The National Federation of the Blind believes in investing in the future by supporting the college education of deserving legally blind students. Our state and national scholarship programs are the most generous in the country.
When a student applies for a national scholarship, this allows the applicant the possibility of winning a state scholarship. Simply stated, complete one application and have the possibility of winning two scholarships, national and or state. To learn more about the NFB National Scholarship and to download an application form, please visit www.nfb.org/scholarships. The winners of the state scholarship which will be presented at the 41st state convention in Manahawkin in November will be announced by mid August, 2017.
2017 National Scholarship Winner Alyssa Shock
The national scholarship committee met during the weekend of April 28th at the National Federation of the Blind in Baltimore, Maryland, to review the scholarship applications and determine this year’s winners. We received a call from a national scholarship committee member informing me that Alyssa Shock of Dumont and a member in the Northeast Chapter is one of the thirty members of the national scholarship class of 2017. With over 600 applications to review, being one of the thirty is outstanding! We have provided a brief summary of Alyssa’s interests, goals and leadership skills. Congratulations, Alyssa!
Alyssa Shock is a psychology major at Fairleigh Dickinson University. At FDU, she is a member of the Honors’ Program, and she does a 1 hour radio show every week on one of the HD channels at the radio station. Outside of FDU, she volunteers for a Sexual Violence Resource Center. She has also just received an internship working with children, and is looking forward to starting this new adventure. This is extremely relevant to her career goals as she plans to have a career working with children in her future.
Outside of FDU, Alyssa Shock is also a member of the Northeast chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey. She has been a member of this organization since high school, and has enjoyed her experiences with them. Alyssa was a member in the Leadership Education Advocacy Determination (LEAD) program for high school students with vision loss. LEAD allowed her to meet many great people, learn new things, and make memories which will last a lifetime. When not studying or taking part in other extra-curricular activities, Alyssa enjoys spending her free time reading, socializing with family and friends, and listening to music. She also enjoys skydiving, and other thrill-seeking activities.
National Convention Reflections From 2016 National Scholarship Winners Deanna Greco & Laura Etori
The following is reprinted from the Fall 2016 issue of The Sounding Board. The 2016 NFB National Scholarship winners from New Jersey reflect on their experiences at the national convention.
DEANNA GRECO just started her freshman year at The Catholic University of America. She is a biology premedical student. Here is her story:
Imagine a place where there are 2,500 people using white canes and guide dogs, a place where the sighted person in the room is in the minority. A place where you feel accepted, loved and supported. I found this place at the National Federation of the Blind’s National Convention. I was fortunate enough to be one of the NFB’s 2016 Scholarship Winners.
My past year has been similar to that of other students who are in the process of transitioning from high school to college. By January 2016, I was exhausted from writing countless college application essays, going to college interviews and working on maintaining my grade point average (4.5 GPA). Just like everyone else, I realized that college would be expensive, and therefore, I decided to apply for scholarships. While looking online, I came across the NFB’s scholarship program. From the time I was diagnosed with cone rod dystrophy at age 8, my mother always encouraged me to join the NFB. We attended a few meetings with the New Jersey chapter, but I never had the desire to be an active member. I didn’t think that I needed the NFB. I honestly did not consider myself a part of the blind community. However, I decided that since I liked a challenge, I would apply for the NFB scholarship.
In early May, I received a call from one of the scholarship committee members informing me that I was a scholarship finalist. During this conversation, I learned that I would be required to go to the NFB National Convention, and this filled me with both excitement and nervousness.
I wasn’t anxious about meeting new people; I enjoy that. However, I never traveled out of state. The idea of getting on a plane and finding transportation to the hotel intimidated me. However, there are some things in life you have to do, and I knew that independent travel was one of those things. When I stepped into the hotel lobby, I became filled with a sense of accomplishment and relief. As I stood there, taking it all in, I heard the tap tap tap of hundreds of white canes. At first, this was extremely overwhelming. Yet, when I returned home a week later, it was strange not hearing all those canes. Looking back, I know that winning the scholarship was a blessing in disguise because it led me to this outstanding group of people.
Convention was a blast! From the moment I entered the hotel, to the second I left, I was participating in exhilarating activities. Regardless of whether I was at General Session or out to lunch with one of my mentors, I was having a delightful time. I knew that successful blind people existed, but I never witnessed such a large gathering of blind people in my life. The members of the NFB are determined, intelligent and, most importantly, compassionate. Before convention, I was unaware of the inequality that the blind community faces in all aspects of life. The fact that people are getting paid less simply because they are blind, or having their children taken away because close-minded individuals say, “How could blind people raise children?” is absurd. These issues need to be eradicated, and there is no doubt in my mind that the NFB will do exactly that.
This fall, I will be starting at The Catholic University of America as a biology premedical student. Having low vision, I know that I will encounter hurdles caused by my lack of vision in laboratory settings. Prior to convention, I did not know any blind people employed in the science fields that I could turn to when I face sight-related difficulties. This changed when I attended the Science and Engineering Division meeting at the National Convention. At this gathering, I met several blind people involved in fields such as chemistry and biology. I gained priceless knowledge about the accommodations that could help me achieve success at Catholic University. I also formed friendships that will last a lifetime. I do not use the word friendship lightly. There is a reason I did not use the word “networking.” The reason is that the people I met at convention are not business contacts, but rather they are family members that I know will always have my back.
Before I knew it, it was the last night of convention. I was sitting at the banquet surrounded by my new family. Between listening to President Riccobono’s compelling speech and laughing with the members of the New Jersey affiliate at my table, the four-hour banquet flew by. As the night came to a close, it was time for the scholarship ceremony. All of the scholarship winners received a beautiful print/braille plaque, a certificate for a KNFB Reader App, and a $1,000 grant from Dr. Kurzweil. We also received a ChromeBook and $1,000 from Google, and a certificate for an accessible science tool known as Talking Lab Quest from Independence Science. In addition to the generous awards listed above, each winner received varying scholarship awards. I received a $3,000 scholarship. I sincerely appreciate every award that I received that night. Yet, I would not be doing any justice to myself or the NFB if I did not share which award is closest to my heart. The special award that I cherish is my Federation family. So regardless of whether you are a blind individual looking for blind friends or a sighted parent searching for information on how to get the necessary accommodations for your blind child, join the NFB. I assure you that the National Federation of the Blind will embrace you with open arms, you will not be disappointed, nor will you ever feel alone.
LAURA ETORI is attending Rutgers University and pursuing degrees in both actuarial science and finance. Here is her story:
I love swimming, cooking and baking. I love my family; they are my biggest fans. I love being happy and most of all, I love the Lord and I am grateful to Him for everything in my life.
I am a Kenyan currently living and studying in New Jersey. I lost my sight four years ago due to a secondary effect of idiopathic intracranial hypertension.
I came to New Jersey for school. On the day of my arrival, someone stepped on my white cane and broke it. Soon after, at my aunt’s house, my cousin and I immediately investigated where to get a white cane. The first thing that popped up was “get a free white cane from the NFB.” Well, who doesn’t like free things, so I ordered one. My cane arrived soon, and I was back in business. A week later I received voicemail from NFBNJ Northeast Chapter member Alwin Glasgow asking how I liked the cane. In a later call, he told me all about NFB. Having read about NFB years ago, I always wondered if such an organization could be real. Alwin told me that, if needed, he would help me the best he could. We continued to correspond, and this past March I attended my first Northeast Chapter meeting. Then I applied for the scholarship, beating the deadline by a few days, and soon found myself in Florida for the convention.
From the age of 12, I have always wanted to become an actuary, leading people to ask whether I loved math. Well, it’s not about loving math; it’s about having passion for what I love and for what I want to become. And, yes I love math. It’s all about commitment and having a vision.
Then I had a familiar feeling, like the one I had when I lost my sight, the same feeling I had when I left Kenya, and the same feeling I got when I realized I was a national scholarship finalist: Uncertainty, along with determination that there is something I am meant to do. On July 6, the convention was over, and all I could remember was the last night’s ringing speech by President Riccobono about fear. The voice in my head told me, “Fear will hold you back.” So I thought of the many things I had feared and how much I feared uncertainty, which was ironic since my life was filled with uncertainties. Four years ago I had not planned to be in Florida at that day and time; I certainly had never thought I would ever be blind. But now that life had developed that way, it surely was the best thing to ever happen to me.
Walking into the convention resort proved a big eye-opener. Where in the world would I ever have had the chance to be welcomed by the noise of a swarm of bees. Oh boy! Was I in for a surprise. It wasn’t actually bees, but rather the noise of thousands of white canes rolling or tapping the tiled floor of the hotel. I felt a bit flustered. This was my first time I had been around so many blind and visually impaired people, and I had mixed feelings.
As for orientation to the hotel, let’s just say that experience is the best teacher. I read and re-read the text description of the hotel and nothing stuck in my mind. I eventually learned my way around. I met so many people from different walks of life and with different stories. The other scholarship finalists were so impressive. They were happy and classy people. They had done and were doing really amazing things. I was most grateful for my mentors. From Sharon Maneki I learned that one must have a plan of action: “You cannot just be flowing with what everyone is doing; have your own goals and have a plan of action.” Ever Lee Hairston taught me how to be a believer: “If you decide to do or get something, believe in yourself and go for it.” John Halverson counseled that with time we accrue experience and get good at what we do; we only have to persist and be consistent. Cassie McKinney taught me the virtue of humility. At the Imagination Fund table, I watched her listen to and assist every single person who came to her, even if they just wanted to talk. She was happy and graceful throughout. Cindy Bennett taught me to always be at the top of my game: “Be your best and be the best. Know what you need to know and know even a little bit more and never fear to look good and fabulous; just be humble about it and keep it real.” Finally, Brian Miller taught me it’s never bad to know something extra. It’s good to be a diversified person and to improve yourself with different kinds of knowledge and to stay happy.
I thought about all these things and pondered how to use these insights to encourage change in people’s lives. Honestly, I felt a bit panicky, but I remembered that fear will stop me. I decided to rethink the concept of bravery. I realized it meant accepting people’s differences and individual challenges. Historically, I had felt like I did not want to experience anything different and that I had experienced enough. Now I realized I needed to grow in order to effect change and to have an impact on people’s lives. I do not know how I will help others; I guess that is one of my many challenges to figure out as I determine what I am really good at and how best to help others develop their own positive changes.
Now, each time I meet someone and am asked, “How did you find convention?” I talk about the importance of continuing to learn, because I believe that was the whole point of my attending the NFB 2016 convention. I hope we can all embrace change and let ourselves feel the shifting and evolving of our mindsets and lives.