Blog Post for February 2020: Perspectives on the NFB National Scholarship Experience by Rashid Deme, Skye Dunfield, and Nina Marranca

From the editor:

As the March 31 deadline for the National scholarship program draws ever closer, this month’s blog post brings together the experiences and advice of three dynamic students from the 2019 scholarship class. We hope that their words of wisdom will help to guide you in the application process, and shed some light on the life-changing impact this program affords to blind students around the nation.  

From the moment I received the phone-call that I was to be selected as a scholarship finalist, a wealth of possibilities opened for me. I didn’t know really what to expect, as prior to submitting my application, I was unsure if I would be selected let alone if it was even likely. Of course, this was me standing in my own way although I wanted to make a way for myself in order to achieve my aspirations. It took me getting out of my comfort zone by not doubting my capabilities and accomplishments, and believing that I too, am deserving of something so great as not only being apart of the Federation, but also being selected as a finalist.
During my time at the convention, I was impacted by the many people who were in attendance, my fellow finalists and the mentors that were at my disposal. It was unfortunate that the convention only lasted a week, but fortunately the lessons learned, skills that were sharpened and the long-lasting relationships that were established were the most valuable.
Upon returning to my home state, I felt as though I leveled-up in multiple areas in my life. I became hungrier in the sense of thriving while making an impact in my community. I was honored with being selected as the student of the year from the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons. This award solidified that I was indeed making an impact in my own life, but also not limiting this effort to myself. It is with perseverance and the knowledge that was acquired at the convention that propelled me to stay on the dean’s list, continue to receive scholarships and get involved with other social justice initiatives such as Kalamazoo Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition(KAHTC). I am currently in my senior year at Western Michigan University, on the track to graduating with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a minor in Sociology and Social Psychology. In conjunction with graduating, I have started the process of submitting my application for accommodations to take the LSAT, this summer. Finally, just as I encourage the many high-risk teens that I work with during the summer through a youth development program (Youth Opportunities Unlimited- KRESA), I would encourage anyone who has the chance to read this post to apply for the scholarship(s). You may never know how your life could be positively impacted if you never take a leap of faith.
-A. Rashid Deme NFB Scholarship Class 2019

Hi, my name is Skye Dunfield and I’ve been a student at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) for three years now. I just started my senior year and hope to graduate in Spring 2021 with a major in Criminal Justice and minor in Psychology. If things work out, I plan to pursue a master’s in Criminal Justice, focusing on stress and compassion fatigue for first responders in emergency situations. I may have been going to post-secondary for a while now, but I am new to the NFB. I began regularly attending chapter meetings roughly a year ago here in Las Vegas and decided to apply for the National Scholarship program. The application was straight forward, and I enjoyed the open-ended essay question. I guess I did something right, as I was accepted to the national scholarship class of 2019. What was more was the national convention that year was in my city of Las Vegas. It was very exciting knowing that so many blind and visually impaired people were going to come and enjoy all the amazing sights and sounds that Vegas has to offer. The actual convention and scholarship process were a lot to take in for sure, and it was hard work, but I found that if you gave your best effort and focused on learning from all the amazing mentors you were matched with, you took away much more from the national scholarship than just a check at the end. I am honored and humbled to say that I was awarded the second place Charles and Melba T. Owen Memorial Scholarship.
Being a scholarship winner has brought about a lot of amazing opportunities. First, the people and mentors who encouraged me to work harder and do better every day were a vital and invaluable part of the process. As many blind students know, it can be isolating as the only sightless student in classes. You feel like the hurtles and challenges you face every time a new course starts are something you must confront alone. Being with so many other amazing and capable students and mentors showed me that there are lots of high achieving undergraduates who have worked just as hard or harder than I have and understand the struggles of being a blind student in a sighted world. Knowing I stand with them has encouraged me to have even higher aspirations as I plan for my future career. On top of that, being a scholarship winner has opened a lot of avenues for me. I have been able to participate in a variety of NFB programs, and this year am coordinating the Nevada BELL academy and attending Washington seminar. At an academic level, I have decided to critically assess my future and have talked to several professionals and lined up many internships and opportunities to work with professors. My confidence and tenacity must have shown, because I was asked to be a team lead in a research lab at my university’s Criminal Justice department. Life has thrown a lot at me, but I am looking at every new adventure as a learning opportunity and growing because of it. The people I have met, the confidence I have uncovered, and the plans I have for the future can all be traced back to the impact being a scholarship finalist had on me. I would certainly say that if anyone is considering the program, they should absolutely go for it. You will meet a lot of amazing people and even have some fun along the way. Keep aiming higher, and always have confidence in your hard work and yourself.
-Skye Dunfield NFB Scholarship Class 2019

I applied for the NFB national scholarship because I knew that being a winner of this prestigious scholarship grants you so much more than just money to assist with the cost of education; it grants you a host of invaluable opportunities. I heard from many past winners and worked very hard on my application and essay, but I never thought I would be selected. I remember screaming in the middle of my campus when I got the call.
The NFB Convention in Las Vegas offered me the chance to network with countless individuals. I talked to everyone from psychologists and researchers to assistive technology experts and teachers. I looked at convention as one giant opportunity to learn, and I was not disappointed. The mentors I was provided as a scholarship winner were candid. We really took time to get to know one another. I found that many of my life goals aligned with the accomplishments of my mentors. We talked about everything, from researching and working toward a PHD to NFB philosophy and our families. These mentors gave me many resources to utilize, but more importantly, these conversations granted me confidence and a desire to continue to grow as a leader.
Finally, I also learned from those in my scholarship class. We all had very unique backgrounds. Being able to connect with students who were just as passionate about obtaining an education as I am was a great experience for me. We all communicated a lot, and I left convention with some great friends who I still communicate with today.
-Nina Marranca NFB Scholarship Class 2019