning. I currently attend Towson University, working on a masters in art and experimental psychology. I will begin my second year this fall. I plan to graduate in May of 2004 and in the fall attend a Ph.D. program in either behavioral science or neuropsychology. I'm also the president of the student division of Maryland. Thank you.

Tonia Boyd, Kentucky, Kentucky: Good morning, Federationists. Welcome to Kentucky. I am currently working as a rehab instructor with the Kentucky Department for the Blind, and I will be returning to school this fall to finish my master's in counseling psychology at the University of Louisville. Then I plan to get my master's in rehab counseling and possibly a Ph.D. Regardless of what the future holds, I know with the Federation's guidance and generosity that I can fly higher than an eagle with you as the wind beneath my wings.

John Clower, Texas, Texas: Good morning, everyone. I want to thank you all for being here. This fall I will be a freshman at the University of North Texas in Denton. Once some of my required courses are out of the way, I plan to transfer to Oklahoma University in Norman and receive my master's degree in meteorology in a mere six years. My goal is to work for the storm prediction center in Oklahoma or the National Weather Service affiliate in Fort Worth, Texas. If one doesn't already exist, I will consider it a great honor to become the first TV weather man who is blind in Texas.

Josh Gibson, Oklahoma, Oklahoma: Let me just say it's a pleasure to be here. I am honored to be a part of this. I am a junior at Oklahoma City University, seeking a degree in business and political science. I'd like to get my Ph.D. in either foreign affairs or domestic policy, then help our cause and help our country in national politics. Thank you.

Harriet Go, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania: Good morning, fellow Federationists. I am a student at Temple University in Philadelphia majoring in elementary education. I am a member of one of the local chapters in Philadelphia, the Keystone Chapter. I am also the vice president of the Pennsylvania Association of Blind Students. My goal is to be a teacher, and I am very honored to be here this week. Thank you.

Gene Hermanson, Montana, Montana: Good morning. It's good to be here. I will be a junior at the University of Montana. I'm majoring in finance and political science. I will likely be attending law school after that. I hope to have a career making good policy for our great nation. It's my first convention, so it has been a great week so far, and I look forward to the rest of it. This summer I am working on Capitol Hill with Senator Max Baucus of Montana, and that has been a great experience as well.

Holly Idler, Florida, Florida: Hi. I just graduated from Daytona Beach Community College with high honors in May. I am planning to attend Florida State University. I start in August. I am going to get my bachelor's degree in visual disabilities. My goal is to get my master's degree from Louisiana Tech and teach blind students. I am the vice president of the student division in Florida.

Janice Jeang, Texas, Texas: Hello, everybody. I just graduated from high school, and I will be attending Texas A & M University this fall, majoring in psychology. When I became blind two years ago, I was very uncertain of myself, and, being the first blind student in my high school, my teachers told me that I should go see a counselor, so I walked in and she saw me and she looked like, "Oh, hon, I feel so sorry about your condition, your situation. I think you should probably go see a specialist." Well, thanks to the National Federation of the Blind and people from the Texas Association of Blind Students, for which I am honored to sit as a board member (the secretary this year), I was able to walk back in and show that counselor and tell her, "Not only am I going to be that person that you described, I am going to be the best shrink you've ever seen." Thank you.

Meleah Jensen, Louisiana, Louisiana: Good morning. This fall I will be a senior at Louisiana State University, where I am majoring in elementary education with minors in history and sociology. Once I complete my bachelor's I plan to pursue a master's in either early childhood education or elementary counseling. I currently serve as the first vice president of the Louisiana Association of Blind Students and the president of the Baton Rouge chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana.

Jennifer Justice, Illinois, Illinois: Good morning. First of all I would like to thank the Federation for giving me this honor and this opportunity. Six years ago I moved from rural Alabama to Chicago to attend the Art Institute of Chicago. While I was there, I was selected to participate in the advanced studios division of the school, and I graduated with a bachelor's in fine arts in painting. This fall I will be attending the University of Illinois in Chicago to receive a master's of fine art in studio art. I plan to teach on the college level. I want to become a full professor of painting. I also want to be a professional writer and artist. This is my first convention, and I really want to thank you for the warm welcome. It's been a great time. I am looking forward to many more conventions in the future.

Jessie Kirchner, Connecticut, Virginia: Good morning. I will be a freshman this fall at the College of William and Mary, where I hope to study English and philosophy. Afterwards I would like to attend law school, become an ethics lawyer, and investigate a position as a judge or magistrate later on. This is my second national convention, and I deeply appreciate the opportunities I've had over the past year as a Federation member to increase my independence and self-assurance and to meet mentors whom I have been inspired to emulate. My goal is to benefit others as people in this organization have benefited me and to help the blind community become more involved in that area. I am deeply grateful for your generosity, and it is a pleasure to be here. Thank you.

Katrilla Martin, Virginia, Virginia: Good morning, everyone. I am a senior at Mary Washington College, and in the fall of 2004 I will graduate with both an undergrad and a master's degree. I have excellent ideas about education reformation, and I plan to share them with the world as I seek the position of the secretary of education of the United States of America. I'm almost out of time, but I'd like to leave you with a thought. Thomas Edison once said, and I quote, "Many miss opportunity because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." I'd like to assure you that the scholarship class of 2003 is ready and willing to work hard, to carry this movement far into the future. Thank you. God bless each of you. I'm out of time, and I love the Virginia affiliate.

Nefertiti Matos, New York, New York: As of August 20 I will be attending the College of Mt. St. Vincent as a freshman. My major will be criminal justice and English. After those four years I will be attending law school. After that I don't know--a lawyer. Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity. It is my first convention, and I wasn't a member before, but believe me, I am a member now. It's phenomenal. Thank you.

Michael Mello, Idaho, Idaho: Good morning, everyone. This is my fourth convention, and I am honored to be a scholarship winner this year. I have learned that diligence pays off in these matters. I applied several times. I will be a senior at the University of Idaho in the fall, studying psychology, and I hope to then achieve a master's degree sometime after graduation. I plan to work in the information technology industry doing consulting. I serve as the Idaho Association of Blind Students president.

Timothy Paulding, Michigan, Michigan: I'm a junior at the University of Michigan, and I study psychology. I hope to be a child psychologist. My success at the University of Michigan and my admittance to this university was only fueled by a defeat that I had in my life. I was defeated by false ideas of what blindness was. I have some vision, so I was able to grow up thinking that I wasn't blind, and I had to realize a few things and take some action for myself before I could become successful in life. I think these things had to occur before I could be invited to this convention and be able to understand what all of you had to say. I hope to bring back what I learn here to Michigan. I'm honored to be here.

David Paullin, California, Washington: Hello and good morning, fellow Federationists. This coming fall I will be a freshman at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. I am currently studying political science and history. This past spring I finished my first semester. Before that I went to one of the finest NFB training centers in the nation, the Colorado Center for the Blind. I graduated in December of 2002, and now I'm a member of the Spokane chapter in Washington and a first position board member. I joined in February. I'm looking forward to meeting more of you Washingtonians. I'm an Eagle Scout, and one unique thing about me is that I enjoy writing poetry and stories. So, if you share that interest, I'd like to share that with you. I'm from El Dorado Hills, California. If you don't know where that is, it's about twenty-five miles northeast of Sacramento. Thank you very much. This is such a great honor.

Jason Perry, Ohio, Ohio: Good morning fellow Federationists. I can't tell you what an impact attending this first day of activities and the short time I've been here has had on me. This isn't my first convention, however. I was part of the Federation family in '96, '97, '98, '01, and again a scholarship winner this year. I can't begin to tell you the impact that the Federation and the Federation philosophy has had on my life. I am truly living proof that the Federation philosophy is the way to go. As I have attended Ohio State and studied law, I've come to realize that law is the fabric that holds our society together. As I am working on my advanced degree in special education administration, I've come to realize that education is the means by which we shape and mold that fabric. I hope to some day work at the NFBRTI or as a special education administrator so that I can help people with the Federation vision and shape and mold that fabric. Thank you very much.

Shelley Richards, New Jersey, New Jersey: Hello, everybody. I just graduated from high school about a week and a half ago. In the fall I will be attending Rider University, where I was just accepted into the honors program. I am going to major in political science and Spanish. I hope to go on to law school and eventually get into politics. This is my first convention, and it's wonderful to see people who feel the same way about blindness that I have always felt my entire life. I've grown up in a household where my parents would not let me use blindness as an excuse for anything, and I was never allowed to get away with not doing my fair share of the work with my four siblings. It's wonderful to be here, and I am looking forward to a great rest of the week.

Caroline Rounds, California, California: Hello, Federation friends. Currently I am the second vice president for our state affiliate and the president of the High Desert chapter. I hold a California teaching credential and taught regular ed for five years. I now have the honor of teaching a classroom full of very capable and great blind children. After school I rush off to Cal State, Los Angeles, which is about 100 miles away. I am currently obtaining at the second year master's level my credential in VI [visual impairment]. I forgot, I think, how conventions (this is my fourth one) tend to refine, define, and direct you until last night. I wasn't sure what I was going to do after getting my credential, and now I think I know. I want to go into researching better methods for teaching blind children and putting them into practice. I hope to do that at Louisiana Tech. Thank you.

Peggy Elliott: This year's tenBroek Fellow. Those of you who have been here in previous years know that scholarship winners of past years are eligible to reapply. This gentleman won a scholarship once before. For the second time, welcome:

Adam Rushforth, Nevada, Utah: I am from Las Vegas, Nevada, and am a senior at Brigham Young University, where I study and am pursuing a degree in business finance and a minor in Spanish. I have been a member of the board of the Nevada affiliate of the NFB and am currently the treasurer of the Utah Association of Blind Students. I served a two-year, full-time, completely voluntary-basis mission for my church in North Carolina, speaking Spanish. Aside from that, I was called to be president of an organization in my church where I was given the stewardship over two hundred people. I am here today because I know that a blind person is not a defective sighted person.

Arielle Silverman, Arizona, Arizona: Good morning, everyone. In the fall I am going to be attending Arizona State University with a major in biology and possibly adding psychology later on. Right now I am exploring different career possibilities. Some options that I'm thinking of include going to medical school, doing biomedical research, or pursuing a degree in biophysics. That seems like a lot of choices, but right now I am just scoping out the field and seeing what I'd like to do. However, no matter what career I choose, I am definitely going to become more active in the National Federation of the Blind. I am hoping to start a student division in my state, where we currently don't have one. I'm also aspiring one day to be sitting on one of our NFB committees. Thank you.

Maria Smith, Alabama, Alabama: Good morning, everyone. I will be a freshman at Auburn University this fall, and I am planning to major in computer science, probably concentrating on assistive technology. Every year that I come to convention I find something new and wonderful to love about the Federation, so thank you for all the opportunities that you have given me, and I will definitely be around more often.

Jim Solem, Idaho, Idaho: Buenos días, brothers and sisters. Is this an awesome family reunion, or what! If you can't get excited about being here, you got to be half dead. It has been very difficult for me this past couple of days--I feel like I have to put ten-pound weights in my shoes just to kind of hold me down on the ground. I'm a student at the University of Idaho, a Ph.D. student with emphasis on education. I'm working towards a project in technology. What I want to be able to do with this is for blind students and students in the special ed field and students that have a difficult time in learning just to be able to put together programs in the field of math and sciences to enhance the learning in math and sciences. The reason why I am here today is that I made a phone call approximately a year ago to a lady that I am standing next to, who encouraged me on the phone and told me that I can do it; it's up to me. Thank you and God bless you.

Randi Strope, Nebraska, Nebraska: Thank you, Mrs. Elliott. For the first eighteen years of my life I completely denied my blindness, and in 2001 I attended a college prep workshop in Nebraska, heard a speech by a well-known Federationist, and in a matter of hours my whole view on blindness changed. This summer I am working with the NFB Corps, and the one thing I've learned from this experience is never to stop sharing the Federation's philosophy. I found the Federation when I was least expecting it, and this organization has given me more than I can ever give back to it, but I will do my best to try to strengthen and build this fine Federation. Thank you so much for this fine opportunity.

Joy Thomas, Illinois, Illinois: Hello. I am going to be a second-year graduate student at Aurora University in the field of education. Upon graduation I plan to teach middle school in the areas of Spanish language arts or social science in the public schools. I also plan to pursue my Ph.D. in educational policy. This is only my third day here, and already the NFB has helped me to realize that for my students I don't want to be just their nice teacher who can't see, but I want to be a guide to help them learn that their accomplishments are not based on what one lacks, but on one's determination and the use of one's gifts. Thank you very much.

Louise Nicholson Walch, Utah, Utah: Good morning. It's a pleasure and a privilege to be here. I am Louise Walch, and I am from New Castle, Australia, but I come here from Utah. I am a second-semester junior at Brigham Young University studying linguistics and teaching English to students for whom English is their second language. Additionally I am currently making plans to attend the Louisiana Center for the Blind and to pursue a master's at Louisiana Tech University. I am currently and have been for the last year and a half the secretary of the Utah Association of Blind Students. Just recently I was elected treasurer of the Utah Valley chapter. I am also a PAC Plan member. I just want to let you know that the reason I do these things is because I am committed to this organization. This is my first convention, but this last time, since I met with the NFB, has been one of the most rewarding times of my life, not because of this week, but because of how it changed my life. I know it has changed the lives of many. I believe in this cause, and I want to let you know that it really is a privilege to be here. I am willing to work. I recognize the efforts of those who have gone before me, and I plan to continue and to keep this Federation spirit alive.

Zunaira Wasif, Florida, Rhode Island: Hi, everyone. I am just completing my first year at Brown University, and I am going to major in pre-med and cognitive neuroscience. The other day I was sitting in the audience, and I heard a wonderful speech by the director of Louisiana Tech University, and I'm thinking that maybe, if I want to do cognitive neuroscience, I could do some of it over there and help with research and get involved and give back to the Federation. I am really excited about doing that. You have a great day. I hope everything goes well, and I am very excited about this.

Thursday evening, July 3, Scholarship Committee Chairman Peggy Elliott announced the 2003 scholarship awards. As each winner crossed the platform, President Maurer offered congratulations, and Dr. Raymond Kurzweil presented each with a $1,000 check from the Kurzweil Educational Foundation, the latest version of the Kurzweil 1000 reading software, and a beautiful plaque. The winner of the 2003 Kenneth Jernigan Memorial Scholarship of $12,000 was Caroline Rounds of California. She spoke briefly to the banquet audience. This is what she said:

Caroline Rounds addresses the 2003 banquet.
Caroline Rounds addresses the 2003 banquet.

Thank you so much for this honor. Before I could march, I had to learn how to walk, and I did that at my first state convention, in 1989, when I saw other blind people who believed what I did, walking faster and working harder than I was. My next big stride came in reading an article by Dr. Jernigan in which I was exhorted that I was responsible for my own mobility. After that I walked confidently and proudly, carrying my cane everywhere I went.

My next big step came when I decided to become a public education teacher and knew it was going to be very difficult. My steps became much more directed and purposeful as I linked arms with two Federationists, who showed me how it was done.

Tonight, by honoring me with this scholarship, you have given me my marching orders, and I have heard them loud and clear. Dr. Maurer, I would like to thank you personally for showing me what good leadership is. You are not the kind of leader who gives directions and shouts orders. You are one who is willing to go into the trenches. Thank you.

By honoring me with this scholarship, you have given me your applause, your support, and your belief in me. But I also know, with that, you have invested in me. With that comes expectations. You expect me to follow through. You expect me to pass on what I learn, and you are expecting me to reach even higher than I already have. Thank you so much for this honor.

Here is the complete list of 2003 scholarship winners and the awards they received:

Freedom Scientific $1,500 Technology Certificates: Holly Idler, Maria Smith, Shelley Richards, and Louise Walch

$3,000 NFB Scholarships: John Clower, Josh Gibson, Harriet Go, Eugene Hermanson, Holly Idler, Janice Jeang, Katrilla Martin, Nefertiti Matos, Michael Mello, David Paullin, Jason Perry, Maria Smith, Randi Strope, and Zunaira Wasif

Peggy Elliott announces the winners of the 2003 scholarships.
Peggy Elliott announces the winners of the 2003 scholarships.

$3,000 NFB Computer Science Scholarship: Peter Apgar

$3,000 NFB Educator of Tomorrow Award: Meleah Jensen

$3,000 NFB Humanities Scholarship: Shelley Richards

$3,000 Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship: Joy Thomas

$3,000 Michael and Marie Marucci Scholarship: Germán Benitez

$3,000 Kuchler-Killian Memorial Scholarship: Jessie Kirchner

$3,000 E.U. Parker Scholarship: Kimie Beverly

$3,000 Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship: Arielle Silverman

$5,000 NFB Scholarship: Jennifer Justice

$5,000 Hank LeBonne Scholarship: Tim Paulding

$5,000 Jennica Ferguson Memorial Scholarship: Adam Rushforth

$5,000 Sally S. Jacobsen Scholarship: Mika Bowers

$7,000 NFB Scholarships: Tonia Boyd and Louise Walch

$10,000 Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship: Jim Solem

$12,000 Kenneth Jernigan Memorial Scholarship: Caroline Rounds

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