Braille Monitor                                              February 2014

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The Secret to Winning a National Federation of the Blind Scholarship

by Patti S. Gregory-Chang

From the Editor: Patti Chang is the chairman of one of the most important committees of the National Federation of the Blind. She and her committee are charged with advertising our scholarship program and choosing thirty students who evidence academic success, leadership, and a demonstrated commitment to helping others. Here is Patti’s announcement about the 2014 scholarship program:

Each July at our national convention the National Federation of the Blind gives a broad array of scholarships to recognize achievement by blind scholars. We offer thirty scholarships, and all are substantial and prestigious enough to warrant any student’s time to complete and compete. Our $12,000 Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship is the largest. The NFB Scholarship Program is our investment in the future of blind people who demonstrate scholastic aptitude, leadership, and service. I encourage every blind college student to apply.

I am sometimes asked what the secret is to winning an NFB scholarship. I am going to tell you the secret. First of all, applicants must meet the eligibility requirements to receive a scholarship. All applicants for these scholarships must be legally blind; must reside in one of our fifty states, the District of Columbia, or Puerto Rico; must be pursuing or planning to pursue a full-time postsecondary course of study in a degree program at an accredited United States institution in the fall academic year; and, if chosen, must participate in the entire NFB national convention and in all scheduled scholarship activities.

Many think the key to becoming a winner is a high grade point average. Others believe it is based on participation in extracurricular activities. Still others think it is one's level of commitment to the NFB. While grade point average is important because it demonstrates the ability to learn and be successful academically, it is not the only attribute that influences the scholarship committee. Participation in extracurricular activities is important in portraying oneself as a well-rounded person; it is not sufficient in itself to justify a scholarship award. Committed members of the organization recognize the attributes that are important to committee members when determining who wins a scholarship.

The scholarship program is a tremendous tool for us to develop future leaders of the National Federation of the Blind, but scholarship awards are not restricted to members of the organization. The National Federation of the Blind is an organization dedicated to creating opportunity for all blind people. Recipients of NFB scholarships need not be members of the National Federation of the Blind. Many of our past winners were not even aware of the NFB before they applied for our scholarships. When you check the lists of past winners, you will see that students of all ages and in widely differing fields have won over the years. The class of 2013 included students entering their freshman year, as well as older students who were nearly ready to write their PhD dissertations. Past winners are working toward credentials for employment in diverse fields.

There is truly only one way to win an NFB scholarship: that is to apply. Each November the new, updated scholarship application forms are posted on the Web at <www.nfb.org/scholarships>, along with important information about the contest, links to information on past winners, and a page of frequently asked questions. The application form for 2014 is already online. It will remain up until March 31, 2014.

The process can be initiated with an online application, which we prefer, or students can ask for a print application by contacting our scholarship office at <scholarships@nfb.org> or by calling (410) 659-9314, ext. 2415.

A complete application consists of the official application form and a student essay, plus these supporting documents: student transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and proof of legal blindness. The student must also complete an interview with the president of the applicant's state of residence or the state where he or she will be attending school. High school seniors must also include a copy of the results of their ACT, SAT, or other college entrance exams.

Unfortunately, some applications are incomplete, so the committee is unable to consider them fairly. Applicants must ensure that all of the required information and supporting documentation has been received by our scholarship office either online by midnight EST, March 31, 2014, or by mail postmarked by March 31, 2014. Students should carefully consider who can do the best job of writing their letters of reference. Letters should support the application by being full of facts and observations that will help the members of the committee see the applicant as a smart, active student and citizen. Students can write their essays using word processing software. They should remember to use the spell checker (or a human proofreader) before uploading, printing, or copying and pasting it into the online application form.

In an effective essay the applicant will talk about his or her life in a way that gives the committee insight into him or her. The essay should cover the ways in which one lives successfully as a blind person and describe one's personal goals for the future. Information about positions of leadership is especially helpful. Committee members give the essay a great deal of attention.

The NFB scholarship committee is comprised of dedicated, successful blind people who will review all applications and select the top thirty applicants who will become the scholarship class of 2014. Note that students submit just one application to the program; the scholarship committee will choose the thirty winners from all applications received. These thirty scholarship winners will be notified of their selection by telephone no later than June 1.

Finally, during the annual convention held July 1 through July 6, 2014, in Orlando, Florida, the scholarship committee will decide which award will be presented to each winner. Attending the entire NFB national convention is one of the requirements to become an NFB scholarship winner. Of course, attending the convention is also a significant part of the prize.

The National Federation of the Blind’s national convention is the largest gathering of blind people to occur anywhere in the world each year, with 2,500 or more people registered. Those chosen as scholarship recipients will have the opportunity to network with other blind students, to exchange information and ideas, and to meet and talk with hundreds of blind people who are successfully functioning in many occupations and professions. Our past winners often comment that the money was quickly spent, but the contacts they made and the information they gathered at convention have continued to make their lives richer than they ever imagined.

Often students apply more than one year before winning a scholarship, so applicants are encouraged to reapply. The NFB may award three or more scholarships to men and women who have already received one Federation scholarship in the past if their scholarship and leadership merit another award. Individuals receiving a second NFB national scholarship are recognized as tenBroek Fellows. The secret, if there is one, to winning an NFB scholarship is to read carefully the application on our website, and then provide all of the required information and supporting documentation before the deadline of March 31, 2014. However, I actually maintain that there is no secret. The only way to win an NFB scholarship is to apply.

The Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund

by Allen Harris

From the Editor: Allen Harris is the chairman of the Kenneth Jernigan Fund Committee and was one of the people who came up with the idea of honoring our former president and longtime leader by establishing a program to promote attendance at the national convention, where so much inspiration and learning occur. Here is Allen’s announcement about the 2014 Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund Program:

Have you always wanted to attend an NFB annual convention but have not done so because of the lack of funds? The Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund invites you to make an application for a scholarship grant. Perhaps this July you too can be in the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando, Florida, enjoying the many pleasures and learning opportunities at the largest and most important yearly convention of blind people in the world.

The three biggest ticket items you need to cover when attending an NFB national convention are the roundtrip transportation, the hotel room for a week, and the food (which tends to be higher priced than at home). We attempt to award additional funds to families, but, whether a family or an individual is granted a scholarship, this fund can only help; it won’t pay all the costs. Last year most of the sixty grants were in the range of $400 to $500 per individual.

We recommend that you find an NFB member as your personal convention mentor, someone who has been to many national conventions and is able to share money-saving tips with you and tips on navigating the extensive agenda in the big hotel. Your mentor will help you get the most out of the amazing experience that is convention week.

Who is eligible?
Active NFB members, blind or sighted, who have not yet attended an NFB national convention because of lack of funding are eligible to apply.

How do I apply for funding assistance?
1. You write a letter giving your contact information, and your local NFB information, your specific amount requested, and then explain why this is a good investment for the NFB. The points to cover are listed below.
2. You contact your state president in person or by phone to request his or her help in obtaining funding. Be sure to tell the president when to expect your request letter by email, and mention the deadline.
3. You (or a friend) send your letter by email to your state president. He or she must add a president’s recommendation and then email both letters directly to the Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund Committee. Your president must forward the two letters no later than April 15, 2014.

Your letter to Chairperson Allen Harris must cover these points:

Explain how much money you need from this fund to make this trip possible for you. We suggest you consult with other members to make a rough budget for yourself.

The body of your letter should answer these questions:

How do you currently participate in the Federation? Why do you want to attend a national convention? What would you receive; what can you share or give? You can include in your letter to the committee any special circumstances you hope they will take into consideration.

When will I be notified that I am a winner?
If you are chosen to receive this scholarship, you will receive a letter with convention details which should answer most of your questions. The committee makes every effort to notify scholarship winners by May 15, but you must do several things before that to be prepared to attend if you are chosen.

1. Make your own hotel reservation. If something prevents you from attending, you can cancel the reservation. (Yes, you may arrange for roommates of your own to reduce the cost.)
2. Register online for the entire convention, including the banquet, by May 31.
3. Find someone in your chapter or affiliate who has been to many conventions and can answer your questions as a friend and advisor.
4. If you do not hear from the committee by May 15, then you did not win a grant this year.

How will I receive my convention scholarship?
At convention you will be given a debit card or credit card loaded with the amount of your award. The times and locations to pick up your card will be listed in the letter we sent you. The committee is not able to provide funds before the convention, so work with your chapter and state affiliate to assist you by obtaining an agreement to advance funds if you win a scholarship and to pay your treasury back after you receive your debit or credit card.
           
What if I have more questions? For additional information email the chairman, Allen Harris, at <kjscholarships@nfb.org> or call his Baltimore, Maryland, office at (410) 659-9314, x2415.

Above all, please use this opportunity to attend your first convention on the national level and join several thousand active Federationists in the most important meeting of the blind in the world. We hope to see you in Orlando.

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