Future Reflections Convention 2004
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NFB Scholarship Class of 2003
Editorís Note: The following article is adapted from the article that appeared in the August/September, 2003, Braille Monitor, the monthly publication of the NFB. The article begins with an introduction by Barbara Pierce, editor of the Braille Monitor. Her remarks have been edited slightly to reflect formatting changes.
With every passing year we recognize the increasing value of the NFB Scholarship Program to our national organization. Members of previous scholarship classesóeighty-eight past winners óstream 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 Maurerís address, Peggy Elliott comes to the podium, presents the yearís 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 yearís 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 at the conclusion of 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 are photographs of each 2003 winner. Next to each photo are the name, home state, and school state of the student; the transcribed text of the remarks he/she made at the board meeting; and the name and amount of the scholarship he/she received later in the week at the annual banquet.
GermŠn Benitez, New Mexico, New Mexico: Good morning. Iím GermŠn 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. [$3,000 Michael and Marie Marucci Scholarship]
Kimie Beverly, Nevada, Nevada: Hello. Iím 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. [$3,000 E.U. Parker Scholarship]
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. [$3,000 NFB Computer Science Scholarship]
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. Iím also the president of the student division of Maryland. Thank you. [$5,000 Sally S. Jacobsen Scholarship]
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 masterís in counseling psychology at the University of Louisville. Then I plan to get my masterís in rehab counseling and possibly a Ph.D. Regardless of what the future holds, I know with the Federationís guidance and generosity that I can fly higher than an eagle with you as the wind beneath my wings. [$7,000 NFB Scholarship]
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 masterís 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 doesnít already exist, I will consider it a great honor to become the first TV weatherman who is blind in Texas. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]
Josh Gibson, Oklahoma, Oklahoma: Let me just say itís 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. Iíd 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. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]
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. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]
Gene Hermanson, Montana, Montana: Good morning. Itís good to be here. I will be a junior at the University of Montana. Iím 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. Itís 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. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]
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 bachelorís degree in visual disabilities. My goal is to get my masterís degree from Louisiana Tech and teach blind students. I am the vice president of the student division in Florida. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship] [Freedom Scientific $1,500 Technology Certificate]
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, ďOh, hon, I feel so sorry about your condition, your situation. I think you should probably go see a specialist.Ē 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, ďNot only am I going to be that person that you described, I am going to be the best shrink youíve ever seen.Ē Thank you. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]
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 bachelorís I plan to pursue a masterís 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. [$3,000 NFB Educator of Tomorrow Award]
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 bachelorís in fine arts in painting. This fall I will be attending the University of Illinois in Chicago to receive a masterís 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. Itís been a great time. I am looking forward to many more conventions in the future. [$5,000 NFB Scholarship]
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 Iíve 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. [$3,000 Kuchler-Killian Memorial Scholarship]
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 masterís 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. Iím almost out of time, but Iíd like to leave you with a thought. Thomas Edison once said, and I quote, ďMany miss opportunity because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.Ē Iíd 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. Iím out of time, and I love the Virginia affiliate. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]
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 donít knowóa lawyer. Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity. It is my first convention, and I wasnít a member before, but believe me, I am a member now. Itís phenomenal. Thank you. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]
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 masterís 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. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]
Timothy Paulding, Michigan, Michigan: Iím 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 wasnít 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. Iím honored to be here. [$5,000 Hank LeBonne Scholarship]
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 Iím a member of the Spokane chapter in Washington and a first position board member. I joined in February. Iím looking forward to meeting more of you Washingtonians. Iím an Eagle Scout, and one unique thing about me is that I enjoy writing poetry and stories. So, if you share that interest, Iíd like to share that with you. Iím from El Dorado Hills, California. If you donít know where that is, itís about twenty-five miles northeast of Sacramento. Thank you very much. This is such a great honor. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]
Jason Perry, Ohio, Ohio: Good morning fellow Federationists. I canít tell you what an impact attending this first day of activities and the short time Iíve been here has had on me. This isnít my first convention, however. I was part of the Federation family in í96, í97, í98, í01, and again a scholarship winner this year. I canít 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, Iíve 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, Iíve 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. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]
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 itís wonderful to see people who feel the same way about blindness that I have always felt my entire life. Iíve 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. Itís wonderful to be here, and I am looking forward to a great rest of the week. [$3,000 NFB Humanities Scholarship] [Freedom Scientific $1,500 Technology Certificate]
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 masterís 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 wasnít 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. [$12,000 Kenneth Jernigan Memorial Scholarship]
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. [$5,000 Jennica Ferguson Memorial Scholarship] [2003 NFB tenBroek Fellow]
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 Iím 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 Iíd 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 donít have one. Iím also aspiring one day to be sitting on one of our NFB committees. Thank you. [$3,000 Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship]
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. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship] [Freedom Scientific $1,500 Technology Certificate]
Jim Solem, Idaho, Idaho: Buenos dŪas, brothers and sisters. Is this an awesome family reunion, or what! If you canít get excited about being here, you got to be half dead. It has been very difficult for me this past couple of daysóI feel like I have to put ten-pound weights in my shoes just to kind of hold me down on the ground. Iím a student at the University of Idaho, a Ph.D. student with emphasis on education. Iím 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; itís up to me. Thank you and God bless you. [$10,000 Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship]
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 Iíve learned from this experience is never to stop sharing the Federationís 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. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]
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 donít want to be just their nice teacher who canít see, but I want to be a guide to help them learn that their accomplishments are not based on what one lacks, but on oneís determination and the use of oneís gifts. Thank you very much. [$3,000 Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship]
Louise Nicholson Walch, Utah, Utah: Good morning. Itís 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 masterís 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. [$7,000 NFB Scholarship] [Freedom Scientific $1,500 Technology Certificate]
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 Iím 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. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]
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:
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.
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