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National Federation of the Blind Recognizes Thirty Outstanding Blind Students

Chris Danielsen
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2330
(410) 262-1281 (Cell)

National Federation of the Blind Recognizes Thirty Outstanding Blind Students

Maria “Conchita” Hernandez of Washington, DC, Awarded $12,000 Scholarship

Baltimore, Maryland (July 20, 2016): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the nation’s oldest and largest organization of blind people, today announced the winners of its 2016 scholarships, which were awarded at the organization’s recent national convention in Orlando. The winner of the organization’s top prize of $12,000, donated by the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, was Maria “Conchita” Hernandez of Washington, DC, a doctoral candidate who is pursuing research on reading media assessments. The other winners are listed below in alphabetical order with their home states, vocational goals, and scholarship awards where applicable. Unless otherwise indicated, each received a National Federation of the Blind Scholarship in the amount of $3,000.

Tara Abella, IN: Elementary/Special Education Teacher
Justine “JJ” Aragon, CO: Rehabilitation Counseling
Deniz Aydemir-Doke, PA: Higher Education
Samrawit Biyazin, OR: Certified Public Accountant ($3,000 Charles & Betty Allen Scholarship)
Megan Borella, CA: Business or Information Systems ($3,000 Expedia Scholarship)
Riki Danielle Burton, KY: Teaching Blind Students
Brennan Carman, NY: Medical Research ($5,000 National Federation of the Blind Scholarship)
Merry-Noel Chamberlain, NE: Higher Education ($3,000 Charles & Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship)
Nathan Clark, MD: Juvenile Probation Officer
Elif Emir Oksuz, OH: Mental Health Counselor ($5,000 Pearson Scholarship)
Laura Etori, NJ: Actuary ($8,000 Oracle Scholarship for Excellence in a STEM Field)
Jameyanne Fuller, NH: Law ($5,000 Mimi & Marvin Sandler Scholarship)
Deanna Greco, NJ: Brain Research
Nazanin Heydarian, TX: Medical Research
Sharon Jose, VA: Computer Science Engineer ($3,000 Adrienne Asch Memorial Scholarship)
Matthew Miller, IL: Actuary
James Garret Mooney, AZ: Law ($3,000 E. U. & Gene Parker Scholarship)
Kathryn Olsen, IA: Physical Therapist
Chelsea Page, LA: Blind Instruction and Early Intervention
Precious Perez, MA: Professional Performer/Music Educator ($5,000 Larry Streeter Memorial Scholarship)
Donna Posont, MI: Naturalist
Syed Rizvi, MA: Health Informatics and Data Analytics ($8,000 Oracle Scholarship for Excellence in Computer Science)
Joe Rowell, MA: Public Interest Law
Kartik Sawhney, CA: Software Development ($3,000 Expedia Scholarship)
Kennedy Stomberg, MN: Research
Corgan Waters, TN: Pathology
Kathryn Webster, CT: Actuarial Science Consulting ($10,000 Charles & Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship)
Kassidy Wilde, UT: Psychology ($3,000 NFB Science and Engineering Division Scholarship)
Johna Wright, GA: Blind Education

“The scholarship program is one of our most important initiatives,” said Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “We are proud to honor these blind scholars, who are studying everything from elementary education to software development, 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.”

Several hundred students competed for the NFB scholarships. A committee of blind persons representing a cross section of the NFB membership, including several former scholarship winners, narrowed the field to thirty finalists. Each finalist was then given roundtrip transportation, hotel accommodations, and assistance to attend the NFB convention in Orlando, where the committee spent several days getting to know each student. Only after that process was complete did the committee decide which scholarship to award each finalist. Nearly three thousand blind people attended the convention, the largest gathering of its kind in the United States this year.

In addition to the NFB scholarship, each of the thirty winners received a $1,000 check and plaque from Ray Kurzweil, a Google Chromebook laptop, a $1,000 cash award from Google, and a certificate towards the purchase of a Talking LabQuest from Independence Science.

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