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Photo of the Scholarship Class of 1999


The scholarship class of 1999: (left to right) back row: Nick DeLong, Brian Quintana, Michael Brands, Brian Miller, Jake Oberman, Peter Ince, Dennis Hodos, and Billie Petrino; middle row: Laurel Henry, Charles Arballo, Andre Watson, Michelle Wright, Sarah Swords, Alicia Richards, Tamera Snelling, Marie Kouthoofd, Nicole Gleason, and Alison Dolan; front row: Becky Wood, Barbara Riverdahl, Robert Hunt, Jessica Jenkins, Ivan Lopez, Alan Tu, Carlos Taylor, and Tyrone Coleman.

 

                                                     The Scholarship Class of 1999

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            One of the most exciting elements in each year's convention is meeting and getting to know the twenty-six scholarship winners. This year was no exception. The students were lively, inspired, and inspiring. One thing was different, however. In tribute to the life and work of Dr. Jernigan, Dr. Ray Kurzweil presented additional scholarships of $1,000 to each student and gave each a scanner and the newest version of the Kurzweil 1000, a software package enabling print-handicapped people to read scanned print. The value of this software and hardware was $1,500. According to Dr. Kurzweil, the cash portion of this generous gift came from the Kurzweil Educational Group's having won the Product of the Year Award from the Stevie Wonder SAP Vision awards.

 

            The students each came to the podium during the Friday morning Board of Directors' meeting and introduced themselves to the Convention. Then, at the banquet Monday evening, they each crossed the platform to receive a scholarship certificate from the NFB and a plaque and check from Dr. Kurzweil. The NFB scholarship checks and the Kurzweil 1000 software and hardware were sent later. Here is Scholarship Chairman Peggy Elliott introducing each winner to the Board, followed by the student's remarks. Peggy's words include the student's name, his or her home state, and the school state. This is the way the presentation Friday morning went:

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            Charles Arballo, California, California: Hi, I think that blindness does nothing that stops anybody from doing what they want to do. I believe that people can do whatever they want to do, and that's why I want to be a teacher. I want to teach the blind to become productive citizens of America and to earn their way as normal American citizens should.

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            Michael Brands, Minnesota, Minnesota: Good morning. I'm working on Ph.D. studies in Biblical theology in St. Paul. I hope to become a college- or graduate-level teacher with a passion to help people discover the simple and the deep wonder of living. I hope to write some books to make strategic contributions to my field but also to help people to learn to live well in the world. Thank you.

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            Tyrone Coleman, New Jersey, New Jersey: Hi, everybody. I would just like to say that sometimes in this world it's tough to find equality if you have sight or not. I'd like to tell you that you as blind students, blind individuals, can find equality here at the National Federation of the Blind. Thank you.

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            Nick DeLong, Ohio, Ohio: Hi. This fall I will be attending the Ohio State University. I am eighteen years old, so I'm one of the youngest here. I'm going to do some type of engineering, either computer science, electrical, or sound. I'm not quite sure. I'll just keep my eyes open so to speak and see what happens.

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            Alison Dolan, New York, New York: Hi. I'm so proud and honored to be here today. It's really a wonderful opportunity, and I must thank you so much. I'm working on my master's degree in communications, specializing in public relations because I believe that the public really needs to be aware of issues such as blindness. So I'm hoping to be a public relations practitioner getting the word out there. Thank you very much.

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            Nicole Gleason, Illinois, Illinois: Hi. I am currently a sophomore at Loyola University, Chicago. I am majoring in theology and minoring in music. After college I plan to attend law school and then go into criminal defense and civil rights litigation. The reason that I want to do civil rights work is because I believe that blindness is respectable and that, with the proper training and opportunity, we blind people can do whatever we put our minds to, and I want others like myself to have these opportunities and the equality and security that the Federation promotes. That is why I want to go into civil rights work. Thank you.

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            Laurel Henry, Wyoming, Wyoming: Hello. I'm planning to attend Casper College, majoring in occupational therapy or psychology. I would like to learn both these skills because I like to help people and I feel it's very important. Even though occupational therapy is sometimes not thought of as a field for visually impaired people, I think that, if we have a dream to go after, whatever career we do, we need to go after our dreams and aspirations and do whatever it takes. The blind are sometimes challenged to do different things to prove themselves, but we can do whatever we want, and good luck to everyone.

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            Dennis Hodos, Florida, Florida: Good morning, everybody. I am the president for the student division of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida. Currently I am going for my master's degree in social work, and I would like to get into working with children because I feel that children are our future and they will be the future of the National Federation of the Blind. Thank you very much.

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            Robert Hunt, Utah, Utah: Five years ago, when I was fifteen, I became totally blind as a result of an accident. I remember for several months after my accident I just sat home and was dwelling on the fact that I was blind. I didn't believe that I could do any of the things that I used to. I finally realized over time that I could either sit home and not go anywhere and just be a failure, or I could go out and try to do everything I could do and try to be a success. I know that realization and change in attitude that marked this transition was largely facilitated by the National Federation of the Blind's efforts to change what it means to be blind. I'd like to express my gratitude to all of you who have gone before me and made it possible for me to reach my goals. Thank you.

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            Peter Ince, California, California: Good morning everybody. I am currently attending the great school of the University of California at Berkeley, and I am doing a double major of Japanese language and film studies. Because of the fact that I know in this world of equality we have to achieve great things to be able to hold great jobs, I am doing the double major because I intend to work in the Japanese market in the entertainment business. I'm going on to law school, where I will do entertainment law. I just want to say thank you to the Federation for accepting me into this great family of achievers and doers of equality instead of the world of wishers and just dreamers of equality.

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            Jessica Jenkins, California, California: Good morning. I'd like to thank the Federation for the opportunity to be here. This has been a very wonderful experience so far. I plan to study at Stanford University as a freshman in the fall, and I'm hoping to major in international relations and then pursue law or public policy. I would like to advocate for the rights of the disabled on a worldwide level. Thank you.

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            The next person is the first of our three tenBroek Fellows this year. As the Federation knows, we do accept reapplications from people who have won a scholarship at one time, and this year our first tenBroek Fellow is Marie Kouthoofd, New York, New York: I could roll off an extensive list of what I do, but I think it would be best to explain who I am. The way I can do that is by the things that I've internalized and read. In the Bible there was a man who came after Jesus. His name was Bartimaeus (the son of Timaeus). He reached up to Jesus, and he said, "Son of David, have mercy on me." Jesus turned around (now Bartimaeus was blind, and back in that time blind people didn't have a very good place); he said, "What do you want?" I'm going to stop right there, because whether Bartimaeus got his sight back is really irrelevant. What that means to me is that Jesus turned around, and He realized--He knew the guy was blind, but that is not what he really needed. You see I was Bartimaeus before I came to know the National Federation of the Blind. When I became blind, I thought, "If my blindness would go away, I would be okay." That's just not the case. The Lord sent me the National Federation of the Blind so you guys could teach me that I needed a healing within me. I needed to know that I could be successful and confident and be blind. That's what you've done for me, and I want to thank you. I want to thank you for the opportunity for a second scholarship. I love the Federation; I love all you guys.

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            Ivan Lopez, Arizona, Arizona: Good morning. I would like to say how grateful and how privileged I feel to be here with you today, that being around people who take part in this Federation makes me realize the importance of the NFB. Previously I was a student attending Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona. Currently I'm attending the NFB training center in Ruston, Louisiana. I would like to say we all share stories here as blind individuals, and I'll skip any details of mine. But I would like to address the importance of a person that has been a lifelong mentor for me. He's a wonderful man, and he has been encouraging me throughout my struggles as a blind person. This person has opened up a lot of ways for me to be here today. I will be forever grateful. I'm speaking of Mr. James H. Omvig, a person who has talked about power or empowerment, who are the experts, and he has encouraged me to pursue becoming a future representative of this Federation. He wants me to become a future leader, and I want him to help me become one. Thank you.

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            Brian Miller, Iowa, Iowa, and Brian is the second of our tenBroek Fellows. Here's Brian: Thank you. This doesn't get easier the second time around, I promise you. You never know where the NFB is going to take you in your life. The NFB took me from San Diego to Iowa City, Iowa, where I learned that the blind can and do shovel snow a lot. I have a bachelor's and a master's [degree] in political science, and I currently teach Spanish at the University of Iowa as well as pursuing a master's degree in history education. It would be impossible to enumerate all the things the National Federation of the Blind has given me in the intervening three years since I earned my first scholarship. It has given me confidence. It has honed my political skills. It has sharpened my intelligence. It has exhorted me to excellence. It has also introduced me to my wife--no small thing. I discovered that here in the National Federation of the Blind no dreams are ever deferred; they are only sought; it's always a matter of time. I want to thank the Scholarship Committee for this second opportunity to wear a scholarship ribbon. It means so much to me. I don't know whether it was my grades or the iron filings in my shoes, but lightning struck twice. Thank you very much for this.

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            Jake Oberman, California, New York: Hi. I will be attending the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, and one day my goal is to manage a hotel or resort. During high school I earned five varsity letters running cross country and track. Many times during practice or races I have fallen, but I have always gotten up and pushed harder and become a leader of my team, and I'm respected by many others. Many people come up to me at races and say, "Are you blind?" and I say, "Yeah." I can compete with them. Running with them has given me the confidence to know that I can compete and be on an equal level with anybody else. Thank you to the Scholarship Committee, and thank you to all of you.

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            Billie Petrino: this is the third of the tenBroek Fellows. Billie Petrino, Louisiana, Louisiana: Good morning. I'm currently a senior at Louisiana Tech, majoring in math education. In June I enter a master's O & M program run by Dr. Ryles there in Louisiana. I was speaking about this the other day. I remember as a child my grandfather used to have this doorway where he measured how tall I got every time I used to visit his house, and I was thinking how much the NFB was a doorway like that, only difference is that this doorway is thousands of feet high. When I came to my first convention in 1997, I put my first mark on that doorway. Now two and a half years later I look back at that, and I look now, and I see how much further I have to go, but I've already seen how far I've been. I thank the NFB for giving me the room to grow, to be free, and to thrive.

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            Brian Quintana, New Mexico, New Mexico: Good morning and hello to everyone. I am happy and delighted to be here at this my third convention, and I'm elated to be receiving a scholarship this year. I will be attending the University of New Mexico in the fall, where I plan to study film with an emphasis in screen writing. I believe that writing is a very important and effective means of communication, so one day I hope to become a screen writer. By the way, have you guys heard the one about the skunk? Well, never mind, it stunk anyway.

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            Alicia Richards, Iowa, Illinois: Good morning. I am currently going to Lincoln Christian College in Lincoln, Illinois. I'm getting ready to start my sophomore year there. My major is Christian counseling. I plan to get a master's in that. I want to help people with God's help. These are two people I need to be thanking this morning: God and the Federation. Both have provided generously for me. Thank you.

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            Barb Riverdahl, North Carolina, North Carolina: Good morning, formerly of Illinois. I am going to attend the University of North Carolina in the fall, where I'll be double majoring in psychology and education, going after a master's in educational psychology and rehabilitation and a specialty in adaptive computer technology. I received the Illinois scholarship last year. I attended my first NFB convention in Dallas last summer. When I came home, I hit my community and college with full force and instigated many activities through leadership and fund raising--all of this brought on special recognitions, both state and international, but my highest highlight is just attending the NFB conventions. Before I came here, I received a phone call from the Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation for the Department of Education in Washington, D.C., and I have been accepted as an intern for the summer of 2000. If it wasn't for the inspiration and the knowledge I gained through the NFB, none of this would have happened. So I want to thank you all.

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            Tamera Snelling, Oregon, Oregon: Hi. My first experience with the NFB came at the Oregon convention last year, and Allen Harris was a big part of that. I think that the NFB philosophy was something that was in my head before even knowing the NFB, but at that convention it became a part of my heart. At this convention I truly can see now inside myself that I want to advocate for all of you to know Braille and independent travel. I feel that's a vital thing in our life as blind people to be first-class citizens. As an Oregonian I want to borrow from Nike and say, "Just do it."

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            Sarah Swords, Florida, New Jersey: Good morning. Next year I plan to attend Princeton University, where I hope to get a degree in political science and history. I hope one day to be a professor at a college. I also hope to teach not only history and academics but also life skills through examples. I believe that everyone including people who are blind can achieve any goal they want to. Many people have told me that I'm inspirational, but I just want to tell you that you are a great inspiration to me. From coming here, I've learned that I really can do anything I want to. So I want to thank you for this opportunity.

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            Carlos Taylor, Indiana, Indiana: Hi. I'm Carlos. I attend Ball State University, where I am majoring in business and minoring in computer science. I hope to some day have a hand in all this wonderful adaptive technology that's available to us in opening many doors for a lot of blind people. The NFB is such an inspiration to me. Last year was my first National Convention in Dallas, Texas, and I learned so much and met so many wonderful people in many wonderful professions. It's been such an inspiration to me and reinforced my ideas even more that blind people can do anything and become anything they want to become. It's also an organization that lets people who have many misconceptions about blind people know that the blind can do whatever they can do and compete with them too. Thank you.

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            Alan Tu, Illinois, Illinois: Good morning. First, I'd like to thank the Scholarship Committee for giving me the opportunity to be here. I'd like to thank the members of the National Federation of the Blind for their very warm welcome. Thank you. Even though it's my first time for being at a convention, I know that the scholarship class is very significant. This is because I believe that the scholarship class will be future leaders of the society and of the blind. As we move forward into the twenty-first century, we must not fail to look back, but we must also think and move forward. We must look at the barriers we have overcome, but we must also look at the barriers that have arisen. These barriers include rehabilitation, fighting for funds, and fighting for the right training, travel skills, et cetera. Finally there is an old adage that knowledge is power. The ever-increasing volume of electronic information is getting difficult for blind people to access, and that's why I hope to major in computer science at the University of Illinois at Urbana and help increase the access of blind people to information technology. Thank you.

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            Andre Watson, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania: Before I came here and when I was younger, I was told that blind people couldn't be mathematicians, couldn't be lawyers, doctors, professionals; but today I'm proud to say that those people were liars. I'm proud to say that there are other people here just like myself, and I'm not alone. As a graduate student at Widener University I'm pursuing my doctorate degree in psychology. There I plan to help people renew their minds to realize that their attitude does determine their altitude, and that what they can accomplish they have to believe first in their minds. So I thank you for this opportunity and honor to meet all these students and professionals, and I wish everyone to run the race, fight the good fight, and finish your course.

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            Becky Wood, Utah, Utah: Hi. I'm thankful and honored to be here. I am currently attending the University of Utah. This is my junior year, and I'm studying early childhood education. I'd just like to say that I'm thankful for the National Federation of the Blind, the student division, the wonderful people, and for the belief and attitude which has been given me. Thank you.

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            Michelle Wright, Nevada, Nevada: My name is Michelle. I have one more year to go for my master's degree in social work at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, no sports jokes please. I lost my vision five years ago, and I can honestly say right now, at this point in my life, I'm more satisfied than I ever was before, and I'd like to thank the Federation for all the experiences they have given me. I know it can only get bigger and better from here. Thanks.

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Photo of Marie Kouthoofd hugginf Peggy Elliott on the dais. Joy and

Alen Harris are in back.

 

Marie Kouthoofd hugs Peggy Elliott on the dais.
Joy and Allen Harris can be seen to the right.

 

            That is what the students in the scholarship class of 1999 said about themselves. On Monday evening, July 5, the winner of the American Action Fund Scholarship addressed the audience as the climax of the scholarship-presentation ceremony. The winner was Marie Kouthoofd. This is what she had to say:

 

            Dr. Maurer, Mrs. Jernigan, Board of Directors and Scholarship Committee, and my family--the Federation--this is an honor indeed, an honor that is very difficult to express in words. I know that this Federation, my Federation, was given to me by the grace of God. I know this because in 1996 I stood here before you as a woman who was afraid to become blind. I stand here tonight as a woman who is proud to be blind.

 

            In 1994 Dr. Jernigan delivered a speech in Washington, D.C., and he said something like this: Freedom is not something that can be given from one to another. Rather, freedom must be affirmatively achieved or taken by the individual or group that alleges to want it, or it simply cannot be had. He went on to say that freedom is self-achieved and is a process that is constant and ongoing. Tonight, Dr. Maurer and my Federation family, I plan to stand with you and achieve that freedom as we face the new millennium and change what it means to be blind.

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            That is what Marie said. Now here is the complete list of winners and the awards they received:

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            $4,000 NFB Scholarships: Charles Arballo, Tyrone Coleman, Alison Dolan, Laurel Henry, Dennis Hodos, Robert Hunt, Ivan Lopez, Alicia Richards, Barbara Riverdahl, Tamera Snelling, Sarah Swords, Carlos Taylor, and Andre Watson

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            $4,000 Frank Walton Horn Memorial Scholarship: Nicole Gleason

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            $4,000 Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship: Jessica Jenkins

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            $4,000 Kuchler-Killian Memorial Scholarship: Jacob Oberman

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            $4,000 Humanities Scholarship: Brian Quintana

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            $4,000 Mozelle and Willard Gold Memorial Scholarship: Michelle Wright

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            $4,000 Educator of Tomorrow Scholarship: Rebecca Wood

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            $4,000 Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship: Nicholas DeLong

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            $4,000 E. U. Parker Memorial Scholarship: Billy Petrino

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            $4,000 Computer Science Scholarship: Alan Tu

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            $5,000 NFB Scholarships: Michael Brands and Peter Ince

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            $5,000 Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship: Brian Miller

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            $11,000 American Action Fund Scholarship: Marie Kouthoofd

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