Future Reflections                                                                                Convention Report 2004

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The 2004 Scholarship Winners

Whether a student is bound for an Ivy League school, a state university, or a small private college, a few thousand dollars here or there in scholarship money is always welcome. Thatís one very big reason why parents and teachers should be more than a little curious about the National Federation of the Blind scholarship program. The NFB Scholarship program is one of the largest award programs in the world for blind students. In 2004, thirty blind students received a total of $122,000 in cash awards, an all-expenses paid trip to the week-long NFB convention, a beautiful plaque, and, from the foundation established by Dr. Raymond Kurzweil, an extra bonus of $1,000 per winner ($30,000 total) and the latest version of the Kurzweil 1000 reading software. Itís clearly a program every academically competitive blind student should consider carefully.

But there is another reason parents and teachers ought to be interested in the NFB scholarship program. These blind students, who had the capacity and character to win highly competitive scholarships, can also be inspirations and role models to younger blind students. Parents, students, and teachers who attend the convention get the opportunity to observe, listen to, and meet current and past scholarship winners; to find out what they have accomplished so far, how they did it, and what they plan for their futures. Many past winners (ninety-one to date) have gone on to distinguished careers, and they return to the conventions eager to mentor other students.

Every year, the current class of scholarship winners is introduced at the NFB board of directors meeting; which is the first large, public meeting of the convention. Peggy Elliott, chairman of the scholarship committee, announces first the studentís name and then both the home and school states. Each winner then comes to the microphone and speaks directly to the Federation. Below, in alphabetical order, are the portraits, names, home state, school state, the studentís transcribed remarks from the board meeting, and the name and amount of the award that the student received later in the week at the NFB Annual Banquet. Also at the banquet, the top award winner is given one more opportunity to address the convention. Those comments by winner Darrel Kirby are printed at the end of the article. Here now, is the 2004 NFB Scholarship Class:

Monty Anderson

 

 

Monty Anderson, Hawaii, Hawaii: Aloha, everybody. Iím attending the University of Hawaii at Manoa on the island of Oahu. Iíll be entering a graduate program in clinical psychology with a dual in cognitive psychology in the fall. I plan to research therapies for people who have newly acquired disabilities. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

 

 

 

 

Rebekah Blackburn

 

 

Rebekah Blackburn, Indiana, Indiana: Thank you. My name is Rebekah Blackburn, and I am excited to be here. Iím currently enrolled at Ivy Tech State College in Indiana, and I am getting ready to finish my internship in the fall. Then I will pursue my masterís degree at the University of Indianapolis with a masterís in social work. After that I hope to practice working with and helping people, just giving them hope. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

 

 

Stephanie Brown

 

 

Stephanie Brown, Kentucky, Kentucky: Hello, everyone. Iím Stephanie Brown. I am currently attending the University of Louisville, where I am pursuing my bachelorís degree in elementary education and learning and behavior disorders. I plan to get my masterís degree at Louisiana Tech, where I will get the master of education in teaching blind students and possibly the mobility certification. Thank you. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

 

 

 

Amelia Cavallo

 

 

Amelia Cavallo, New Mexico, New Mexico: Hi, everybody. I am attending the University of New Mexico and going into my junior year. I am majoring in theater with an emphasis in acting and musical theater. I am planning on going on an international exchange through my home university to England this fall. I hope to go to grad school and become a professor of theater and also work with either existing theater companies or create a new theater company that works specifically with blind and disabled actors. Thank you. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

 

 

Amber Chesser

 

 

 

Amber Chesser, Louisiana, Louisiana: Good morning to the board of directors. Itís great to be here. I will be a freshman at Louisiana Tech in the fall, majoring in psychology. I hope to work with children and their families. Thank you. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

 

 

 

 

April Davis

 

 

April Davis, Illinois, Louisiana: I am currently working on a masterís degree in education with a concentration in teaching blind students, and I am really excited about this because I didnít have the opportunity to learn the skills of blindness until after I finished my bachelorís degree and attended the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Iím really excited about reaching out to blind children and their families. [$3,000 NFB Educator of Tomorrow Award]

 

 

 

Ricardo Flores

 

 

Ricardo Flores, Texas, Texas: I am a senior at Texas A&M University, majoring in history and minoring in geography with plans to pursue a masterís in education administration. Some may be of the opinion that history belongs in the past. With my future credentials I plan to improve the future through education and political means. I will be certified to teach, and I have a long-term goal of participating in local and state politics. I will owe a large part of my success to this organization, and I am grateful for your generosity. [$5,000 Michael and Marie Marucci Scholarship]

 

Yolanda Garcia

 

 

Yolanda Garcia, Texas, Texas: Good morning, everyone. I am currently attending the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, where I am a senior pursuing a double major in psychology and sociology. I plan on attending grad school in the near future after graduating to become a licensed professional counselor for adolescents. Some day I hope to have my own private practice. The Federation has given so much to me, and coming here six years ago after two weeks of being blind instilled a philosophy in me to give me hope that I can pursue the dreams I had before. Now blindness is not a hindrance. Thank you. [$5,000 Jennica Ferguson Memorial Scholarship]

 

Sharon Giovinazzo

 

 

Sharon Giovinazzo, New York, New York: Iím attending Mohawk Valley Community College. Iím getting ready to finish my associate degree in human services with plans of pursuing my bachelorís in health sciences and then going on for a graduate degree in occupational therapy with an emphasis on technology. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

 

 

 

 

Lynn Heitz

 

 

Lynn Heitz, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania: Good morning, everybody. I will be attending the University of Pennsylvania in the fall for a graduate degree in social work, but, most importantly, Iím going to use the degree to work with older adults who are losing their vision and their families to spread the word of the only positive philosophy of blindness, that of the National Federation of the Blind. Thank you. [$7,000 NFB Scholarship; tenBroeck Fellow]

 

 

 

Laurel Henry

 

 

Laurel Henry, Wyoming, Florida: Good morning, everyone. Itís great to be here. This fall I will be a first-year graduate student at the University of South Florida, working on my masterís in social work with certification in marriage and family therapy. I would eventually like to become a licensed clinical social worker. I would just like to say that itís a wonderful honor to be here as a tenBroek Fellow. I won my first scholarship in Atlanta in 1999, and itís great to be back. I look forward to seeing you guys for many more years. Thanks so much. [$5,000 Hank LeBonne Scholarship; tenBroeck Fellow]

 

Stephanie Hirst

 

 

Stephanie Hirst, Alabama, Alabama: Hello, everyone. I am a sophomore at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where I study biology and chemistry. After I complete my undergraduate studies, I would like to go to graduate school and pursue a doctoral degree in biochemistry because I want to do research. I just want to thank you for letting me be here. Itís my first convention, and I am very excited. [$3,000 NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Contractors Association Scholarships]

 

 

Nick Hoekstra

 

 

Nick Hoekstra, Michigan, Michigan: Good morning. Iím Nicholas Hoekstra attending the University of Michigan. Iím going to be a junior in the fall. I am majoring in philosophy and psychology, and this coming winter I plan to study in Chile, so I hope to major in Spanish. This is my first NFB-related activity in my life so I am really excited, and I figured, so far in my life I have managed to rock a high school, rock a university, and now to rock the rest of the world. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

 

 

 

Lia Jacobsen

 

 

Lia Jacobsen, Florida, Vermont: Hello. I will be a freshman at Middlebury College starting in the fall studying comparative linguistics, which is the shortest track to get six languages so that I can be working in translation, politics, and as a professor. I am also going to be minoring in psychology, so hopefully I will be able to use that to aid in both the situation culturally dealing with blindness in different nations and politically. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

 

 

 

Darrel Kirby

 

Darrel Kirby, Iowa, Iowa: Good morning, fellow Federationists. I am up here today because a group of Iowans believed in me. Two years ago I became blind. I did not have the NFB. I was out to dinner with a friend, and a waitress came up to me, looked right past me, and asked my friend what I wanted to eat. The NFB has given me back my voice, and I am thankful for that. I currently serve as the president of the Iowa Association of Blind Students and was newly elected as the president of the Old Capital Chapter. I will be starting my masterís degree in social work in the fall at the University of Iowa, where I will show many people that they too have a voice that can be heard. [$12,000 Kenneth Jernigan Memorial Scholarship]

 

Domonique Lawless

 

Domonique Lawless, Tennessee, Tennessee: Hello. This past May I graduated in the class of 2004 from high school, and in August I will be entering Belmont University as a freshman. Right now I am planning on double majoring in psychology and German with a music minor. I have an inkling about what I want to doóI can either open up a practice or do criminal profiling. Then there is a possibility I could teach German. I am looking forward to that, and I still have enough time to decide. I am honored to be here. Thank you. [$3,000 Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship]

 

 

Kagan Nuss

 

 

Kagan Nuss, Delaware, Virginia: Good morning, everybody. As a first-time convention attendee, it is a great privilege to be able to speak here in front of the group, albeit for a brief moment. This year I will be an incoming freshman at the newly dubbed University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, Virginia. They accepted me in the honors program. I was kind of happy about that. I plan on obtaining an undergrad in business administration, and later I would like to go to graduate school for law. [$3,000 Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship]

 

 

Tom Page

 

 

Tom Page, Kansas, Kansas: Thank you. I am so honored to be here today. I am pursuing a masterís degree in interdisciplinary research methodsógot about three semesters left. I want to thank the NFB of Kansas, especially Donna Wood, and also the KRCB for helping me be here today, and all of you for everything you do here. Thank you so much. [$3,000 NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Contractors Association Scholarships]

 

 

 

Lindsey Palumbo

 

 

Lindsey Palumbo, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania: Thanks, guys. Apparently some of you out there have heard of me. Iím attending Clarion University. I will be a senior there this fall. Iím double majoring in special education and rehabilitative sciences. Iíd later like to go on for my masterís and explore a career as a diagnostician. If you donít know what that is, itís people who administer and score tests. Iím also attending the Colorado Center for the Blind this summer. Iíd like to thank you for this opportunity to be up here today. Thank you. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

 

 

Jerry Rodabaugh

 

 

 

Jerry Rodabaugh, Idaho, Idaho: Good morning. I am currently attending the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls, Idaho, trying to achieve a degree in psychology with hopes of becoming a rehabilitation counselor. Thank you. [$3,000 E.U. Parker Scholarship]

 

 

 

 

Ahmed Salem

 

Ahmed Salem, California, New York: Good morning. Can everyone hear me all right? Awesome. I am from California. This is my first time in the National Federation of the Blind. Actually Iíve been in the United States for four years, and this is my first involvement with any organization which is for the blind and by the blind, so I am extremely, extremely happy to be here. I am going to be attending Cornell University in the fall, hopefully triple majoring in economics, psychology, and government. I am planning to go to Yale Law and practice international law or civil rights law. Thatís what I plan to do, and I am very honored to be here. I am very honored to call myself a Federationist. Thank you very much. [$3,000 Kuchler-Killian Memorial Scholarship]

 

Kallie Smith

 

 

Kallie Smith, Iowa, Iowa: Good morning, fellow Federationists. This fall I will be attending the University of Northern Iowa as a freshman. Right now I would like to pursue a career in social work, so I am majoring in social work. I am going to keep my options open and see what my interests are really like. I would like to say that without all of you I would not be where I am today, so thank you. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

 

 

 

Caitlin Snyder

 

 

Caitlin Snyder, Michigan, Ohio: Good morning, fellow Federationists. I am Caitlin Snyder, and this fall I will be a freshman at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Iím planning to study political science and philosophy. I would just like to thank the scholarship committee and especially the board of directors for giving me the opportunity to come here this year. Thank you. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

 

 

 

Lili Stansberry

 

Lili Stansberry, Washington, Washington: Hi, everyone. First of all, Iíd like to say that I am grateful for this opportunity to be here and deeply honored to be a scholarship recipient. I am a senior seeking a masterís degree in business administration with a specialization in human resources and a minor in pre-law. It is my goal to attend law school and become an attorney. In closing Iíd like to say that prior to the Federation I lived my life using the word ďif.Ē What if I could drive? What if I could see? But now I live my life saying ďwhenĒ: when I get my bachelorís, when I get to law school, when I become an attorney. For this I am deeply grateful. [$5,000 Sally S. Jacobsen Scholarship]

 

 

Reanne Yvonne Tangedal

Reanne Yvonne Tangedal, Montana, Montana: Good morning, fellow Federationists, board of directors. Itís an honor to be here. Itís my first national convention. Iíve had a very positive, fulfilling, wonderful experience so far. I know that I will be coming back to national convention for many years to come. I am currently attending Montana State University in Billings. I will be a senior this fall. I am double majoring in elementary and special education. My plans eventually are to attend a graduate program (I am not sure where yet, but I will decide eventually) to receive a specialty in low vision teaching at the elementary level. I became involved with the NFB in 2001 shortly after I graduated from high school, so I am on my fourth year of being a member of the Montana affiliate of the NFB, the Montana Association of the Blind. It is a great honor to be here. I plan to learn a lot, and thank you very much. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

Mary Jo Thorpe

 

Mary Jo Thorpe, Utah, Louisiana: Hello again, I am a graduate student at Louisiana Tech University. I am pursuing a masterís in education with a concentration in teaching blind students in orientation and mobility. I recently received my orientation and mobility certification, which I am very excited for and very proud of. I hope after graduation to work with blind students in the school system to teach blindness training to them. I just want to thank everyone for the opportunity to be a tenBroek scholar this year. This organization has come to mean such a great deal to me over the last few years that I have been part of it. Thank you. [$7,000 NFB Scholarship; tenBroek Fellow]

 

 

Teresa A. Tomasi

Teresa A. Tomasi, Utah, Arkansas: President Maurer, board of directors, fellow Federationists. It is an honor to be here as a tenBroek scholar this year. My first Federation convention was in 2000 here in Atlanta. I have just graduated from the University of Arkansas with honors with a degree in political science, and will be going on in the fall to pursue a joint degree program in law and political administration at the University of Utah. As one of twenty-three adopted siblings with a single mother, I learned at a very young age the importance of staying tenacious. With this tenacity came the desire to be treated equally. Our Federation has taught me to understand that I cannot expect equal rights without assuming equal responsibility. This concept has seen me through many challenging situations, and it will allow me to achieve my goals. It is for that that I wish to thank my Federation family. [$10,000 Charles and Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship; tenBroek Fellow]


Duronne Walker

 

 

Duronne Walker, Illinois, Illinois: Hello, everyone. I am extremely honored to be here. I am attending the University of Illinois and working on my Ph.D. in educational policy studies. I am currently writing a dissertation on student disability in higher education. My goal is to show the world that people with disabilities can be an asset rather than a liability. Thank you. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

 

 

 

Rachel Werner

 

Rachel Werner, Oklahoma, Oklahoma: Hey guys, howís it goiní? You guys are great. I am a senior at the University of Central Oklahoma, where I am pursuing a double major in psychology and sociology. I will be attending graduate school at the University of Oklahoma. I will pursue a doctorate in psychology with a focus on children who have experienced rape trauma and been the victims of other deviant acts. I really want to do counseling with those kids and their families and just try to get to the bottom of that whole psychological mentality behind that. Louisville was my first convention last year. I had really thought I was alone in wanting to be a blind person who was successful, who had a competitive edge with her sighted peers, but I came to Louisville and found out I was dead wrong. I had a family, and I thank you guys for that. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

Victor Wong

 

 

Victor Wong, New York, New York: Iím deeply honored to be here. Thank you for this chance. I am currently attending Cornell University at the graduate level, studying physicsóto be specific, space physicsóand doing the solar-system-type things. So I am hoping either to teach or to end up being a researcher somewhere, like NASA, if I cannot find a job as a faculty member. Thank you. [$3,000 NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Contractors Association Scholarships]

 

 

 

The winner of the 2004 Kenneth Jernigan Memorial Scholarship of $12,000 was Darrel Kirby of Iowa. He spoke briefly to the banquet audience. This is what he said:

Darrel Kirby

I would just like to say I hope everyone in this room gets the chance, at least once in their life, to feel the way I do right now. I am honored. I would like to thank all Federationistsómy family, my friends, my brothers and sisters. I am here because of your love and support. Iíd also like to extend a thanks to the leaders in our movement both present and past. Theyíll never be truly past; they still live in us todayóDr. Jacobus tenBroek and Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. Iíd also like to thank Dr. Maurer. Heís worked hard up to this point and has convinced us that heís going to work hard into the future.

I sat in a room much like this just one year ago in Louisville, Kentucky. It was my first convention. I was new to blindness, and I listened to the address of Dr. Maurer. After his address I made it a priority to remove one phrase from my life. That phrase was, ďBut Iím blind.Ē I had said, ďI want to return to school, and I want to do well, but Iím blind. I want a job; I want to be successful, but Iím blind. I want to have a family, but Iím blind.Ē I realized that I must remove that one phrase if I was ever to go anywhere in my life.

This year, since I removed that phrase from my life, Iíve adopted a new one. With the help of my mentors this week and every person in this room, Iíve adopted the phrase, ďbecause I am a Federationist.Ē I have found myself saying, ďI will succeed because I am a Federationist. I will never be alone because I am a Federationist, and I will not be lost because I am a Federationist.Ē Like everyone in this room we will succeed, we will never be lost, and we will never be alone because we are Federationists.

I encourage you to take tonight, this day, this week, or all of your accumulated experience in the National Federation of the Blind and let them motivate you. Let this be your Independence Day. Thank you. [applause]

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