by Cayte Mendez
From the Editor: Cayte Mendez chairs the National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Committee. She is a full-time elementary school teacher in the New York City public schools and serves as president of the National Organization of Blind Educators as well as second vice president of the NFB of NY.
Blind and low-vision high school seniors through grad school students ages eighteen and older! Apply today!
Application Window: December 1, 2021, to midnight, Eastern, March 31, 2022
Thirty Scholarships, $8,000 each
Plus more gifts and opportunities to our scholarship finalists!
If you are a long-time reader of the Braille Monitor, you will notice that the above announcement appears somewhat differently from the way it has in the past. As the world moves forward, so must we all. As we in the NFB continue evolving our work on behalf of the nation's blind, we always seek to reflect on and to evaluate our current practices and make any changes necessary to ensure that we are achieving outcomes that further our movement and strengthen our organization. Toward that end, President Riccobono asked a committee of current and former scholarship chairs, committee members, and previous scholarship recipients to make recommendations about the structure of this highly successful program. The Federation's Board of Directors has taken those recommendations even further by proposing a significant increase to what was already the largest scholarship program in the nation for blind people. Be sure to read carefully what appears here.
Most of the core components we have come to recognize as hallmarks of the NFB Scholarship Program have remained unaltered. The application window is a month shorter, running from December 1 through the end of March, but the application itself is still demanding and rigorous, in order to highlight the best qualities of our several hundred applicants. Each student must demonstrate scholastic excellence as well as individual leadership qualities. Applicants are also expected to reflect on their own sense of themselves as blind people and their effect on the world as they complete the application's accompanying essay and undertake interviews with their state affiliate presidents. Each year our committee receives hundreds of applications, therefore, in order to be selected for one of the thirty scholarships, students must clearly demonstrate the exceptional qualities that set them apart.
Furthermore, once the thirty finalists have been selected, they will still be expected to attend our National Convention in its entirety and to fulfill rigorous participation requirements. In order to receive a scholarship on banquet night, each member of the class will have the daily opportunity to engage with their assigned scholarship committee mentors, as they think deeply about, discuss, and learn from the many and varied convention events and presentations. Finalists will continue to be expected to attend and fully engage in events such as the Board of Directors meeting, the Resolutions Committee meeting, Division Day, NABS, and all general sessions, in addition to several events designed specifically for the scholarship class.
On banquet night, just as it has been for some forty years, the presentation of the thirty scholarships will still be a culminating celebration of the convention. Each student will be recognized for their outstanding academic performance and demonstrable leadership qualities as they receive their scholarship. State delegations will still have the opportunity to cheer and celebrate as their finalists officially become scholarship winners, and the sense of excitement and accomplishment will continue to lift the spirits of the crowd.
While nearly all of the essential components of the program remain unchanged, we have made a few updates to the scholarships themselves. First, the base amount of the scholarship values will increase significantly from the $3,000 it has been for decades. With a few exceptions, the amounts for our scholarships have remained relatively static, as the cost of education has skyrocketed over time. In order to carry the weight we want in today's economy, larger scholarships are necessary. Consequently, the Board has determined that each winner will receive $8,000. This amount will include any funds donated by supporters and partners of the Federation.
Instead of a tiered system of monetary amounts, individual awards may be given to winners who stand out in specific areas of scholarship or leadership. Although the cash value of each award will be the same, this will allow our organization to spotlight excellence, while evolving the program to emphasize mentorship, leadership, engagement, scholarship, and participation over competition for higher dollar amounts. The scholarship committee will still maintain the responsibility for determining which candidates receive these specialized awards, but the value of each award will derive more from who or what it represents than from the first digit on the check.
We are also excited to announce that the members of the class will select one of the thirty scholarships themselves. While this award will be financially equivalent to the others, it will give the members of the scholarship class the opportunity to select the person among their ranks who they feel exemplifies the highest qualities of leadership such as inclusion, ingenuity, and the ability to motivate others. This individual will have the opportunity to address the convention on behalf of the class, bringing our banquet presentation to a close on a note of celebration.
The NFB Scholarship Program has two long-time, overarching goals that continue to guide our work. First, the program seeks to support and promote the academic and career success of blind students nationwide by rewarding scholastic excellence. Second, the program serves as an opportunity to grow potential leaders within our organization by selecting applicants who exhibit ingenuity, creativity, and the ability to motivate others and giving them access to Federation leadership at the highest levels through the convention mentoring process. In undertaking the changes outlined here, we continue to further these goals, while at the same time allowing our process to evolve in ways that create an even stronger sense of inclusion, agency, and responsibility among our winners.
Are you a legally blind student? Do you reside in one of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, or Puerto Rico? Will you be pursuing a full-time post-secondary course of study in a degree program at an accredited United States institution in the fall of the 2022-2023 academic year? Will you be eighteen years of age by July 5, 2022, and will you be able to participate in the entire NFB National Convention and in all scheduled scholarship activities from July 5 through July 10 if chosen as a finalist? If you answered yes to all these questions, please visit www.nfb.org/scholarships to begin the online application today!