This year's Keynote Address was delivered by Ed Lucas, a radio sports journalist who lost his sight when he was 12 years old due to a baseball accident.
After attending St. Joseph's School for the Blind in Jersey City, and the New York Institute for the Blind, Ed graduated from Seton Hall University with a degree in communications.
In addition to his stellar career as a sports reporter, Ed serves as Director of Development and Public Education for St. Joseph's School and as CEO of "No Cup or Cane Productions."
Theater Critic and member of Lighthouse International's Women's Committee for more than 22 years.
Anchor of NewsChannel 4
Congratulations to our 2006 winners:
Stephanie Nielson, College-Bound Award
"A loss of sight is never a loss in vision."
Stephanie's teacher writes, "Members of the English Department, myself included, fight over who gets to have Stephanie in class. This young woman has a love of literature and reading that is nothing short of inspirational. This has led her to take not only Advanced Placement Literature during senior year, but also College English at C.W. Post University. In my ten years of teaching, I have never known a student to take both simultaneously."
With a grade point average of 4.29, Stephanie was inducted into the National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, and the Quill and Scroll Honor Society.
Editor of her school newspaper, her articles have won countless awards, including the 2005 Newspaper Gold Award from the Empire State Scholastic Press Association Competition at Syracuse University.
Stephanie, a member of the Future Teachers of America, also finds time to work at a camp for children who are blind, and has volunteered for Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.
This fall, she enters the State University of New York at Oneanta to double major in English and Spanish.
John Masi, College-Bound Award
"Cut back to grow stronger."
Early on, John enrolled in summer programs for gifted students to take classes in robotics, physics, aeronautics and medieval history ? all by the sixth grade. He was on the advanced placement track in math by the eighth grade.
A National Merit Finalist at Delbarton, a prep school in New Jersey, John has a passion for music, which has earned him a place in the All Eastern Honor Choir. A varsity swimmer and co-captain of his team, he is also drawn to acting and debating.
But he is perhaps proudest of activities that reflect how he has overcome obstacles and is now able to give back, such as being a counselor at a camp for children who have impaired vision and multiple disabilities. John says, "touching so many lives gave me the opportunity to show others with vision loss what is possible, just as it was done for me at an early age."
In the fall, John will continue to quench his thirst for knowledge at Harvard, where he plans to study physics and economics.
Adam Gleason, Undergraduate Award
"Maybe disability is a misnomer."
A New York Universtiy student, Adam is the first in his family to attend college. He writes, "I feel that my insatiable desire to learn and my will to succeed at my endeavors will assist me in living a full and happy life despite adversity."
His dreams include becoming a Social Worker, joining the helping profession that provided him with so much support while adjusting to a new life with vision loss. Adam is already on his way, interning at the Hudson Guild, a settlement house in Chelsea, helping disenfranchised teens.
In addition to his academic and volunteer achievements, Adam plays guitar, runs track and is on NYU's varsity wrestling team. He is, in fact, the first wrestler who is blind in the school's history.
Looking forward to entering a Master's program in Social Work, Adam says, "In terms of growth and transition, I feel that many positives have come out of my blindness. If I can help the world out of personal turmoil, then maybe disability is, after all, a misnomer."
Glenn Stewart, Graduate Award
"I wanted to turn my loss into gain."
Glenn is currently a graduate student at Syracuse University seeking his Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling. He writes, "Prior to losing my vision, I was a machinest/welder by trade. After my accident, I was no longer able to continue that line of work. Instead I had to reinvent myself, and my career goal became focused on helping people with disabilities contribute to society, enjoy self-determination and live independently."
So Glenn went to school, first earning an Associate's degree, followed by a Bachelor's in business administration from the State University of New York at Potsdam. Glenn was the first in his family to attend college, and his high GPA earned him membership in the Chi Sigma Iota Honor Society.
He says, "Going from being sighted to being blind was a life-changing personal transition. I wanted my life to have meaning, and to focus on work that would result in a more socially just world. I wanted to turn my loss into gain by giving back and helping people."
Tracey Libby, Employee Award
"If someone tells me I can't do something, I just want to do it more."
Tracey is a Call Receiver in the Emergency Call Center of AAA Northern New England in Portland, Maine. With 10 years of experience in customer service at other companies, she sought a more challenging position eight months ago.
She found it at the AAA. With the help of assistive computer devices, Tracey performs with top-notch speed and accuracy. She is highly skilled in the use of adaptive technology to access her computer, including a screen reader (JAWS) and a braille display for taking notes.
Tracey especially loves "blow-out days," when snow and ice create havoc on the roads and more than 3,000 calls for assistance are likely to come in.
AAA Northern New England, Employer Award, accepted by Michael Quint, Assistant Manager of the Emergency Call Center
"I wish there were five more tables of employers here. There are all sorts of reasons to say you can't. I'm here to say, 'You can'."
It's no surprise that the AAA is receiving the Career Employer Award, in recognition of its leadership in hiring and accommodating employees with impaired vision like Tracey.
Michael reports that when he interviewed Tracey, "he saw an experienced Customer Service representative seeking a job change and opportunity for advancement, rather than a blind person looking for a job."
A role model for other employers in Portland and beyond, AAA Northern New England is keenly attentive to the workplace adaptations needed for employees with vision loss, has done an excellent job of providing accessible training and is paving the way for additional hires.
Charles Fulham, The Syde Hurdus President's Award
"No one chooses to live with disability. But you do have a choice how you live."
Charles Fulham had to reinvent his life after a car accident left him paralyzed for many months and with vision and memory loss.
His perseverance led him to recover, relocate, rent an apartment and begin a new journey. He contacted the New York State Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped to learn how to use adaptive computer equipment that enabled him to earn an Associate's degree in Science from Nassau Community College.
His next goal was to find a job so he could become self-sufficient. On his own, Charles continued to learn new computer applications and practiced interviewing skills. He also worked with a Lighthouse Employment Specialist to obtain a Customer Service internship at KeySpan Energy. KeySpan was so pleased with Charles's performance that he was hired for a full-time position even before his internship was over.
His employment specialist says of Charles, "He never gave up on himself after his life took such a turn. He just turned himself around, readjusted his goals and reached every one."
We extend special thanks to those whose generous contributions this year helped sustain our scholarships and career awards, and support the Lighthouse Youth Transition Services Program, which prepares young people for promising lives rich in achievement.