Braille Monitor                         March 2021

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Congratulations to our 2020-2021 Scholarship Program Winners

Normally winners of our scholarships are announced in the August-September issue. This happened in 2020, but deciding the named awards and those receiving additional cash was deferred until February and announced at the Washington Seminar. Here is how it was announced in a press release, followed by the remarks of the Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship winner, Precious Perez:

Celebrating Outstanding Blind Students

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the premier membership and advocacy organization of blind Americans, today announced the winners of its 2020 named scholarships, which were awarded at the kickoff meeting of the organization’s Washington Seminar on February 8. 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 Precious Perez, an aspiring music educator from Massachusetts.

The Scholarship Class of 2020: (from top left) Kaitlin Hippe, Alek Wolfe, Bri Broadwater, Chris Bove, Marissa Nissley, Griffin Miller, Deiascha-Britte Bancayanvega, Rob Blachowicz, Emily Keihl, Matthew Duffell-Hoffman, Logan Stenzel, Elaine Hardin, Precious Perez, Kevin Darcy, Sara Luna, Mick Carey, Brayan Zamarripa, Jillian Skye Milton, Marie Villaneda, Moreblessings Chikavanga, Paxton Franke, Nick Spohn, Josh Loebner, Natalie Charbonneau, and Danielle Schultz.

Here is an alphabetical listing of the other 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:

Deiascha-Britte Bancayanvega, California: Healthcare Inclusion (Edith R. and Alvin Domroe Foundation Scholarship, $3,000)
Robert (Rob) Blachowicz, Arkansas: Counseling
Christopher (Chris) Bove, Rhode Island: Public Service
Brianna (Bri) Broadwater, Maryland: Psychology or Education
Sean Carlson, Oregon: Vocational Rehabilitation Instructor
Natalie Charbonneau, Oregon: Animal Genetics and Conservation Research (Oracle Scholarship for Excellence in a STEM Field, $8,000)
Moreblessings Chikavanga, Texas: Civil Rights/Disability Law (Charles and Betty Allen Scholarship, $3,000)
Kevin Darcy, Colorado: Anthropology Professor (Pearson Scholarship, $5,000)
Matthew Duffell-Hoffman, South Carolina: Electrical Engineer
Paxton Franke, North Dakota: Forensic Pathology (National Federation of the Blind Leadership Scholarship, $5,000)
Lauren (Elaine) Hardin, Georgia: Higher Education Student Affairs Administrator
Kaitlyn (Kat) Hippe, Wisconsin: Linguistics and Education (Charles and Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship, $3,000) 
Emily Kiehl, Ohio: Information Technology
Josh Loebner, Tennessee: Inclusive Technology
Sara Luna, Illinois: Museum Accessibility (E.U. and Gene Parker Scholarship, $3,000)
Victor Marques, Michigan: Vision Rehabilitation Therapist and Access Technology Specialist (JAWS for Windows Scholarship, $5,000)
Griffin Miller, Pennsylvania: Actuary
Jillian Milton, New Jersey: Product Development
Marissa Nissley, New Jersey: Attorney
Sherry Pablo, California: Public Health, Health Policy and Management (special scholarship for first responders and others affected by COVID-19, $3,000)
Teresita Rios, California: Attorney
Dannielle Schutz, Nebraska: Medical Scientist
Nicolas (Nick) Spohn, Pennsylvania: Mechanical Engineer (National Federation of the Blind STEM Scholarship, $3,000)
Logan Stenzel, Minnesota: Finance and Technology Entrepreneur (Oracle Scholarship for Excellence in Computer Science, $8,000)
Marie Villaneda, Indiana: Orientation and Mobility Instructor (Mimi and Marvin Sandler Scholarship, $5,000)
Monica Wegner, Minnesota: Corporate Attorney (Charles and Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship, $10,000)
Alek Wolfe, Vermont: Broadcasting
Brayan Zamarripa, Oklahoma: Media Production (Dr. Adrienne Asch Memorial Scholarship, $3,000)
Precious Perez, Massachusetts: Music Educator (Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship, $12,000)

“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 media production to genetics 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.”

Remarks of Precious Perez

Precious Perez smiles while holding her ukulele in front of her.Hi, everyone. I guess this is how it must feel to win a Grammy. I don’t know if that will ever happen to me, but I guess I’m prepared for it now if it does.

I want to thank the Scholarship Committee for this opportunity, the support I’ve received from the leaders I’ve had the pleasure of working with over my seven-plus years of involvement, and those I have connected with this past weekend; this means more to me than you could know. I also want to thank my fellow scholarship winners. I can’t think of a more wonderful group of people to have gone through this process with, and I really look forward to continuing to cultivate these relationships.

I’m really overwhelmed right now, so I’m not going to go on for too long. I feel very validated, very blessed, and I am so very grateful. I really look forward to continuing to help further the Federation family’s work and growth in whatever capacity I’m able. I also want to continue to break down barriers as a blind music educator and performer in the community beyond NFB. So, thank you so very much for believing in me, and thank you for everything.

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