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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Scholarships to 11 Outstanding Students With Vision Loss

New York (July 24, 2009)—The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) today announced the 2009 recipients of its annual scholarships for students in higher education who are blind or visually impaired.

Eleven scholarships were awarded this year. The grants support one of AFB's most important goals: expanding access to education for students with vision loss. "AFB feels honored to have the opportunity to help further the academic growth of young adults," said Carl R. Augusto, President and CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind. "Education is a key ingredient in the recipe for successful careers and healthy lifestyles."

The awardees are:

The Ferdinand Torres AFB Scholarship: one grant of $3,500 to a full-time undergraduate or graduate student who is legally blind and presents evidence of economic need; the applicant must reside in the United States, but need not be a citizen; preference is given to new immigrants and New York metropolitan area residents.

Ali Colak of New York came to the United States at the age of six from Turkey and is now a senior at Benjamin Cardozo High School in New York City where he is involved in teaching younger students to read braille. He is planning to study education or law.

The Paul and Ellen Ruckes Scholarship: one grant of $1,000 to a legally blind undergraduate or graduate student studying engineering, computer, physical or life sciences.

Casey Burkhardt of Toms River, New Jersey is majoring in Computer Science at Villanova University. Casey is the webmaster for the university's online newspaper, and was recently accepted into a ten-week internship with Google.

The R.L. Gillette Scholarship: two grants of $1,000 to women who are legally blind and enrolled in a four-year undergraduate program in literature or music.

Molly Faerber of Newport, Rhode Island is studying Creative Writing at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. She spent the past year in Paris studying Creative Writing and French, and plans to make a career of her writing.

Ashley Townsend of Ormond Beach, Florida will study Vocal Performance and Music Therapy at Florida State University in the fall. She has performed in 19 musicals, and has been a soloist with the Daytona Beach Symphony Society and the Daytona Beach Choral Society.

The Gladys C. Anderson Memorial Scholarship: one grant of $1,000 to a legally blind female undergraduate or graduate studying classical or religious music.

Josie Nielson of Idaho will be studying music performance at Brigham Young University in the fall. She has been a member of the Meridian Youth Symphony Orchestra, The Boise Honor Orchestra, the All-Northwest Honor Orchestra, the Boise State University Chamber Orchestra and the Giovanni String Quartet.

The Karen D. Carsel Memorial Scholarship: one grant of $500 to a legally blind full-time graduate student who presents evidence of economic need.

Barry Hulon Hyde of North Carolina lost his sight as a passenger in a plane crash in 1998 when he was one week away from becoming an airline pilot. After two years of recovery and rehabilitation, he passed the Advanced Ground Instructor and Instrument Ground Instructor tests, the first blind person in the world to hold these certifications. Barry now has a Master's in Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and is studying for his Ph.D.

The Delta Gamma Foundation Florence Margaret Harvey Memorial Scholarship: one grant of $1,000 to a legally blind undergraduate or graduate student studying rehabilitation and/or education of people who are blind or visually impaired.

Tiffany Moore is currently working on her second Master's degree in the field of Vision Rehabilitation Therapy at the University of Western Michigan. Tiffany has worked with the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services and presently works as an intern Vision Rehabilitation Specialist for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Rudolph Dillman Memorial Scholarship: four grants of $2,500 to undergraduate or graduate students who are legally blind and studying rehabilitation and/or education of people who are blind or visually impaired.

Phuong Nguyen was born in Vietnam and came to the United States in 1994, where she learned English and studied braille. She has been enrolled in Salt Lake City Community College studying education, and will now transfer to the University of Utah to receive her B.A. Her goal is to become a teacher for the disabled.

Nicole Caso is currently a student at Preston High School in New York. She will be entering Fordham University in the fall to major in psychology, with the ultimate goal of obtaining a graduate degree in counseling for the disabled.

Matthew Kickbush is currently studying toward a BS in Special Education for Blind and Visually Impaired Students. Matthew was inspired to return to higher education after years of employment in the school system, where he observed a lack of support for disabled students among teachers and administrators.

Russell Deshaies is a senior at North Reading High School in North Reading, Massachusetts. He has received numerous academic awards and has also achieved a varsity letter for wrestling. Russell has the goal of becoming an Occupational Therapist.


The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that expands possibilities for people with vision loss. AFB's priorities include broadening access to technology; elevating the quality of information and tools for the professionals who serve people with vision loss; and promoting independent and healthy living for people with vision loss by providing them and their families with relevant and timely resources. AFB is also proud to house the Helen Keller Archives and honor the more than forty years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB. For more information visit us online at

Contact: Adrianna Montague-Gray
AFB Communications

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