WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 20, 2018)—The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) has awarded its 2018 scholarships to eight outstanding students who are blind or visually impaired and are pursuing their studies at institutions of higher education. These scholarships support one of AFB's most important goals: expanding access to education for students with vision loss.
The outstanding awardees are as follows:
The Delta Gamma Foundation Florence Margaret Harvey Memorial Scholarship: One scholarship of $1,000 to an undergraduate or graduate student in the field of rehabilitation or education of persons who are blind or visually impaired.
Samantha Smolka is studying Special Education with a focus on Visual Impairments at Northern Illinois University. During high school, Samantha was a member of the U.S. Paralympics All-American Track and Field Team, and she was the first woman with a visual impairment to compete in track and field at her university. Samantha recently co-authored a paper regarding the use of braille in Orientation and Mobility with one of her professors, with the paper being published nationwide. Samantha is also a second-time awardee of The Delta Gamma Foundation Florence Margaret Harvey Memorial Scholarship, having been a recipient in 2017.
The Rudolph Dillman Memorial Scholarship: Four scholarships of $2,500 each to undergraduate or graduate students studying full time in the field of rehabilitation or education of persons who are blind or visually impaired.
Amber Robinson will be pursuing her Masters of Education in Rehabilitation Counseling at George Washington University. During high school, Amber was involved in the National Honor Society, the field hockey team, and show choir where she held leadership roles including captain of the junior varsity and varsity field hockey teams and choreographer of the show choir. During her undergraduate work, Amber was a member of several Honors societies including Psi Chi (International Psychology Honor Society) and Omicron Delta Kappa (National Leadership Honor Society.) Amber also completed an Honors Research Thesis. Due to the high quality of her work, Amber was given the opportunity to present her thesis at the Carolinas Psychology Conference. Amber was inspired to pursue Rehabilitation Counseling due to her own vision loss and her experiences studying psychology and special education, as well as her current position as an educational assistant to a student with a disability.
Amy Hatten is currently pursuing her Masters of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Previously, Amy graduated from Iowa Lakes Community College with an associates degree in General Education and continued on to graduate with a B.S. in Psychology from Southwest Minnesota State University. Amy is highly active in the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), holding the position of Second Vice President for the state board of South Dakota as well as being selected to attend a leadership seminar in 2017. Amy also graduated from Blind, Inc., the National Federation of the Blind's rehabilitation center which will aid her when entering the field of rehabilitation of people who are blind or visually impaired. Amy was inspired to pursue a career in the field of rehabilitation due to her own sudden vision loss, and she would like to aid her future clients in living a life without limits.
Anastasia DeGuzman is currently completing her M.S. in Vision Rehabilitation Therapy from Western Michigan University. Previously, Anastasia was the first student with a severe disability to graduate from Florida Southwestern State College's School of Education program for Elementary Education teaching. During her undergraduate degree, Anastasia was also the longest serving officer in the Kappa Delta Epsilon honors fraternity and received its Outstanding Community Service Award in April 2013. Anastasia most recently piloted a new online learning platform using Pearson's GRADPOINT program in Michigan where she taught over 40 students who were enrolled in 14 different classes. After changing regulations regarding certification in Michigan which made continuing in this role impossible, Anastasia decided to pursue a degree in Vision Rehabilitation Therapy. This will allow her to continue teaching while using both her experience teaching from early elementary to the high school level and her own experiences with vision loss to best aid her students.
Rebecca Weber is currently pursuing a B.S. in Visual Impairment and Early Elementary Education at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. During high school, Rebecca was the chair of events on the student council, a member of the National Honors Society, and was active in her school's ministry program. Rebecca would like to teach young children with visual impairments. She has experience working at a daycare center and a library serving people with vision loss where she developed braille kits for young children. Rebecca will continue gaining experience in this field as she has an upcoming position at the Penn State University Summer Academy for students who are blind or visually impaired.
The Paul and Ellen Ruckes Scholarship: Two scholarships of $2,000 each to a full-time undergraduate or graduate student in the field of engineering or in computer, physical, or life sciences.
Gabe Stanforth is studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Iowa. Gabe earned the rank of Eagle Scout from the Boy Scouts of America and was named an Illinois State Scholar for his outstanding academic achievement, including a 4.3 GPA, and an overall ACT score of 33. He is an accomplished musician and contributed to the success of his high school's music program in competitions. His own experiences with biomedical technology inspired him to enter this field, and he aims to develop innovative technologies in this area to help others once he earns his degree. Gabe is also a second-time awardee of AFB's Paul and Ellen Ruckes scholarship, having received this award in 2017.
Jack Duffy-Protentis is pursuing a B.S. in Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Already, he has received several honors and pursued many opportunities in STEM fields. Some of these include being selected to present at the International Sustainable Engineering Conference in Cape Town, South Africa in 2017, being chosen to attend the WPI Global Projects Program in England this summer, being chosen to be a student presenter at the Massachusetts STEM Technology Conference in October 2016, and being chosen by the Congress of Future Scientists and Technologists as a top student who aspires to be a scientist or technologist in 2015. Jack has held an abiding interest in discovering how machines function and for as long as he can remember, has enjoyed taking items apart and reconstructing them. This interest in how components interact and become more efficient lead him to both build complex models of machines from spaceships to Ferris wheels and take part in robotics competitions. In combing these curiosities with his experience in using and adapting technology, the field of engineering is a perfectly-suited career path.
The R. L. Gillette, Gladys C. Anderson, and Karen D. Carsel Memorial Scholarship: One scholarship of $3,500 given to a female undergraduate student studying music.
Elizabeth Dunn is currently studying at Alma College pursuing bachelor's degrees and music and Psychology. Elizabeth has competed in both musical performance and composition competitions where she earned awards for her ability. As an example, she was awarded the Distinguished Performance Award for Instrumental Music at Alma College and was accepted into the Sigma Alpha Iota Women's Music Fraternity. Elizabeth is also active in the disability space, having received the National Federation of the Blind's Community Award in 2012 and speaking alongside a well-known musician for a disability advocacy fundraiser in 2014. Elizabeth's lifelong interest in music, and her interest more recently in the human mind, led her to pursue a career in music therapy.
Please join the American Foundation for the Blind in congratulating our outstanding 2018 scholarship awardees! We wish all of them educational, professional, and personal success! In addition, AFB would like to extend our gratitude to Aira, who has very generously provided AFB's 2018 scholarship awardees with free Aira service for the upcoming academic year.