One of the biggest concerns for college students and their families is the cost of tuition, textbooks and housing. Students who are blind or visually impaired might have additional expenses, such as assistive technology, readers or any other materials that will help them succeed in the classroom. On Saturday, July 25, The Chicago Lighthouse awarded 39 scholarships to blind and visually impaired students from Illinois, Michigan and South Carolina. The various career paths they chose were as diverse as their backgrounds.
This year’s scholarship recipients are seeking majors in various fields. These include nursing, Sports and Health Psychology, Computer Information Science, General Education, Social Work, Audiology and neuroscience, just to mention a few. Awardees come from many prestigious colleges and universities including Columbia College in Chicago, Rush University, Florida Atlantic University, George Washington University, Missouri State University and the University of Phoenix.
Maureen Reid is a Job Placement Counselor and the scholarship coordinator at The Chicago Lighthouse. She says that one of the qualities she found most impressive about several of this year’s recipients is their willingness to embrace new challenges and go out of their comfort zone.
Michal Nowicki is totally blind and will begin studying law at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. During his undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois in Chicago, Nowicki took several challenging courses, including a graduate Spanish phonology seminar and a highly visual Russian film class. He is fluent in Polish and Spanish and hopes to help his clients with his ability to speak several languages.
Other students discovered their career paths after studying abroad. Alexandra Futty’s passion for Caribbean history and literature led her to study in Trinidad and Tobago. To help cover her expenses, Alexandra began working at the country’s only school for the blind. While there, some of the students told her they had never met an adult with a significant visual impairment.
Alexandra is now pursuing a career in teaching young visually impaired students at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL. Although the scholarship she received from NIU will cover all of her studies, it will not cover the various assistive technology devices she needs. For that reason she turned to The Chicago Lighthouse.
Maureen says that one of the unique aspects about the Chicago Lighthouse’s scholarship program is that the funds can be used to cover all types of expenses blind or visually impaired students might encounter. These include readers, assistive technology, public transportation, mobile apps or any other piece of equipment that will enable them to succeed academically.
According to Maureen, another unique aspect about the program and ceremony is that scholarship recipients have the opportunity to network with each other and their donors. She says that this can help both students and donors alike.
“You develop a relationship and rapport as soon as you find out who your donor is,” she said referring to the connection that is made after students meet the donors that made the scholarship possible.
The Chicago Lighthouse Scholarship Program was established in 2004, and to date has provided over $800,000 to more than 390 blind and visually impaired students. To be considered for a scholarship, applicants must be college undergraduate or graduate students. Preference is given to students who live or study in Illinois, although anyone from throughout the United States may apply. Please note that if awarded a scholarship, recipients must attend the awards ceremony which is generally held the third or fourth Saturday in July.
The application for the Chicago Lighthouse Scholarship Program is made available online in January. We at Sandy’s View will keep you posted when the 2016 application process begins!
Congratulations to all the outstanding 2015 Chicago Lighthouse Scholarship recipients, we sincerely wish you the best of luck in school and beyond!! Finally, Maureen and everyone involved in organizing the awards ceremony would like to thank the students, donors, and Chicago Lighthouse staff for attending and making this year’s ceremony a success!