Celebrate Outstanding Blind Students

Release Date

Celebrate Outstanding Blind Students

Baltimore, Maryland (July 14, 2021): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the nation’s leading advocate for equal education of the blind, announced the winners of its annual scholarships at its virtual convention banquet on July 10. The winner of the organization’s top prize of $12,000, donated by the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults and named in memory of Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, is Lizzy Muhammad-Park, an aspiring foreign service officer from Maryland. In accepting the top award, she told the convention: “You are not a victim of blindness; you were chosen for this. You are in the right place at the right time, surrounded by the right people – the members of the National Federation of the Blind, showing people who we are in everything we do since 1940. Live the life you want and build the Federation.”

The other twenty-nine scholarship winners are listed below in alphabetical order with their home states and vocational goals. Unless otherwise indicated, each received a $3,000 National Federation of the Blind Scholarship. In addition to their scholarships, all winners received an additional $2,000 and a plaque from inventor and futurist Dr. Ray Kurzweil, an additional $1,000 from Google, a Google Chrome Book, and a $1,200 gift certificate from Independence Science.

  • Maryam Abdul Sattar, California: Social Worker/Advocate
  • Christopher Abel, Georgia ($3,000 E. U. and Gene Parker Scholarship): Financial Planner
  • Kaleigh Brendle, New Jersey ($7,000 JAWS for Windows Scholarship): Disability Rights Attorney
  • Samantha Chase, Montana: Behavioral Health
  • Tashara Cooper, Florida ($8,000 Oracle Scholarship for Excellence in Computer Science): Computer science, modeling/simulation
  • Shannon Donahue, Washington: Pediatric Mental Health Counselor
  • Lizzie Dunn, Michigan: Social Work
  • Christina Ebersohl, Illinois ($5,000 Pearson scholarship): Musician/Musical Education Advocate
  • Maya El Cheikh, New York: Law/Advocacy
  • Lucien Gandarias, Washington ($3,000 Charles and Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship): Quantum Physics Researcher/Professor
  • Joel Gomez, California: Industrial Engineer
  • Michael Jaden Gretchokoff, Mississippi ($5,000 Mimi and Marvin Sandler Scholarship): Emergency Services Dispatcher
  • Manahil Jafri, New York: Public Policy/Disability Rights Advocate
  • Peter Jensen, Michigan: Medical Research
  • Jeannette Jones, California: Child/Family Therapist
  • Adi Lemmon, Pennsylvania: Elementary Teacher
  • Eric Mendell, California ($5,000 NFB STEM Scholarship): Physics
  • Haylee Mota, Rhode Island: Mechanical Engineer
  • Demetria Ober, Texas ($3,000 Adrienne Asch Memorial Scholarship): Social Work/Medical Interpretation
  • Treasa Marie Praino, New Jersey ($5,000 Edith R. and Alvin J. Domroe Foundation Scholarship): Policy/Human Rights Advisor
  • Stephen Proski, Missouri: Visual Artist/Disability Arts Advocate
  • Tina Reisner, Utah ($3,000 Charles and Betty Allen Scholarship): Cane Travel Instructor
  • Syed Mahmud Rizvi, Massachusetts ($10,000 Charles and Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship): Civil Rights Attorney
  • Megan Swanson, California: Instructional Designer
  • Kinshuk Tella, Ohio ($8,000 Oracle Scholarship for Excellence in a STEM Field): Environmental Professional
  • Sam Theoharis, New York: Civil Rights Law
  • Zachary Ryan Thibodeaux, Texas: Public Policy
  • Mirranda Williams, Georgia: Geriatric Behavioral and Mental Health/Social Work
  • Chantale Zuzi, Massachusetts: Diplomacy, United Nations

“The scholarship program is one of our most important initiatives, and these blind students have faced and overcome many barriers and challenges due to the pandemic and its impact on higher education,” said Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “We are therefore proud to honor these blind scholars, each of whom are raising expectations and expanding possibilities. The accomplishments of these outstanding students are proof that we, the blind of this nation, can live the lives we want; blindness does not hold us back.”

For more information about the National Federation of the Blind scholarship program, visit nfb.org/scholarships