Future Reflections                                                               Convention Report 2005

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The 2005 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. That’s one very big reason why parents and teachers should be more than a little curious about the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) scholarship program. The NFB scholarship program is one of the largest award programs in the world for blind students.

In 2005, 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, which is now DAISY-enabled. In addition each winner received a certificate from Bookshare.org for one year’s access to its 23,000-book online collection and NFB-NEWSLINE® publications, a $50 value. IBM presented each of the thirty students with its Homepage Reader, version 3.04, talking and magnifying Web browser, worth $200. Finally, three NFB scholarship recipients also received summer internships and partial scholarships from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Contractors Association. This is 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, are inspiring role models to younger blind students.

Parents, students, and teachers who attend the convention get the opportunity to observe and meet current and past scholarship
winners; to find out what they have accomplished, how they did it, and what they plan for their futures. Many of the past winners (over a hundred 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 student’s 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 student’s 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:

Greg Beaulieu

Greg Beaulieu, New Hampshire, Texas: Thank you, and I thank everyone here today for giving me the marvelous opportunity to become a part of the NFB. I wanted to tell everyone, not how I found the NFB, but actually how the NFB found me one evening in Austin, Texas. I currently live in Austin, and I was walking to a café to meet some friends, and I had my National Library Service playback machine with me. A sighted person who was with this group of five marvelous blind people saw a person walking by with a recorder and said, “Hey, there’s a blind guy over there.”

Two of them came over and introduced themselves to me and said, “Hey, are you the blind guy?” And I said, “Yah.” [laughter] I went and sat with them, and as we began to converse, we discovered that we had many of the same feelings. They said, “You should really think about getting into the NFB.” I thought that sounded sensible, and here I am today. I am very glad to be here, and I thank everyone for this marvelous opportunity. Thank you very much. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

Alan Bickell

Alan Bickell, Iowa, Iowa: Thank you, Peggy Elliott, Dr. Maurer, board of directors, fellow Federationists—good day to you all. I am a senior at Drake University, working on my bachelor’s in business administration. I will next be going for my MBA, and I plan to be the CEO of a large organization one day. I joined the NFB in 2002. My first convention was in this same hotel in 2003, and I am extremely happy to be back. The support and love that the NFB has shown me can only be paid back by action. And I will fulfill that obligation. I first learned the philosophy of the NFB when I attended the orientation center in Des Moines. I was happy and glad and lucky to learn the philosophy that Dr. Jernigan brought to Iowa years ago, and I was lucky to have Allen Harris to point me towards the NFB. Thank you very much. [$5,000 Hank LeBonne Scholarship]

Lori Brown

Lori Brown, Illinois, Illinois: Good morning, Federationists. Thank you, Scholarship Committee, for giving me this opportunity to be here in Louisville. I am a wife and mother of two. I am a sophomore at Spoon River College in Canton, Illinois, where I am studying history and American government. I hope to transfer to Bradley University, where I will receive my bachelor’s degree in secondary education. I hope to teach history and government in the public schools. I have been a member of the Federation for ten months, and the experience I have had has totally exceeded my expectations. It’s like coming home, and I hope that I can give back to the Federation as much as it has given to me. [$3,000 NFB Educator of Tomorrow Award]

Rick Brown

Rick Brown, Florida, Florida: Good morning, everyone. It’s an honor to stand up here as a tenBroek Fellow. I graduated this past December with my bachelor’s degree in social work. I am currently working on my master’s degree in social work. I plan to become a traumatologist. I want to work with war veterans, because I know there’s a big need in this area. I want to tell everyone, if you set your goals, achieve them. It is not hard to do; I have come a long way in achieving mine. I stand up here before you, and I thank you for having me. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship and tenBroek Fellow]

Mary Chappell

Mary Chappell, Virginia, Washington, D.C.: Good morning, Federationists. It’s wonderful to be here with you today. To whom much is given, much is expected. The Federation has given me so much. Four years ago I sustained traumatic neurological brain damage, and when I woke from the coma, I was unable to walk or talk, and I was cortically blind. I thought my life was over, but then I found the Federation, and you gave me my life back. You let me know that it was possible to accomplish, excel, and succeed as a blind woman, and for that I am so thankful. I am now a first-year graduate student in a doctoral program in clinical psychology. I plan to work in trauma with survivors of catastrophe, to show them the purposeful life they can have, how they can succeed based on Federation philosophy. So I thank all of you for giving me the initiative to make something happen. Thank you. [$5,000 Sally S. Jacobsen Scholarship]

Steve Decker

Steve Decker, Iowa, Iowa: Good morning, fellow Federationists. This fall I will be starting my junior year at the University of Northern Iowa. I am pursuing a bachelor’s in communications and am still considering a second major or minor, possibly in the field of technology, looking at integrating the two. I am considering a career in advertising. Growing up—I’ve been blind all my life, and I thought that I knew just about everything there was to know about blindness. Boy, was I wrong! Since I became acquainted with the Federation (in 2002) and attended my first convention here in 2003, I’ve learned so much from all of you. Yet I still have so much to learn. But I’m looking forward to it. Thank you. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

Craig Eckhardt

Craig Eckhardt, Colorado, Florida: Good morning, everybody. My name is Craig Eckhardt, and I am from Denver. Currently I am working for the Colorado Center, and in August I will be moving to Florida, where I will study at the University of Miami, pursuing a graduate degree in music. Specifically the degree is jazz pedagogy, which is essentially music education and jazz studies, so that’s fun. Eventually I would like to teach at the college level. Thanks to the committee for selecting me and for listening. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

Christella Garcia

Christella Garcia, California, California: Good morning. I would like to thank the Federation for giving me this incredible honor and opportunity to be a scholarship winner. I have been part of the Federation since I was three years old, when I received my first not-so-long white cane from Dr. Schroeder. Being part of this proactive organization has taught me that a dream can become a goal when action is taken towards its achievement. When I receive my master’s degree from Louisiana Tech, I hope to teach my students through example that one gains strength, courage, and confidence when one challenges oneself to conquer one’s fears. I believe today’s experience is the first stepping-stone on the path that I will walk in order to make my dreams a reality. Thank you. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

Adnan Gutic

Adnan Gutic, originally from Bosnia, now from Missouri, Missouri: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I am glad to be here for my first ever national convention. I was also at the Missouri state convention in March, so I am interested in the NFB, and I want to do some more things in the NFB, especially the international thing that the guy from China was talking about. I want to help people over there in Croatia and Bosnia—see if they can come to the national convention and see the great things you guys do here. I am going to start as a freshman at Lindenwood University. I am going to be studying athletic training. I am going to get a bachelor’s in that, and I may be going into physical therapy or massage therapy. My main goal is to become employed by a major sports team in hockey. And I will get that! [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

Amy Herstein

Amy Herstein, Maryland, Maryland: Good morning to everyone. I am glad to be here also. I want to thank the Scholarship Committee and everyone, the whole NFB, because basically that’s why any of us got to be here. I will be attending UMBC (the University of Maryland, Baltimore County) in the fall, where I will pursue a degree in English literature. This organization is the best organization for the blind, not only because of the philosophy, but because you are some of the most friendly people and the encouragement you give to everyone is what really does everything. It gives people a chance to try to be all they can be. I’m the secretary of a local Maryland chapter as well as my student division, and it wouldn’t have happened without any of you guys. Thank you. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

Angela Howard

Angela Howard, Louisiana, Texas: When I was ten years old, I put my ear to the door and listened as my father and grandmother described what my life was going to be like as a blind person. “She will never be able to support herself. Her brother is going to have to take care of her. She’s never even going to be able to cross streets.” When I was thirteen years old, the National Federation of the Blind found me, and you told me that you have great dreams for my life. I decided that your dreams were much more compelling. In May I earned my master’s degree in public policy from the University of Texas at Austin. This fall I will be entering the Ph.D. program in sociology at the University of Texas. This summer I am working on a research project, looking at the successes and challenges in organizing to end domestic violence, through a grant from the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Participation. My life is the result of your work; it’s the result of the candy bars that you’ve sold, the ideas that you’ve dreamed, and the work you have put in. Thank you for dreaming, and let’s keep it up. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship and tenBroek Fellow]

Barry Hyde

Barry Hyde, North Carolina, Florida: Good morning to all. I hope everyone is doing well this morning. I’d like to thank all the Federation committee for allowing me to become part of this program. This is the first time that I’ve been here, and wow! It’s overwhelming, and I want to thank everyone again. My guide dog and I will begin this semester at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University at Daytona Beach, Florida, this fall. We will be the first blind graduate student to attend that university ever. That’s going to be a large success if we can pull it off, and I believe we can. We’ve made it this far. I’ve only been blind for seven years, a month, and three days, and here we are. I just want to thank God and the committee again. I look forward to meeting everyone and sharing this experience. Thank you so much. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

Mileah Jensen

Mileah Jensen, Louisiana, Louisiana: Good morning, fellow Federationists. Thoreau once said, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to find only the essential facts and see if I could not learn what they had to teach.” It is only through my involvement in the Federation that I have truly learned what it means to live deliberately. In May I earned my bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University in elementary education. This fall I will be a first-year graduate student at Louisiana Tech, where I will be working towards a master’s in family and consumer sciences with a concentration in human and family development. Once I have completed my master’s, I hope to go on to become a certified child life specialist. I currently serve as president of the Louisiana Association of Blind Students, and as a member of the board of directors of the NFB of Louisiana, and I was recently elected to serve on the National Association of Blind Students board. I hope to continue with my service for many years to help other people to know what it’s like to live deliberately and suck out the marrow of life. Thank you. [$10,000 Charles and Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship, and tenBroek Fellow]

Girmai Kahsai

Girmai Kahsai, originally from Eritrea now from Texas, Texas: Good morning fellow Federationists. This fall I am going to Texas Southern University, Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston. I am a victim of persecution, and I have seen the bad side of humanity. But now I am seeing the loving side of humanity through the Federation. I am very touched and deeply inspired by being elected to be a scholarship winner. I will work and not let down my friends. I am deeply inspired and deeply touched. Thank you. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

Kendrick Kennedy

Kendrick Kennedy, Mississippi, Mississippi: Good morning, fellow Federationists. I attend Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. I’m the Mississippi Gulf Coast chapter president. I am also on the state board of Mississippi. I want to thank the Scholarship Committee for allowing me to be here today. I also want to thank the NFB state president, Sam Gleese, for believing in me throughout my college career. I am going to be obtaining my degree in business administration, information management systems from the University of Southern Mississippi, and I am planning to go to law school. Throughout that journey I will extinguish the views that sighted people have about blind people not being able to do anything. Through the NFB that’s what I have learned, and I will keep that fight up, no matter what. People say, “Kendrick, you don’t act like a blind person.” I always tell them, “Well, how is a blind person supposed to act?” Thank you. [$3,000 E. U. Parker Scholarship]

Jessica Kostiw

Jessica Kostiw, Virginia, Louisiana: Good morning, everyone. I am truly honored not only to be standing here today, but to be here. I would like to thank each and every one of you for giving me something that I never thought I would have after I lost my vision—confidence and self-respect. This is my second NFB convention, and I am already standing here. I would like to say to all of you that you can be here too. I believe that leadership is not only the person on the stage, but behind the scenes. I will do everything I can because I truly feel as though I am indebted to this organization. I am the vice president of the Louisiana Association of Blind Students and a very active member of my chapter. Thank you. [$3,000 Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship]

Lydia Markley

Lydia Markley, Florida, Florida: Good morning, fellow Federationists. It’s an honor to be here today. If it wasn’t for my local chapter members and my state affiliate, I wouldn’t be here today. You believed in me before I believed in myself. In May of 2002 I was declared legally blind. By the fall I was enrolled in Tallahassee Community College and met up with a bunch of people who wanted to start up a chapter for the NFB in Tallahassee. We got the chapter going the end of 2001 or summer of 2002. I was a state scholarship winner in 2003, and actually I am less scared today than I was then. The NFB has taken me a long way. I am presently a junior at Florida A and M University. My major is public relations. My minor is political science. I work part-time with the Division of Blind Services in Florida doing public relations, and, I hope, when I graduate I can start my own PR and lobbying firm to change what it means to be blind. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

Amanda Martins

Amanda Martins, New York, Massachusetts: Good morning. I would like to thank Peggy Elliott and the Scholarship Committee and Dr. Maurer and all of you. This is my first convention. I just want to thank all of you for being so welcoming and friendly. In the fall I will be a freshman at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. I will be majoring in visual and media arts; kind of ironic, I know. My concentration will be in audio radio. After college I want to pursue a career in the field of radio. Thank you all very much. [$3,000 Kuchler-Killian Memorial Scholarship]

Danielle Matthaes

Danielle Matthaes, Montana, Montana: Good morning, and thank you very much. Throughout the past two years I have been significantly blessed by the NFB. Less than two years ago my vision began decreasing due to brain cancer. Many people stopped believing in me, and many turned against me, but you as members of the NFB and members of my family believed in me and supported me. That is what anyone blind or sighted needs in order to pursue their dreams. That is why in the fall I will be pursuing my bachelor’s degree in nursing at Montana State University. I will not give up. I cannot wait till the day I get that badge that says, “Danielle Matthaes, R.N.” Thank you very much. [$3,000 Uthman A. Shibaro and Arlene Gilman Shibaro Memorial Scholarship]

Angie Moran

Angie Moran, Maryland, Colorado: Good morning. First off, I would like to thank the Scholarship Committee for selecting me as an honored scholarship winner. I just graduated from one of our great, great NFB centers in May, and I am on the board of the Colorado Association of Blind Students. I will be attending the Metropolitan State College of Denver in the fall. Afterwards I will be getting my master’s at Louisiana Tech, and I will be teaching the blind how to be independent, like a lot of us in this room. Thank you. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

Bo Mullins

Bo Mullins, Kentucky, Kentucky: Thank y’all for having me here. Happy Fourth of July. I attend Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, Kentucky. I plan on getting my bachelor’s in middle school and high school special education and social studies. I plan on getting my master’s then my doctorate in teaching the blind and visually impaired. I was talking to a girl last night whom I’ve come to know as “Puddin’,” and she was telling me all the stuff that she has done in the NFB, and I realize that the stuff I’ve done is just a drop in the bucket, so I’ve got a lot of work to do to make up. I would just like to thank Momma Kathy and Kenny Jones and all the other people in my organization for getting me here. Thank you very much. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

William Nutt

William Nutt, Texas, Texas: Howdy, ladies and gentlemen. I am studying anthropology, history, and classics at Texas A and M University. I would like eventually tomake museums, or a good deal of museums, as well as artifacts more accessible to the blind. I was trying to figure out what I was going to say, walking up the stairs and listening to everyone, and I realized we’ve all done amazing things—everyone in this room, not just the scholarship winners—and that all the scholarship winners have amazing plans. I was thinking, “Dear Lord, what will the world be like when we all succeed?” Thank you very much. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

Ronit Ovadia

Ronit Ovadia, California, Illinois: Good morning, President Maurer, board of directors, and fellow Federationists. I am deeply honored to be here as a tenBroek Fellow this year. Four years ago I had a dream to complete college and enter my master’s program in genetic counseling and become the first totally blind genetic counselor. I wasn’t sure if I could accomplish these goals. Now, after being involved with our Federation for the last four years, I am definitely on my way to accomplishing my goals and dream. I know this would not have been possible without the confidence and skills the Federation has given to me. For this I am immensely grateful. I just graduated with my bachelor’s degree in human biology from Scripps College, and in the fall I will be a first-year graduate student at Northwestern University in Chicago. I currently serve as president of the California Association of Blind Students. I just recently got elected as secretary of the National Association of Blind Students, and I am an active member of my chapter. When I move to Chicago, I hope to help others and students realize that they can accomplish anything they put their minds to. Thank you so much. [$12,000 Kenneth Jernigan Memorial Scholarship, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Contractors Association Internship, and tenBroek Fellow]

Melanie Peskoe

Melanie Peskoe, Kentucky, Kentucky: Good morning, fellow Federationists. As the president of the Kentucky Association of Blind Students, I would also like to welcome you to my hometown again this year. I am currently pursuing a degree in English from the University of Louisville, after which I plan to go on to get my MBA and then pursue a career in consulting in the field of process improvement. It wasn’t so long ago that I couldn’t envision that kind of success for myself, but when the National Federation of the Blind came into my life, and the philosophy that we have took root inside of me, I feel as though I am growing toward normal independence each day. I have met and learned from a lot of really fine leaders, and the experiences that I have gained not only allowed me to open a new world for myself, but they’ve equipped me with tools that I can pass on to my daughter, who also happens to be blind. I have learned perhaps the most valuable lesson in my life is that independence really has nothing to do with whether or not you accept help from someone or live completely unassisted. Independence for me, and I believe for everyone here, is more about having the power and grasping it to choose when or if to use that help. I think that the students of today are going to be the leaders of tomorrow, and we are standing on the shoulders of all the leadership of today and the past leadership. For the paved ways you are giving us, I thank you deeply. [$5,000 Jennica Ferguson Memorial Scholarship]

Cora Robinson

Cora Robinson, Indiana, Indiana: Good morning. I would like to thank the committee. Thank you, Peggy Elliott; the president of my affiliate, Mr. Ron Brown; Dr. Maurer, and everyone. I really appreciate the opportunity of coming here. I was sitting there thinking how I can always give back. I feel like it’s my responsibility to give back. Growing up, I was a foster child for a time in my life, and I always wanted to be in a position to give back, so I asked God that when I got married, I wanted to marry someone with children, and I did. He had four beautiful children, and once we got married, we had seven, so we have a total of eleven children. I believe in giving back to the community. Right now we have a lot of problems in our community with troubled children, so I am working now to help provide services to children in our community who are troubled children as well as I am working in my local chapter. I am vice president of my local chapter and also vice president of our student division. Thank you very much. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

Craig Roisum

Craig Roisum, Minnesota, Minnesota: Thank you, Federationists. It’s great to be here. My name is Craig Roisum. There is a saying I’ve told my son, “You build your boat, and you float it.” What this means is that you take responsibility for your life. Life is like a boat; it takes good, sound framework to float. If it doesn’t have that, it will sink. I had a great boat once; it was sunk by blindness, but I had a great life preserver. That was the National Federation of the Blind. I finished adjustment-to-blindness training, and I am back in college at the University of Minnesota, seeking a degree in civil engineering. My boat is getting stronger with each passing day. I will be successful. Since joining the Federation, I’ve met some great kids who are Federationists too. They are building their boats and will be successful. However, the adults need to pave the way. Let’s continue our fight so the kids’ boats don’t sink. They are our future leaders. When my boat is finished, it will survive the stormiest seas. [$7,000 NFB Scholarship]

Paul Ruffner

Paul Ruffner, Arizona, District of Columbia: Good morning. Thank you very much. I plan next year to attend American University in Washington, D.C., possibly majoring in political science or international relations, possibly even Latin American studies, to try and pursue a career either in constitutional law or international human rights procedures. I am genuinely inspired to be here today because this organization has shown itself ready and willing and able to give people their lives back. That’s my goal. There are 6.1 billion people on this planet. There are 1.7 billion people who don’t have daily access to fresh water. According to the most recent count, 1,730 of us are registered for convention. All of us need something in life. It’s different for all of us, and the thirty members of this scholarship class, including me, stand ready to help fulfill that need. Thank you. [$5,000 Michael and Marie Marucci Scholarship]

Quintina Singleton

Quintina Singleton, New Jersey, New Jersey: Good morning. First I must start by thanking the committee for choosing me. It really is an honor to stand here. I’ve been a member of the National Federation of the Blind since 1999. I belong to two chapters—the central and the northern Jersey chapter, where I am legislative coordinator for the northern Jersey chapter. In May I will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in both psychology and English. I plan to go to law school to be a criminal defense attorney. I am looking forward to making the transition from the National Association of Blind Students to the blind lawyers division. Thank you. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]

Andrea Travis

Andrea Travis, Idaho, Idaho: Thank you, Madam Chairman. One of my favorite quotes has always been, “Risk more than others think is safe. Care more than others think is wise. Dream more than others think is practical. And respect more than others think is possible.” Only through my membership in the National Federation of the Blind have I realized the true importance of this quote. By continuing to risk, care, dream, and respect, we can accomplish our goals and continue moving forward. Since winning my first scholarship in 2002, I have gained so much confidence and independence. I’ve matured, and I am continually learning. I currently serve as the treasurer of the Idaho Association of Blind Students and chapter president and board member of the Idaho affiliate. I am also entering my senior year at the University of Idaho, majoring in public relations with an emphasis in Web design. [$7,000 NFB Scholarship and tenBroek Fellow]

Hoby Wedler

Henry (Hoby) Wedler, California, California: Thank you, Madam Chairman, Scholarship Committee, and fellow Federationists. It is a genuine honor to be standing here today. In the fall I will be attending the University of California at Davis and pursuing a major in chemistry. I plan to become a high school or junior high chemistry instructor. That has been a lifelong dream of mine. Before 2004 in the Rocket On! science camp, I knew virtually nothing about the National Federation of the Blind. And you all are what brought me here today. What I have learned and what has driven me all this way is the fact that anyone can be a leader if they want. Never give up. Never deny an opportunity. Always take every challenge you can, and be the best blind person you can possibly be. [$3,000 Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Contractors Association Internship]

 

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