2009 Scholarship & Career Award Recipients
JAMES BAKER -- COLLEGE BOUND
An honors student at West Valley Central School in West Valley, NY, James strives to combat stereotypes about blindness by becoming a positive role model. James is an honors student who received commendation in the prestigious National Merit Scholarship Program, earned a perfect score on his Math SATs and has led his home team to victory in academic competitions.
James has spent his summer vacations participating in programs that range from robotics and software engineering, to college chemistry and the building of model rockets. He will be launching his own career at the University of Rochester in the fall, with plans to earn a doctorate in chemical engineering.
ASHLEY BROW -- UNDERGRADUATE AWARD
The first person in her family to attend college, Ashley Brow is majoring in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Emerson College in Boston. A straight--A student, she plans to pursue a Master's in Speech Pathology or Audiology. Her goal is to help people who can not communicate be heard.
Ashley chose this major despite being told by her college disability office that it would be "too difficult" for someone who is blind. Ashley overcame that bias, as well as numerous other challenges such as teaching herself sign language from a book. Today, Ashley has a 3.98 grade point average and is active in student government, while also volunteering at various programs for people who are deaf, dyslexic or have intellectual disabilities.
MIRANDA HITZEMANN -- GRADUATE AWARD
A Master's student at the University of Pennsylvania, Miranda is earning her degree in a technology field called urban spatial analytics. Experts in this area apply geographic information systems to solve problems that range from helping city planners make development decisions to advising retailers on where to best build new stores.
Miranda enrolled in this program after vision loss halted her architecture career at the age of 27. After graduating, Miranda wants to participate in the creation of sustainable and accessible communities -- communities that can meet the needs of people living at any income level and with any degree of disability.
Outside the classroom Miranda is active in several community organizations. One is dedicated to enriching urban settings through the arts and another is designed to bring fresh food to underserved neighborhoods.
ASHLEY TOWNSEND -- THE JUDY VAN NOSTRAND ARTS AWARD
Ashley Townsend says that music has been her passion for as long as she can remember. Though only a high school senior, Ashley has been recognized with a plethora of awards worthy of someone twice her age.
Ashley sings, acts, plays guitar and piano, and is a veteran of 19 musicals and the Florida All--State Honors Chorus. She was recently asked to sing the national anthem at a local Democratic fundraiser, and was honored by the declaration of "Ashley Townsend Day" -- once in her home town of Ormond Beach and later in her county of Volusia.
An advanced placement student at Seabreeze High School and a member of the National Honors Society, Ashley will begin double majoring in vocal performance and music therapy at Florida State University School of Music in the fall. Ashley also volunteers as a mentor to children with visual impairment and varying disabilities, inspiring them to pursue the arts.
RYAN FAY -- HARRY G. STARR AWARD
Ryan Fay is studying for a Bachelor's of Science degree in computer engineering at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. While his primary focus is on robotics and electronics programming, he is equally passionate about learning Japanese in preparation for a study abroad program this summer. This is the first step Ryan is taking in achieving his ultimate goal of working for a company in Japan, where the robotics and electronics industries are way ahead of the curve.
A Dean's List student, Ryan participates in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers chapter on campus, and aspires to complete a Master's degree, regardless of what country he ultimately works in.
MUHAMMAD JAVED -- SYDE HURDUS PRESIDENT'S AWARD
Muhammad Javed is an advanced placement student at Midwood High School in Brooklyn boasting a stellar 4.0 grade point average. He also participates in the Lighthouse summer youth program at Columbia University.
A native of Pakistan, he speaks Urdu, Punjabi, Arabic and is studying Italian. Muhammad describes his vision loss as a "colossal obstacle that he is proud to have never backed down from."
Muhammad was a semifinalist in The New York Times Scholar Program, and submitted an impressive social science project on attitudes toward vision impairment to the prestigious national Intel Science Talent Search. In the fall, he will be attending CUNY's Macaulay Honors College at the Baruch campus.