The Harry G. Starr College-Bound Award
College Bound Award
Judy Van Nostrand Arts Award
Syde Hurdus President's Award
Lighthouse Employer Award
The TJX Companies
Alyssa attended our Saturday Program, which helps teenagers with impaired vision become confident, independent adults. She also participated in the Lighthouse Summer Program, where she lived in a Columbia University dorm in preparation for making the transition to college. Both experiences enabled Alyssa to become proficient at traveling alone on buses and subways, along with cooking for herself and her family.
Her academic achievements at the New York State Institute of Special Education have been recognized with a number of college acceptances. While we don't yet know where Alyssa is headed this fall, we do know that she wants to study social services, and possibly earn a graduate a degree in early childhood and special education, following her work as a teacher's assistant for youngsters with disabilities.
Alyssa runs track and plays "goalball," a sport designed for people with vision impairment. And she is active in numerous volunteer and school activities. According to the Lighthouse staff who nominated her, Alyssa's successes are matched by her fierce spirit, maturity and exuberance, which will no doubt carry her very far in the years to come.
Caitlin Sarubbi's list of achievements would make any high-schooler filling out college applications envious. An outstanding senior at Dominican Academy in Brooklyn, Caitlin is a member of the campus ministry, Adaptive Sports Foundation and Junior Ladies of Charity, just to name a few groups committed to helping others. She embodies the meaning of the word "dedication."
Caitlin says she excels in school because she must in order to achieve her goal of becoming a doctor. Caitlin, who has undergone numerous operations, says, "From an early age, I knew I wanted to be a doctor. I was so grateful for all that my doctors have done for me, I wanted to devote my life to saving the lives of others."
Elected into the National Honor Society, Caitlin has maintained an exemplary grade point average in advanced placement courses despite taking time off from high school to pursue her passion as a ski racer. Ranked the number-four top skier who is visually impaired in the world, she is training hard in the hopes of joining the professional US ski team and competing in the 2010 Paralympics!
One of Caitlin's teachers lauds Caitlin's enormous strength, determination and abilities to tackle challenges most people can't imagine -challenges like racing at an international level with a vision impairment and teaching disabled veterans how to ski as a volunteer with the Wounded Warriors Project. Caitlin's teacher also writes, "I'm already in awe of this extraordinary girl's achievements, and I can't wait to find out what she does next." Neither can we!
Casey Burkhardt is a student at Villanova University, who is pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science.
Casey's keen interest in technology spreads across the Villanova campus. He is Treasurer of the Association for Computing Machinery, a member of the collegiate programming competition team and webmaster of the school paper. He also works for the Department of Computing Sciences, assisting the System Administrator and programming the website.
An elected Board member and Web Chair of the New Jersey Association of Blind Students, Casey is already taking a leadership role in his chosen field. His outstanding academic performance, impressive analytical skills, and passion for computers are matched by his long-standing love of music. A cellist in Villanova's orchestra and in an ensemble called Pastoral Musicians, he is equally adept with a cello bow as he is with a computer mouse.
Casey has combined technology and music as a volunteer, lending his talents to help build the Garden State Philharmonic Youth Orchestra's website. One of his letters of nomination described Casey as a student with "excellent technical skills, an outstanding work ethic and a strong desire to help others." No doubt, there will be many more accolades for him in the future.
Molly is a double major in Creative Writing and French at Hamilton College. She aspires to teach creative writing at the college level and make a living as a fiction writer. According to Molly, people tend to be surprised by her career choice.
She says, and I quote, "They wonder how one who possesses what they would characterize as a dulled awareness can make the astute observations or wield the razor-sharp perceptiveness for which most good writers are known.
Though such reactions are offensive, it is not surprising they should be so often made in a world where it is far more common that a blind person is described and brought to light by a writer who is fully sighted than vice versa."
Not wanting to communicate through others, Molly plans to use her voice as a writer to break down stereotypes of people with disabilities - and to lend her voice to others who, she says, "have yet to find their own."
Insight, talent, compassion, Molly possesses these wonderful gifts, which will make her a great writer, along with drive and determination to succeed in whatever she puts her mind to. This includes learning Russian in addition to French, and researching - well in advance - the accommodations she'll need to live in a foreign city when she spends her junior year in Paris.
Her teacher expects that Molly's "resourcefulness, resilience and positive attitude will no doubt provide and inspiring example for other students in the same study program abroad." Today, Molly is already an inspiration to all of us here.
Sean is, in a word, "stellar." His academic grade point average is an amazing 4.5! Whether in the science lab or at the piano bench, he is a study in dedication. Sean has taken as many honors and advanced placement courses as possible, and he is the recipient of awards for excellence in pre-calculus, chemistry, English and Spanish. He's been a member of a nationally ranked Math League team, competing every week throughout his high school career.
A man of many pursuits, Sean declares that his greatest passion is playing the piano, which he's been doing for the last 12 years. His goal- Mastering all of Beethoven's Sonatas. No doubt, he will do just that! Determination and confidence are just two of his notable characteristics.
One of Sean's teachers described him as, "The most remarkable young man I've encountered in my 28 years of education." Columbia University's School of Engineering also recognized his superb academic achievements and offered him a place in the freshman class this fall. Sean says, "In seeking a career as a chemical engineer, I aspire to be a well-educated, ambitious and contributing member of society." All of us at the Lighthouse agree that he already is!
Sharon McLennon is a Counseling Psychology doctoral candidate with a 3.9 grade point average at Seton Hall University.
Sharon, who already has a Master's degree and worked as a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor for ten years, is back at school, continuing her quest to help people deal with the emotional aspects of living with a wide range of disabilities.
Sharon tells us, "I could accomplish more on a doctoral level as a research scientist and practitioner." Ultimately, Sharon wants to head up an academic research department and help train the next generation of psychologists. She seems to be well on her way to achieving this goal.
As a doctoral student, Sharon wears many hats: Adjunct Professor, clinical practicum counselor, researcher and member of professional associations. She is specializing in neuro-psychology and clinical human sexuality, and has written a chapter on developmental issues for teenagers with disabilities for a soon-to-be-published book.
An outstanding student dedicated to continued professional development and excellence, Sharon is an enthusiastic, energetic - I hear she commutes 5-6 hours a day to and from Seton Hall - and engaging person, whose warmth and generous spirit make for the ideal counseling psychologist. We applaud her efforts and hope there are others who will follow in her shoes.
The TJX Companies
The Lighthouse Employer Award recognizes a corporation that has led the way in eliminating workplace barriers for people with vision loss. This year, the award went to The TJX Companies, the parent company of Marshall's, AJ Wright, HomeGoods and other retail stores.
This exemplary company has collaborated with our Career Services job specialists in the hiring of five Lighthouse clients at various Marshall's stores on Long Island, as well as placing several high school and college interns. In addition, several people were also hired to work in AJ Wright and HomeGoods stores.
Across the board, each store manager has been exceptionally responsive to the individual needs of employees who have different degrees of vision loss. Store managers have invested their time in matching these employees to the best possible position, following up with personalized on-the-job training and encouraging flexible scheduling to accommodate travel by para-transit.
Making these workplace accommodations levels the playing field for personnel with impaired vision, ensuring they have an equal chance to be as productive and fulfilled as employees who are sighted.
In short, managers never ask what a person can't do. Rather, they ask what someone can do - and do well. Interns usually become full-time hires, and in this supportive work environment, full-time hires become outstanding employees.
TJX and its family of companies clearly value and respect employees with vision loss. We applaud their visionary efforts and thank the company for serving as a role model for retailers across the country.