Future Reflections          Convention Report 2007

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The 2007 NFB Scholarship Class

Whether a student is bound for an Ivy League school, a state university, or a small private college, a few thousand dollars here or there in scholarship money is always welcome. Thatís one very big reason why parents and teachers should be more than a little curious about the National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Program. The NFB Scholarship Program is one of the largest award programs in the world for blind students.

In 2007, thirty blind students received a total of $152,000 in cash awards and an all-expenses paid trip to the week-long NFB convention. In addition to his or her NFB scholarship, each also received a $1,000 check and plaque from the Kurzweil Foundation, the new KurzweilĖNational Federation of the Blind Reader presented by Ray Kurzweil, the Kurzweil 1000 reading system software from Kurzweil Educational Systems, and a year's subscription to bookshare.org from the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults. This is clearly a program every academically competitive blind student should consider carefully.

But there is another reason parents and teachers ought to be interested in the NFB Scholarship Program. These blind students, who had the capacity and character to win highly competitive scholarships, are also inspirations and role models to younger blind students. Parents, students, and teachers who attend the convention get the opportunity to observe, listen to, and meet current and past scholarship winners--to find out what they have accomplished so far, how they did it, and what they plan for their futures. Many past winners--ninety-seven past winners this year--have gone on to distinguished careers, and they return to the conventions eager to mentor other students. Three of those former winners returned this year to receive their second scholarship from the NFB as tenBroek fellows.

Every year, the current class of scholarship winners is introduced at the NFB board of directors meeting, which is the first large, public meeting of the convention. The chairman of the Scholarship Committee announces first the studentís name and then both the home and school states. Each winner then comes to the microphone and speaks directly to the Federation. Below, in alphabetical order, are each studentís portrait, name, home state, school state, transcribed remarks from the board meeting, and the name and amount of the award received by each later in the week at the NFB annual banquet. Also at the banquet, the winner of the $12,000 Kenneth Jernigan Memorial Scholarship is given one more opportunity to address the convention. Those comments, by winner Sachin Pavithran, are printed at the end of the article. Here now is the 2007 NFB Scholarship Class:

Karen AndersonKaren Anderson, Nebraska, Nebraska: ďThe kind of role model I care to be for anyone who cares to see me as such is a competent well-rounded human being, not a caricature.Ē Dr. Jernigan used these words in his speech, ďThe Nature of Independence,Ē and the National Federation of the Blind has helped me to live these words. In the fall I will be an incoming freshman at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, where I will double major in languages and psychology. The National Federation of the Blind has given me confidence to enter college and know that I can do anything that I want to do. [$3,000 Rickie and Tena Eevers Memorial Scholarship]

Trevor AttenbergTrevor Attenberg, Connecticut, Massachusetts: I am currently a second semester senior at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, in the geography department, global studies. My vocational plan is to become a professor. I am doing a fifth year masterís degree starting next spring. Iíd like to say that geography, especially environmental geography, is far more than plants and animals, although I do thoroughly enjoy those. Itís an array of things, itís understanding, and I compare it with the NFB that itís diversity, itís a multitude of ideas and perspectives, not just one of a journalist or cowboy or missionary or somebody like that on a high horse. Itís people with differences all around the world, and Iíd like to offer my appreciation for that as well. I am a member of the honor society of geographers. I thought Iíd talk about geography because of Kenneth Jernigan, but Iíll also give my quote which is very valid in geography, which is something Gandhi said. He was asked about what he thought about Western society, and he said, ďI think it would be a great idea.Ē [$3,000 Kuchler-Killian Memorial Scholarship]

Charles BlackCharles Black, South Carolina, South Carolina and heís in Kentucky for the summer: Good morning. I plan to attend the University of South Carolina, where I am studying technology support and training management. I would like to thank you, my Federation family, for what you are doing for me. Iíd also like to thank Florida for Steve Spurrier. I look forward to my last year in college, and I will work and do my best to promote blindness in my work at Fort Campbell, where I currently attend. [$3,000 NFB Computer Science Scholarship]

James BrownJames Brown, Tennessee, Tennessee: Langston Hughes was a famous African-American poet, and he said, ďHold fast to dreams. For if dreams die, life is like a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.Ē Collectively that is what you all have helped me to do. You have helped me to go to school to fulfill my dream of becoming a psychologist one day, and I appreciate it very much. Thank you. [$3,000 National Federation of the Blind Scholarship]

Bill CassonBill Casson, New Mexico, Oregon: Good morning, fellow Federationists. I would like to start by thanking the entire Scholarship Committee for giving me the opportunity to realize my dreams to become a nuclear physicist. I will be attending Lewis and Clark College in the fall in Portland, Oregon. Thank you. [$3,000 National Federation of the Blind Scholarship]

Theresa ChinheyaTheresa Chinheya, New York, New York: Good afternoon. A coincidence just happened that reinforced my goal. Can you imagine that I got room 314, which is the approximation for pi? I aspire to be a mathematician. I am at Hunter College in a program that is a combined BA/MA degree, and I have two more semesters to go. My immediate goal is to become a mathematics teacher for secondary and my long-term is to pursue a Ph.D. in applied mathematics. I am very happy to be part of these programs, and I thank the committee for selecting me. Thank you. [$3,000 National Federation of the Blind Scholarship]

Skylar CovichSkylar Covich, California, California: Good morning. I am enjoying my junior year at St. Maryís College of California, majoring in politics. My goal is to become a political science professor. I have learned a lot from my experience in the National Federation of the Blind, including about political action. I am very glad to be here. [$3,000 National Federation of the Blind Scholarship]

Brian DuludeBrian Dulude, Utah, Louisiana, Arkansas: Thank you for this opportunity to speak. This journey started in 1999 here in Atlanta. I am grateful for the Federation. After Atlanta I went to Louisiana and graduated with a masterís degree in educational psychology with an emphasis in teaching O&M. I have my NOMC and I am very proud of that. I am grateful for this opportunity. I am going to be attending the University of Arkansas. I will be studying rehabilitation education and research. I want to do good research, and I want to be a good administrator. Thank you. [$5,000 Jennica Ferguson Memorial Scholarship]

Cody GreiserCody Greiser, Montana, Montana: Iíd like to start by thanking the Scholarship Committee. Iím beginning my third year of college at the University of Montana Western, where I am majoring in biology secondary education. My long-term goal is to become a high school biology teacher. [$3,000 National Federation of the Blind Educator of Tomorrow Award]

Lora IrelandLora Ireland, Idaho, Idaho: I would like to thank my fellow Federationists and also the Scholarship Committee. I am going to be a freshman at Boise State University in Boise, Idaho. I want to be a speech pathologist and help people like the Federation has helped me. Thank you. [$3,000 National Federation of the Blind Scholarship]

Carol JenkinsCarol Jenkins, Nebraska, Nebraska: Thank you. Hello everyone. When I decided to become an elementary teacher, I thought it would be a really great idea to brainstorm and collaborate with other blind elementary teachers in the state of Nebraska. Downside is I couldnít find any. So I came here, where everybody here at the national convention has been more than willing to help me, and I very much appreciate that. I am very happy and proud to have paved the way for future blind elementary teachers in the state of Nebraska. I am also proud because education is my passion, and education for all is something I hold very near and dear to my heart. I look forward to help fighting the battle for blind literacy. Thank you. [$7,000 Rickie and Tena Eevers Memorial Scholarship]


Peggy Elliott: The next person is the first of three tenBroek fellows. We call people who have won a scholarship in a previous year and successfully competed and won the second scholarship--we call these people tenBroek fellows. The first tenBroek fellow, her first scholarship was in 2000--

Lisa Hanson-JohnsonLisa Hanson-Johnson, Wisconsin, Wisconsin: It is truly an honor to be back as a tenBroek fellow. I am a seventh grade English teacher in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. It was at the NFB conference in 1999 that I met my first blind teacher, and it has truly been an inspiration to me. I have a bachelorís and masterís degree in education. In the fall I will be pursuing a doctorate in education and an administratorís license at Hamline University in Minnesota. I also do research in accessible science, teaching materials, and techniques to the visually impaired and was recognized by USA Today for my work. I hope to continue helping the education world all that I can. Again thank you so much for this opportunity. [$3,000 National Federation of the Blind Scholarship]


Peggy Elliott: The next scholarship winner is also a tenBroek fellow, having won her first scholarship in 2001.

Jennifer KennedyJennifer Kennedy, Ohio, Louisiana: Good morning, fellow Federationists, my Federation family. Michael J. Fox once said during an interview, ďThis is not something that I have the luxury of saying `I donít care to participate in this today.íĒ While he was referring to Parkinsonís disease, I believe this pertains to blindness. However, as we all know, the Federation family is one of the biggest luxuries we have ever found. Since my winning in 2001, I completed my undergraduate degree at Kent State University in communication studies, have held numerous positions on the Ohio board, and will be pursuing my masterís degree at Louisiana Tech University. I apologize, Iím getting choked up. Itís such an honor to be here. Iíll be receiving my masterís degree in educational psychology with a concentration in orientation and mobility. I hope to go out and change what it means to be blind. Thank you. [$3,000 Nicholas R. Schmittroth Memorial Scholarship]

Sarah LeonSarah Leon, Ohio, currently in Minnesota, moving with her family to Maryland, and going to school in Indiana: Good morning. When I was thirteen years old, I ran into a tree. The tree was hard, and it stopped me in my tracks. But then I recovered from that experience and moved on. A few years later I ran into my blindness, and that was harder than the tree. It stopped me in my tracks because at a time when my world should have been opening up to new directions, I didnít know how to work a computer or cross an intersection, and I was a junior in high school. College looked scary. I decided to attend BLIND, Inc., to get the skills that I needed. What I didnít realize is that my training would also transform my attitude about myself and about blindness. Now I can look forward with a lot of excitement to entering Grace College as a freshman this year, where I will be majoring in social work and minoring in missions. I know that I will face difficulties in the future. I also know that Iíll be able to master those circumstances and move on. Thank you. [$5,000 Sally S. Jacobsen Scholarship]

Josh LoevyJosh Loevy, Missouri, Illinois: Hello, everyone. I am going to be a sophomore at Illinois Wesleyan University in the fall. I am studying political science and history. I intend to get into law or broadcasting, maybe a little bit of both. I just want to take this opportunity to thank everyone here. This is my first experience with the Federation; itís my first convention. Itís pretty much everything. Already in the first forty-eight hours, or so, I have learned so much about myself, about what I can do, and about what anyone with blindness can do. Thank you all. I appreciate the opportunity to show me that I have potential beyond what I even thought, and to challenge myself to live up to that potential. Thank you. [$3,000 Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship]

A. Z. MartinezA. Z. Martinez, Texas, Texas: Good morning. Iím a senior at Texas State University studying public relations with a business administration minor. Iím a firm believer that you learn something new every day, and the NFB has taught me a very valuable lesson. Throughout my life I have been able to learn how to be a better leader, and this will be very beneficial to me when I become a marketing director. I will have the experience of being a public role model, and with that I will also be able to influence other blind individuals as I was influenced by the Federationists here today. I am very grateful for everything that I have gotten from the NFB. I have done a lot of work before the scholarship, and I will continue to do a lot more work for you all. Thank you very much. [$3,000 National Federation of the Blind Scholarship]

J. J. MeddaughJ. J. Meddaugh, Michigan, Michigan: Good morning, fellow Federationists. Just a few years ago I was a college drop-out and had a very pessimistic view and outlook about my life. Soon after that I met the Federation and began living surrounded by positive role models and successful blind adults. Now I am attending Western Michigan University majoring in telecommunications management. I soon hope to have a job leading an assistive technology company. Iím also the program director at Camp Tuhsmeheta, a camp for blind kids in Michigan because I find it vitally important that we teach kids at a young age about independence and opportunity just as it has been taught to me. Thank you so much for this opportunity. [$3,000 E. U. Parker Scholarship]

Dick MorrisDick Morris, Oklahoma, Indiana: Good morning, Federation family forever. Like many of you I grew up being told, ďYou canít,Ē and being told, ďRecognize your limitations and live within them.Ē In 1978 I came to the Federation and found out that the only limitations I had were those that I imposed on myself. I am in the final year of classes for the degree of doctor of business administration at Anderson University. My emphasis is marketing, and my interests are marketing for nonprofit organizations and, until we get the car invented, marketing for public transit. Iíve served on the Missouri board and now on the Oklahoma board, and all I can say is, as some of the others said, this is the biggest thing that has happened to me since Iíve been in the Federation. Thank you. [$3,000 National Federation of the Blind Scholarship]

Sachin PavithranSachin Pavithran, Utah, Utah:
Good morning, Federationists. Thank you for giving me this opportunity. Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend a meeting where I saw the energy of all the students, and I have to tell you, the energy was so high that I didnít even think the election would ever get done. Iíd like to quote something that I hold dear. Itís by Mahatma Gandhi. He said, ďBecome the change that you wish to see in the world.Ē I see that change happening in this organization, and I see people in this organization making changes and being an example to people out there. I really believe this organization can help the blind people, and thatís why I am proud to be a part of this organization, this family that we call the National Federation of the Blind. [$12,000 Kenneth Jernigan Memorial Scholarship]

Kevin PitchfordKevin Pitchford, Mississippi, Mississippi: Good morning. I am majoring in business, attending the Mississippi State University. Most of all, Iíd like to say it is an honor to be part of this scholarship class. I am very proud to stand up here before you as part of this class, and I will do everything I can to help the NFB because my main goal beyond getting a good job is to change the perception of what it means to be blind. Thank you. [$3,000 National Federation of the Blind Scholarship]

Anna RobertsAnna Roberts, Oklahoma, Oklahoma: Thank you, Peggy, and thank you to all of you that belong to the NFB; you are all a part of being able to give this great opportunity to all of us. Iíd like to thank you all. I am a junior at the University of Oklahoma. I am a double major in womenís studies and philosophy, where I hope to become a professor in womenís studies and educating people in gender issues, things that affect women and children directly, but also work in nonprofit organizations that help assaulted and abused women and children. Iím also a green belt in Tai Kwon Do and Akido, and I assist in seminars in which I teach self-defense to women and children. This is my first convention, and I can already tell that I have been welcomed with open arms. Iíd also like to thank all of you for that. I want to leave you with a quote that has greatly affected my life, being someone who is totally blind and is not having these resources or knowing anyone else who was blind until this week. A famous quote by esteemed science fiction author Joanna Russ that said, ďLetís be reasonable and demand the impossible.Ē [$3,000 Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship]

Terri Meas RuppTerri Meas Rupp, California, Nevada: Good morning, fellow Federationists. I want to share with you a personal motto that I live my life by: ďA smile is contagious, and a laugh is infectious.Ē While I was going to college, I needed smiles, so I found the NFB. Now Iíve been infected, and I look forward to working with the NFB. Just yesterday I was elected first vice president of NABS. So letís work together and smile and laugh and infect the rest of our world with our positive blindness attitudes. [$5,000 Michael and Marie Marucci Scholarship]

Paul ShepardsonPaul Shepardson, Kentucky, Kentucky: Good morning, everybody. Iíll be starting as a freshman this fall at the University of Louisville, majoring in business administration and minoring in education. I just want to say the same: ďFederation family foreverĒ is important. I want to thank all of my family back home, my family in the NFB, and my family at the Louisiana Center for the Blind for all the help and encouragement and support realizing my potential. Thank you. [$5,000 Hank LeBonne Scholarship]

Kallie SmithKallie Smith, Iowa, Iowa: Kallie is the third and final tenBroek fellow this year, having won her first scholarship in 2004. Good morning, fellow Federationists. I would like you all to think back about someone who has impacted your life in the NFB. For me this person is standing right next to me, Peggy Elliott. She has taught me the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. She attended numerous IEP meetings, in which she helped me acquire proper Braille instruction, and wasnít that a fight! She even taught me how to shuffle a deck of cards. Now I am a senior at the University of Northern Iowa, earning a bachelorís degree in leisure, youth, and human services, with an emphasis in program services administration. Some say you have to learn to play the hand youíve been dealt; thanks to Peggy Elliott and many other Federationists like her, I can deal my own deck of cards. Thank you. [$10,000 Charles and Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship]

Helen StevensHelen Stevens, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts: Good morning, fellow Federationists. This fall I will be a freshman at Harvard University, where I plan to major in international relations with minors in Arabic and German. Over the past two years the National Federation of the Blind has truly changed my life. Through meeting many successful blind people in this organization, I have learned to accept my blindness, and I have been encouraged to want to make a difference with my life. I look forward to meeting many of you at this convention and in years to come. I hope that I can make a difference in the lives of other people and in this organization with my life. Thank you. [$7,000 National Federation of the Blind Scholarship]

Glenn StewartGlenn Stewart, originally New Jersey, and now New York: Itís a pleasure meeting everybody, all NFB members. Itís an honor to be here, welcomed into such a wonderful family. Since I have met everybody, it has been such a confidence builder and a contribution to my goals in striving to reach excellence. I am currently earning a dual masterís degree at Syracuse University in rehabilitation counseling and community counseling. I also have a bachelorís in business. My goal is to continue assisting the veterans of America. I just completed an internship at a VA, and I found my placeóitís to assist the veterans and soldiers coming home who have acquired a disability, not just blindness, but other disabilities. It gives me great pleasure to serve the soldiers of this wonderful country. Itís just a remarkable experience, and being here is just as much a remarkable experience. Itís my first convention, and I hope many, many more to come, where I will continue to meet such wonderful people, such professionals and remarkable individuals. Thank you. [$3,000 National Federation of the Blind Scholarship]

Ali WatkinsAli Watkins, Georgia, Georgia: Good afternoon, everyone. I will be an upcoming freshman at the University of Georgia this fall. Iím going to be majoring in English and Spanish, and I want to be an editor or writer for a newspaper or novels. Even though I do enjoy English and Spanish a lot, I love science also, especially biology. I am going to be attending the Youth Slam program at the end of the summer. I have been to at least five NFB conventions, and I am really happy to be back. I hope that I am going to learn a lot this week. Thank you very much. [$3,000 National Federation of the Blind Scholarship]

Meghan WhalenMeghan Whalen, Wisconsin, Wisconsin: Growing up, there were two words I never heard: ďYou canít.Ē I guess that is not entirely true, because I did hear, ďYou canít go outside until you clean your room,Ē or ďNo, you canít make a mess of everything in life, you know.Ē ďYou canít trash the house.Ē Growing up, I had the same expectations as my sighted brother, and I learned that everybody in my life believed in me, except for me; so there was one place I did hear, ďYou canít,Ē and that was in my heart and my mind. But I couldnít let other people know I didnít believe in myself, so I always did all I could to make it look like I had faith in myself, and somehow everyone believed it. So when I came to convention for the first time last year, I finally was able to tell myself, ďI can.Ē I plan on going to the Louisiana Center for the Blind next May after my sophomore year at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Thank you so much, everybody. [$3,000 Guide Dogs for the Blind Dorthea and Roland Bohde Leadership Scholarship]

Chad WilburnChad Wilburn, Utah, Utah: Good morning, fellow Federationists. A wise leader once told me, ďA teacherís domain is the future, and what you do with that future means the difference between leaving a track record and leaving a legacy.Ē I am receiving a masterís degree at the University of Utah in education and visual impairments. As a future educator of our blind and visually impaired children, I will leave a legacy of literacy and equality for all children. Thank you and have a wonderful convention. [$3,000 Joan Bills Memorial Scholarship]

Lindsay YazzolinoLindsay Yazzolino, Washington State and Rhode Island: Hi, everybody, and thank you so much for this opportunity. I am going to be attending Brown University this fall and would like to concentrate in a field of math and science. In my opinion there are just so many interesting fields in those areas, but yet I am thinking that at this moment I would like to major in mathematics and/or computer science. Eventually Iíd like to get my Ph.D. and work at a university as a professor. Iíve always had a passion for science and math ever since I can remember, and, when I attended the NFB Rocket On! Science Academy in 2004, I discovered that a lot of blind students didnít have all the opportunities that I have had in school to pursue any field in math and science that I have wanted to. One of my goals for the future, although I donít want to necessarily do this professionally, would be to really advocate for the involvement of blind people in math and science and help further the Federationís goal of making it happen. One of the ways I will be doing that is by participating as a mentor in the Youth Slam coming up. I would just like to thank you guys once again for this opportunity. [$3,000 Charles and Melva T. Owen Scholarship]


Peggy Elliott: There, Mr. President and fellow Federationists, is the 2007 scholarship class. [applause]


After Sachin Pavithranís name was announced as the 2007 winner of the Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship, he briefly addressed the banquet audience on Thursday evening, July 5. This is what he said:

First of all I would like to thank the Scholarship Committee for the confidence that they have in me, for all the mentors I had all this week, and for all the inspiration they have given me. Itís been a great convention so far, and I would like personally to thank one mentor who has meant a lot to me in the last two years, who has shown me what the NFB stands for, who is training me and who has shown me what I can do with this wonderful organization. Iíd like to thank Mr. Ron Gardner. [applause]

One more thing Iíd like to say is directed to the students of this organization. Last Sunday I attended the student division meeting, and I saw a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm. We are the future of this organization, and we have leaders in the NFB such as President Maurer and others who are showing us the way. Let all students join together and show them that we can follow their lead and make a difference, and we can show what it really means to be blind. We will do this because we are the members of the National Federation of the Blind family. Thank you.

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