National Federation of the Blind Recognizes Thirty Outstanding Blind Students

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National Federation of the Blind Recognizes Thirty Outstanding Blind Students

Harry Staley, Jr. of Texas Awarded Top $12,000 Scholarship

Baltimore, Maryland (August 2, 2018): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the nation's oldest and largest organization of blind people, today announced the winners of its 2018 scholarships, which were awarded at the organization's recent national convention in Orlando. The winner of the organization's top prize of $12,000, donated by the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, is Harry Staley, Jr., of Texas, who is pursuing a computer science degree at Texas A&M and whose career goal is to work in autonomous vehicle development.

"I am grateful for the scholarship, but more importantly, I am grateful for the terrific leaders I have met throughout the National Federation of the Blind," said Mr. Staley. "They have taught me to dream bigger, pushing my dreams beyond what I once believed to be possible."

In addition to their scholarship, each student received a $1,000 check and plaque from inventor and futurist Dr. Ray Kurzweil, a Google Chromebook laptop, a $1,000 cash award from Google, a certificate towards the purchase of a Talking LabQuest from Independence Science, and nine months of service from Aira, for a total award for each winner with a minimum value exceeding $5,000. Here is an alphabetical listing of the other twenty-nine winners, with their home state and career goal or field of study. Unless otherwise indicated, each student received a $3,000 National Federation of the Blind scholarship:

  • Naim Muawia Abu-El Hawa, VA: Diplomat
  • Alexandra Alfonso, DC: Music, Education, and Pre-law
  • Tasnim Alshuli, AZ: Professor ($3,000 Expedia Scholarship)
  • Millad Bokhouri, PA: Medical program designer
  • Tyron Bratcher, MD: Rehabilitation counselor
  • Chrys Buckley, OR: Physician ($10,000 Charles and Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship)
  • Ozgul Calicioglu, PA: Environmental sustainability specialist ($8,000 Oracle Scholarship for Excellence in a STEM Field)
  • Olivia Charland, MA: Conservation biologist
  • Purvi Contractor, TX: Aerospace
  • Kenia Flores, NC: Civil rights attorney ($5,000 JAWS for Windows Scholarship)
  • John Harrison, WI: Advocate
  • Eric Harvey, CA: Near East cultural specialist ($3,000 Adrienne Asch Memorial Scholarship)
  • Justin Heard, GA: Teacher
  • J.D. Humphrey, MI: Ethnomedicine
  • Trisha Kulkarni, OH: Software engineer ($8,000 Oracle scholarship for Excellence in Computer Science)
  • Amanda Lannan, FL: Teacher education
  • Shane Lowe, KY: Cyber security and business administration ($5,000 Pehrson Scholarship)
  • Seth Lowman, ID: Sound design and music production
  • Sara Mornis, VT: Writing and psychology
  • Connor Mullin, NJ: Cane travel instructor
  • Sara Patnaude, VA: Victim's advocate ($3,000 E.U. and Gene Parker Scholarship)
  • Menuka Rai, ND: Physical therapist
  • Elizabeth Rouse, IA: Attorney ($5,000 Mimi and Marvin Sandler Scholarship)
  • Yasmine Marie Sarraf, AZ: Forensic scientist
  • Caitlin Sarubbi, NY: Physician ($3,000 Expedia Scholarship)
  • Rilee Sloan, OK: Attorney
  • Matt Turner, ID: Economics and technology ($3,000 Charles and Betty Allen Scholarship)
  • Cathy Tuton, OK: Dietician ($5,000 NFB STEM Scholarship)
  • Paige Young, ME: Business administration

"The scholarship program is one of our most important initiatives," said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. "We are proud to honor these blind scholars, who are studying everything from aerospace to ethnomedicine, and in so doing raising the expectations of what blind people can achieve. Their accomplishments are proof of our conviction that we, the blind of this nation, can live the lives we want; blindness does not hold us back."

Several hundred students competed for the scholarships. A committee of blind people representing a diverse cross section of the NFB membership, including several former scholarship winners, narrowed the field to thirty finalists. Each finalist was then given roundtrip transportation, hotel accommodations, and assistance to attend the National Federation of the Blind National Convention in Orlando, where the committee spent several days getting to know each student. Only after that process was complete did the committee decide which scholarship to award each finalist. Nearly three thousand blind people, their families and friends, and other supporters attended the convention.

Special thanks go to the Jesse and Hertha Adams Charitable Trust for its support of the National Federation of the Blind scholarship program.

For more information about the National Federation of the Blind scholarship program, please visit

Chris Danielsen
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
410-659-9314, extension 2330
410-262-1281 (cell)