From the Editor: The National Association of Blind Students is comprised of a multitude of engaged members that share many leadership traits. Another similarity many of our members have is that they are NFB scholarship finalists. The 52 affiliates of the National Federation of the Blind all provide scholarship opportunities for blind students that exhibit merit and leadership potential. Likewise, our national office, with the collaboration of donors and sponsors, provides 30 blind students each year with scholarship awards that support students’ educational journeys. This year, our national scholarship program selected 30 phenomenal students with unique stories and paths. Our contributors this month, Victor Marques and Logan Stenzel, are two of the aforementioned finalists. Their experiential knowledge solidifies them as assets to both their respective state student divisions and to NABS. Their messages below depicts the connection they have to the Federation and the leadership potential that still resides in them. Congratulations to all the 2020 scholarship finalists.
Logan Stenzel | Minnesota Association of Blind Students
The National Federation of the Blind is a family, and the scholarship they offer is a way of bringing blind people into that family. The national convention serves as a federation family reunion for returning members and new members alike. While the convention may be virtual this year, the federation family is still strong—and that’s apparent in the Scholarship class of 2020. I know this because through our various formal and informal zoom calls preparing for virtual convention, the scholarship class of 2020 has inspired, empowered, and excited me for not only convention but my educational journey next fall.
With so much uncertainty surrounding next fall, I’m excited to attend the University of Minnesota studying finance and computer science, because I know that with the help of the NFB, I can achieve anything I want to achieve and live the life I want. While it would be awesome to be gathered together in Houston, being together virtually with over 7,000 attendees will be a truly astounding display of the scope and power of the NFB! As a scholarship finalist, I’m excited to connect with blind people across the country to create a better future for myself and the entire community. I’m hoping to use the communication skills I’ve learned through success in competitive debate and the technical skills of working on computer programming projects to solve problems that we face as a blind community!
Victor Marques| Secretary |Michigan Association of Blind Students
The adjustment to vision loss, even for those who have a lifelong eye disease, can be a lonely and challenging process that can still come on rapidly and unexpectedly. I was barely classified as legally blind until a rapid onset of my disease progression 10 years ago at the age of 35, which was not expected. I resided in another country until 4 years ago, and the rehabilitation system left a lot to be desired. This led me to have little choice but to retire early from a lucrative government career due to the lack of rehabilitation support. I had to adjust to a non-visual lifestyle almost completely on my own. Through determination and good fortune, I made the changes necessary to facilitate my own adjustment, and later gained some practical teaching experience with access technology, where I discovered my passion for the field. I later was able to relocate to Michigan. I have experienced, first-hand, how consumers can struggle if they do not have adequate resources and support to assist in the rehabilitation process. I share the philosophy of the NFB that blind people are capable of achieving anything that they choose to, through the provision of proper resources, accommodations and hard work.
I currently work in the health care field and am pursuing graduate studies at Western Michigan University in vision rehabilitation therapy. My goal as a vision rehabilitation therapist will not only be to provide quality rehabilitation services and teaching, but also to encourage and facilitate my future consumers to reach for all of their dreams and passions. I particularly would like to encourage transition aged students and adults to pursue non-traditional employment in occupations that have been historically largely inaccessible to our community: for example, occupations in STEM fields such as health care, physical sciences, specialized technology and research, among others. I wish to equip those with whom I work with the skills, technology and resources to live the lives that they want, without limits or barriers, and to advocate in situations where action needs to happen to remove the unnecessary barriers of inaccessibility that still exist continue to be artificially created in the development of new technology. My success will be defined by the satisfaction and achievement of those who I am able to serve. We should all strive to reach for the stars, and be all that we can be, because we can.