Each year, AFB awards scholarships to outstanding students who are blind or have low vision. These rising stars prove visual impairment is not a barrier to success.

The Delta Gamma Foundation Florence Margaret Harvey Memorial Scholarship
Samantha Smolka is studying special education with a focus on visual impairments at Northern Illinois University. In high school, Samantha was a member of the U.S. Paralympics All-American Track and Field Team. She was also the first woman with a visual impairment to compete in track and field at her university.

The Rudolph Dillman Memorial Scholarship

  • Amber Robinson will be pursuing her Master of Education degree in rehabilitation counseling at George Washington University. During her undergraduate work, Amber was a member of several honors societies and completed an honors research thesis.
  • Amy Hatten is currently pursuing her Master of Science degree in rehabilitation counseling at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. 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.
  • Anastasia DeGuzman is currently completing her Master of Science degree in vision rehabilitation therapy at 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 studies, she was also the longest-serving officer in the Kappa Delta Epsilon honors fraternity.
  • Rebecca Weber is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in visual impairment and early elementary education at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. During high school, she was the chair of events on the student council, a member of the National Honors Society, and active in her school’s ministry program.

The Paul and Ellen Ruckes Scholarship

  • Gabe Stanforth is studying biomedical engineering at the University of Iowa. He 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 hopes to develop innovative biomedical technologies to help others once he earns his degree.
  • Jack Duffy-Protentis is pursuing an engineering degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He was selected to present at the International Sustainable Engineering Conference in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2017 and was chosen in 2015 by the Congress of Future Scientists and Technologists as a top student who aspires to be a scientist or technologist.

The R. L. Gillette, Gladys C. Anderson, and Karen D. Carsel Memorial Scholarship
Elizabeth Dunn is pursuing a degree in music and psychology at Alma College. She received the Distinguished Performance Award for Instrumental Music at Alma College and was accepted into the Sigma Alpha Iota Women’s Music Fraternity. She also received the NFB’s Community Award in 2012. Elizabeth’s lifelong interest in music, and her interest more recently in the human mind, led her to pursue a career in music therapy.

The Julia Sweeney Fund, named after the long-time Center on Vision Loss board member, donor, and prominent Dallas-area columnist who focused on women’s issues and empowerment, presented awards to Jennifer Bennet and Melva Henderson.

Jennifer has had limited vision her entire life. Following her participation in the Employment Services Program at East Texas Lighthouse for the Blind in 2016, she was employed at Centene Corporation in Tyler, Texas, where she currently serves as an advanced claims analyst. She holds master’s degrees in both history and library science.

Melva works as a program specialist at the Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind, where she advocates, educates, and refers blind and visually impaired clients to services and programs that can help them live more independent and rewarding lives. Melva is a 2016 graduate of Texas A&M University of Commerce with a master’s degree in social work. She is currently enrolled in the National Industries for the Blind’s Business Management Training program and is excited to combine her passion for helping others with her growing business acumen.

As Julia Sweeney Fund recipients, Jennifer and Melva were guests at the 2019 AFB Leadership Conference and Helen Keller Achievement Awards gala.

photos of four young people connected by a dotted line