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The Braille Monitor,  August/September 2001 EditionThis is a line.

The 2001 Scholarship Class of the National Federation of the Blind

The Scholarship  Class of 2001.
The Scholarship Class of 2001: (left to right) back row: Rodney Barker, Marsh Smith, Michael Brands, Douglas Trimble, Nicholas Truesdell, Albert Spooner, Carey Supalo, Daniel Brown, Adam Rushforth, and Allison Hilliker; Middle Row: Ronit Ovadia, Wesley Majerus, Elizabeth Medina, Romeo Edmead, Vasthi Perez Jimenez, Jarrell Lyles, Laura Lia, Melissa Green, James Fetter, Jennifer Kotaska, and Jamie Dean; Front Row: Elizabeth Phillips, Catherine Mendez, Jennifer Kennedy, Susan Feazell, Christina Wheeler, Summer Salz, Lynn Gosling, Rosalba Carranza, and Cheryl Fogle.

From the Editor: With every passing year we recognize the increasing value of the NFB Scholarship Program to our national conventions. Members of previous scholarship classes stream 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 Maurer's address, Peggy Elliott comes to the podium and presents the year's 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- reader-software. In addition each winner received a year of AOL service from AOL, and the grand scholarship winner received a Basic S Braille embosser from Sighted Electronics.

The final scholarship awarded in this year's scholarship extravaganza, which took place at the banquet on July 6, was the Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship of $10,000, which was presented to Michael Brands. Michael, whose wife and two children were in the audience, then spoke briefly to the group. His remarks appear later in this article.

But earlier in the week, at the meeting of the NFB Board of Directors, each 2001 scholarship winner came to the microphone and spoke directly to the Federation. Following is what they said about themselves. Each speaker is introduced by Peggy Elliott saying first the student's name and then both the home and school states. This is what was said:

Rod Barker, Oregon, Oregon: I am a law student at the University of Oregon School of Law, and my vocational goal is pretty obvious, attorney. I would like someday though to be able to present a case in front of the United States Supreme Court. Thank you very much.

Michael Brands, Minnesota, Minnesota: Thank you, Peggy and Scholarship Committee. I am working on a Ph.D. in Biblical theology. One of my research interests is the connection between the Biblical hope for justice and hopes for justice in society and culture today. I grew up in the 70's in the Me Generation and always wishing that I had grown up in the 60's because I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself. I wanted to protest. For example, when I wasn't allowed to throw my wicked curve ball in Little League baseball just because I was blind, I began to think that maybe justice and equal opportunity might be a good idea in the world.

As I grew and learned of the Civil Rights Movement and the vision of Martin Luther King, Jr., a vision of deep spiritual inspiration that could really improve the lives of thousands of people, I said, "That's the kind of thing I want to be a part of." I want to thank the NFB Scholarship Committee and all of you for giving me a home in this movement that cares about civil rights, justice, and equal opportunity; for friends to march with and laugh with. I hope to see you all at least the next forty or fifty Washington Seminars. I'll meet you on Capitol Hill in February. Thank you.

Peggy Elliott: I neglected to mention that the first two people you have heard from are tenBroek fellows. Rod Barker and Michael Brands have each won a scholarship in a previous year. They reapplied this year and were successful in receiving a second scholarship. that's what a tenBroek Fellow is, somebody who is winning a second scholarship. These two gentlemen and one more later in the pool are tenBroek Fellows.

Daniel Brown, New Jersey, New Jersey: My major is psychology at Kean University of New Jersey. My vocational goal is to be a rehabilitation counselor. When I was a young boy, I learned to read at an early age. I showed my father the dictionary, and I said "Daddy, look at the word 'can't.'"

He said, "Son, there's no such word as 'can't.'"

I went away thinking, "Daddy doesn't read too well." I didn't know that later in life his words would come to fulfill my life and help me find a home in the NFB. To me NFB means "Never felt better." Thank you.

Rosy Carranza, Louisiana, Louisiana: I am a junior at Louisiana Tech majoring in elementary education. I am president of the North Central Chapter of the NFB of Louisiana. I grew up feeling very ashamed of my blindness. I remember one day asking my mother, "Why me? Why do I have to be the blind one in the group?" I will never forget what she told me.

She said, "Rosie, it is better to have a face with many wrinkles than to be a book without a story." My struggle with my blindness has not always been painless or easy. Our struggle in the Federation has not always been painless or easy. But because of the Federation I am proud of my wrinkles. I am proud of our history. I am very proud to be here with all of you. Thank you.

Jamie Dean, West Virginia, North Carolina: Good morning. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to be with you. I'm a future freshman at Wake Forest University, where I am planning to study pre-law, and eventually specialize in entertainment law. Eventually I would like to be in the field of music production.

Romeo Edmead, New York, New York: Good morning everyone. I am truly honored and flattered to be here. The idea that I could be chosen one of thirty out of four-hundred and some odd applicants is mind-boggling. I would just like to thank a couple of people who I feel are responsible for my being here, close friends and family and all the great individuals I have met ever since I joined the Federation in 1998. You guys know that you have had as much to do with this as I have, if not more. Thanks.

Susan Feazell, Florida, Florida: Good morning, everybody. I just graduated from Daytona Beach Community College, and I am getting ready to go to the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. I am studying to be a math teacher. I want to teach high school math and hopefully college math some day. I have been in the NFB forever, and I'm President of the Florida student division and Secretary of the Daytona Beach Chapter.

J.T. Fetter, Virginia, Georgia: This fall I will be an entering freshman at Emory University. I plan to major in classics or philosophy. I have a goal of going on to law school and becoming an attorney.

Cheryl Fogle, Arizona, New Mexico: Good morning. I am a graduate student working on a Ph.D. in archeology and anthropology. I will be the first blind archeologist, and I would like to thank you for your support because for the first time in my life I am in a room full of people, every single one of whom believes that I can do it. This is liberating, I will tell you. Thank you.

Peggy Elliott: I can't resist. Cheryl had a great line last night. I have to repeat it. she said, "I'm a blind archeologist because I dig the past."

Lynn Gosling, Illinois, Illinois: I am in my last year of a master's-in-social-work program. I am doing an internship this fall in the police department in a town nearby. I hope to go into crisis intervention and mediation. I want to thank the NFB for allowing me to be blind; I hid for thirty years. I have a feeling that many of you know what that was like. It takes a lot of energy and a lot of memorizing, and I really didn't fool anybody. I am proud to know that it is acceptable to be blind. My family is very thankful to you for allowing me to have this gift so that now they don't have to pretend anymore either. Thank you.

Melissa Green, Colorado, Colorado: Good morning, everyone. I am a master's student at the University of Northern Colorado. So go Bears. I am a graduate of the Colorado Center for the Blind, and I am currently the President of the Northern Colorado Chapter of the NFB of Colorado. I would like to thank my family, friends, and Federation family as well as Diane and Ray McGeorge. Thank you very much.

Allison Hilliker, Michigan, Michigan with an intermediate stop in Louisiana: Good morning: I would like us all to think back to how we got to where we are now. When I do this, I go back to 1994, the convention in Detroit. I was eleven. I was fortunate to have been a part of the NFB that early in my life. I am where I am today because of the work of people like Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Jernigan, and Dr. Maurer and the efforts of countless other Federationists who constantly encouraged me to succeed and challenged me to do more.

In the fall I will be a freshman at Hope College in Michigan. I will be majoring in elementary education. I am a recent graduate of the Louisiana Center for the Blind, one of our NFB training centers. I am also the current president of our newly formed Michigan Association of Blind Students, which I am very proud of, and a newly-elected Board Member of the National Association of Blind Students. Thank you.

Jennifer Kennedy, Ohio, Ohio: Good morning, fellow Federationists. I would first like to thank you all for sponsoring this glorious convention and the wonderful scholarship program that you all created. A story used in the Alcoholics Anonymous program is about a tandem bike ride, which is the journey of life. I sit in the back, and the leader guides. I tell him I can't go up the hill, and he turns around and says, "Just pedal." We continue through the mountains and valleys, which are life's obstacles.

I tell him, "I can't do it."

He smiles and says, "Just pedal." We pause on the journey, and "Now it's your turn to drive," he tells me.

"But I can't," I say.

He looks at me and says, "Just pedal." Now I am the driver, following my own destiny, and I discover that the driving force is behind me, and that driving force in those trying times smiles and says, "Just pedal." I am the driver, and the NFB is the force behind me, telling me, "Just pedal." Thank you.

Jennifer Kotaska, North Dakota, North Dakota: Thank you for that wonderful cheer. I am a junior at the University of North Dakota majoring in early childhood education with a minor in special education. I never thought that I would be in an organization like this. You guys are a second family, and you allow me to be myself and have the confidence to do what I want. I really appreciate being up here. Thank you.

Laura Lia, New York, Massachusetts: Hi, everybody. I just finished my first year at Holy Cross, and before this week I was undecided what I wanted to do. But after a couple of conversations in the past two days, I am strongly considering education and philosophy. This is my first National Convention, and I am really excited. The past few days have been great, and I hope they only get better.

Matt Lyles, Arkansas, Connecticut, with an intermediate stop in Louisiana: Good morning, Federationists: I am currently a graduate student at Yale Divinity School, where I am earning a master's with an emphasis in history and liturgy. I would like eventually to be a seminary professor or at some church-related school. It gives me great joy to stand here at this opportune time along with my fellow Federationists and hail your achievement, Dr. Vaughan. Speaking for all of those who will follow in your footsteps, we are forever grateful.

Wes Majerus, Nebraska, Nebraska: Currently I am a sophomore at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, where I am studying computer science. Go Huskers. Yes. This is my first convention. It's a very eye-opening experience. I have had the opportunity to learn a lot. I am also serving as the vice president of our Nebraska student division, which has opened a lot of opportunities.

Elizabeth Medina, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania: Good morning, everybody. Thank you for being such a warm and huge family that welcomes me. In such a few days I have learned so much from you, and I am hoping to learn much more because I know that you have the power. I am at the University of Pennsylvania, and I am pursuing a major in international business and marketing with a minor in French. I don't know how I'm going to do that--I'm still struggling with my English. That's about it. Also, I am working in a local chapter at state college. It's called the Happy Valley Chapter. We have started that chapter so they know our power.

Kate Mendez, New York, New York: Good morning, everyone. Applying for and receiving the phone call about this scholarship was really the first major contact I ever had with the NFB, and to tell the truth, when I found out I had to go to the convention to receive the scholarship, I had no idea what to expect. I was really nervous. I had no idea. I just want to thank everybody for making me feel so welcome and for showing me such a new and unique facet of life as a blind person. I find it really fascinating, and I just want to thank you all. This fall I will be starting as a freshman at Cornell University. I hope to major in international relations with a concentration on Southeast Asian studies, and eventually I hope to work in the foreign service.

Ronit Ovadia, California, California: Thank you. I am very pleased to be here with all of you this week and to be honored as a scholarship winner. This fall I will be a freshman at Scripps College in Claremont, California. I will be majoring in biology with a minor in psychology, and I hope to eventually get my master's degree and become a counselor. I just want to tell a small story. This year, while I was job-shadowing a group of genetic counselors for a senior project, my mentor, who was the leader of this group of genetic counselors, had a little conversation with me and asked me if I really thought I could do this kind of work. I said, "Why not?"

She said, "Well there are plenty of times when vision is required."

I said, "Well, I intend to show you that I can do it." I intend to show her as well as everybody else who may not believe that I can do it. Thanks.

Vasthi Perez, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico: Good morning, everybody. My vocational goal is to become a lawyer. I have completed my first year in college in the University of Puerto Rico at the Mayaguez campus, where I am taking my bachelor's degree in political science. This is my first time at convention, and I am very honored. I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity.

Elizabeth Phillips, California, California: Hi, everyone. I would just like to thank all of you for your support, and I am so honored to have received this scholarship and be up here today. I am a child advocate. I speak out for children who don't have a voice. I am a national spokesperson for the National Center on Shaken-Baby Syndrome. Next year I am going to be a freshman at Stanford University, and I am planning to continue studying foreign policy and children's rights, speaking out on behalf of children. I want possibly to be a bio-ethicist or a physicist. I am still a little undecided, but I know that with your help I can do anything. Thank you for believing in me even though you might not know who I am and supporting me just because I am here. Thank you.

Adam Rushforth, Nevada, Nevada: I kind of feel like a pioneer, the only one from my state. As we know, leaders lead by example. Through my life I am an Eagle Scout. I have competed on city swim teams, gymnastics, high school track team, and the National Honor Society. I have also participated in one of my high school plays. I graduated valedictorian of my class, and I went on a two-year mission, fully paid by myself, to Charlotte, North Carolina. Right now I am pursuing a degree in business finance. I will be at the University of Nevada as a sophomore, and I will major in finance and minor in Spanish. It is my intention to lead by example. I am currently on the board in Las Vegas of the NFB. I want to show others that just because I cannot see does not mean that I cannot accomplish ordinary things.

Summer Salz, New York, Massachusetts: Hi. I am going to Harvard in the fall to get my master's in arts and education. My secret, not so secret right now, fantasy is to revolutionize the way we educate and the way we learn. What that means for me practically is to give individuals a voice and to give the world a receptive attitude to everything that we all have to say.

Marsh Smith, Kentucky, Indiana: Hello. I just found out that I have something in common with Dr. Maurer because I go to Indiana University. I will be entering my senior year. I am majoring in public relations and advertising. I would just like to thank the NFB because, when I told my friends from Kentucky that I wanted to do a semester at sea, I wanted to sail around the world, they said, you can do it, you can do it. You know what, I did it, and I had the best time in my life. I just want to say thank you to them.

Al Spooner, Idaho, Idaho: Thanks, Peggy. Thanks to all of you. I am currently a sophomore attending North Idaho College in Coeur d'Alene. I am pursuing a master's degree in communications. My vocational goal is to become a speech instructor. My personal goals have changed over the years. I closed a chapter in my life about two-and-a-half years ago. I am forty-two years old. I have three young, biracial children ages eight, six, and four, so I have a lot of things to do yet, including playing baseball.

So anyway, a new chapter in my life started about a year and a half ago when I attended a state convention and I received a thousand-dollar scholarship there. I attended my first National Convention in Atlanta last year and changed a lot of things. We immediately started a local chapter in the Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, area. I am currently also second vice president in the state, and I have spoken to numerous organizations in our community about blindness, including my school and college. It's helping me pursue my personal goal, public speaking.

Cary Supalo, Illinois, Pennsylvania (tenBroek Fellow): Good morning fellow Federationists. As you know, I am a second-year graduate student at Penn State University working on my Ph.D. in chemistry. I hope some day to change what it means to be a blind chemist. I have had plenty of opportunities to do that with my sighted colleagues at Penn State University as well as at National American Chemical Society conferences. I hope some day to win a Nobel prize, and on that platform I'll be glad to thank the Federation for all the support that you've given me up to this point and for the rest of my life. I hope to be the first blind man to go up in space and work on the new space station. Thank you very much.

Doug Trimble, Washington, Oregon: Good morning. Thank you for the past seventeen years. The Federation has changed my life, and it keeps changing. My wife and new baby daughter Camille are here. I am proud of that and of winning a scholarship this year. This summer I started my teaching certification program at Portland State University. I hope to be a teacher of blind children and give the children the love and support in the Federation for years to come, maybe thirty years as Mr. Harris did. Thank you.

Nicholas Truesdell, Virginia, Virginia: Good morning, fellow Federationists. This coming fall I will be a senior at Newport University in Newport, Virginia, studying computer engineering with a minor in leadership studies, both of which I am sure I can use somehow giving back to the NFB, so it's going to be quite a good experience. (Peggy is saying, "Darn right.") Also I am going to do something along the lines of adaptive technology, so I am trying to get some exposure to that field in the near future.

Cristina Wheeler, Texas, Texas: Good morning. This fall I will be attending Southwest Texas State University, where I will be pursuing a business degree in management and a minor in communications. With that degree I plan to be an advocate for the blind community as well as the cancer community. I feel it's extremely important to have a strong force behind this group, and I want to be that force.

Peggy Elliott: And there, Dr. Maurer and fellow Federationists, is the 2001 scholarship class.

 

Michael Brands addresses the banquet audience while Peggy Elliot looks on.
Michael Brands addresses the banquet audience while Peggy Elliott looks on.

At the banquet on July 6, Michael Brands addressed the audience as follows:

Words could never do this justice, but maybe a preacher can find a few. President Maurer, fellow Federationists, and cherished friends of the NFB, I want to thank God and the Lord Jesus Christ for this tremendous gift, the National Federation of the Blind. I want to thank my wife and children for believing I can do it. I am privileged to be part of the heritage of Dr. tenBroek's initiative and Dr. Jernigan's great wisdom. I am privileged to benefit from your leadership, Dr. Maurer. Peggy and the Scholarship Committee, I want to thank you for your trust. I shall do my best to honor this, and Joyce and my teachers at BLIND, Inc., thank you. I could not be here without you.

One of my favorite proverbs was penned by C.S. Lewis: "We are often like children who think they are having fun stomping around in a mud puddle in the backyard, when all the while what is really being offered us is a grand adventure at the seashore." I haven't found very many mud puddles. In fact, I haven't found any in the NFB, and it's time that we continue a fight to end all such custodial muddles.

What I have found in the NFB is a place in a crew aboard a ship that is always sailing the high seas of hope with a compass of justice and a destination of equality and a meaningful life. The ocean coast is ours; we can reach the furthest destinations; the waves are calling us onward; and, where there is no map, we will make one. My friends, let us reach beyond the horizon. Let us chase the sunset of every good day until it becomes the glorious morning of our new day. Thank you.

Concluding the scholarship presentation ceremony, Peggy Elliott said:

Scholarship winners, we have just built up your treasury pretty effectively. We have just done a real nice job of making your wall a lot nicer with your certificates and plaques, and we've also given you tools and technology that will help you. We have given you a lot that you can build on. But we think that we have also given you something much greater than any of these things. During this week we have talked with you, laughed with you, cried with you, played tricks like cattle rustling, eaten ice cream with you. We've won or lost poker with you and hoisted a brewski every now and then. In other words, we have given to you of ourselves, of our knowledge, of our experience, of our perspective. And to us all of that adds up to giving you the National Federation of the Blind.

We have built our own lives, and we have built our Federation on hope and trust and belief in one another, and we offer all of this to you as the greatest gift that we have to give. All we ask is that you too build, that you build with the same care and devotion to blind people that we have tried to bring to the task. We have built on the foundation of love for one another, and we ask that you do the same. The love we bear for one another is that unshakable commitment that says that we can build if we do it together; we can build an edifice that no one can destroy. Build with us, scholarship winners, build with us, and we can make the future we now dream for all blind people. Congratulations, 2001 scholarship winners.

Here is the complete list of winners and the awards they received:

$3,000 NFB Scholarships: Daniel Brown, Romeo Edmead, Lynn Gosling, Melissa Green, Jennifer Kennedy, Jennifer Kotaska, Wes Majerus, Elizabeth Phillips, Vasthi Perez, Marsh Smith, Al Spooner, and Cristina Wheeler.

$3,000 NFB Computer Science Scholarship: Nick Truesdell

$3,000 NFB Educator of Tomorrow Award: Summer Salz

$3,000 NFB Humanities Scholarship: J.T. Fetter

$3,000 Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship: Susan Feazell

$3,000 Michael and Marie Marucci Scholarship: Elizabeth Medina

$3,000 Lora E. Dunetz Scholarship: Ronit Ovadia

$3,000 Frank Walton Horn Memorial Scholarship: Cheryl Fogle

$3,000 Kuchler-Killian Memorial Scholarship: Catherine Mendez

$3,000 E.U. Parker Scholarship: Adam Rushforth

$3,000 Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship: Jamie Dean

$5,000 Jennica Ferguson Memorial Scholarship: Allison Hilliker

$5,000 NFB Scholarships: Laura Lia, Matt Lyles, and Doug Trimble

$7,000 Melva T. Owen Scholarship: Rosy Carranza

$7,000 NFB Scholarships: Rodney Barker and Cary Supalo

$10,000 Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship: Michael Brands

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