Braille is my lifeline to the world... Hadley's braille courses have allowed me to learn at home and at my own pace.
— Lisa Ferris, Richard Kinney Challenge of Living Award Winner, OR

Group photo of the 2015 Student Award Winners and their guests in the garden at Hadley

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2015 Hadley President's Award and Student Award Winners

Over the past 95 years, many Hadley students have demonstrated growth and accomplishment. In 1959, we began what has become an annual tradition of honoring our highest achievers. Each year, Hadley instructors and faculty choose seven students who have demonstrated outstanding achievement in their studies. Today, the Student Awards, presented each year during The Edwin J. Brach and Hazel and Bertram Brodie Award Presentation, recognize individuals whose hard work, determination and spirit serve as an inspiration to others. Visit the In the News page for all the media coverage of this year's student award winners.

Since 2007, the Hadley President's Award has been given in recognition of an individual or group demonstrating exceptional spirit in raising awareness of the needs and abilities of individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

President's Award
Steve BeresSteve Beres

Steve joined Regions Financial Corporation in 2013 as the Vice President of Service Members and Veterans Affairs following a career in the healthcare field working with service members and veterans with disabilities. Prior to this role, Steve served in the United States Army as a Special Operations Officer with numerous combat tours in the Middle East, retiring in 2004. He is a member of several veteran organizations and a board member of Lighthouse Central Florida in Orlando, where he currently resides.

Steve has provided testimony before both the U.S. Senate and Congress regarding service member and veteran-related issues and has served as a consumer reviewer for Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs for the Department of Defense. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice Administration, Master's Degrees in Education and Vision Rehabilitation Therapy and a Ph.D. in Occupational Therapy.

A student and ambassador for the organization, Steve credits Hadley with helping him to manage his vision loss following his combat experience. He has taken 15 Hadley courses including braille literacy, technology and business/employment. He also has participated in a number of Seminars@Hadley.

Steve was the keynote speaker at the launch of Hadley's Blinded Veterans Initiative in 2011 and at the 2015 Hadley Benefit.

Student of the Year Award
Pam SchnurrPam Schnurr — Indianapolis, IN

For 25 years, Pam Schnurr was a blind vendor running a cafeteria in a downtown Indianapolis Post Office. Three years ago she partnered with Southern Foods and is now running a cafeteria, convenience store, coffee shop and vending operations in a federal building. Because this role is so different than her previous one, she turned to Hadley to increase her business acumen.

Pam has used her new Excel skills to work with her payroll system, and a "Business Communications" class at Hadley has helped her with her correspondence responsibilities. Pam also expects that her "Business Law" class will help her negotiate an upcoming contract with union employees. "I feel much better prepared to understand the contract language and I think I can now have greater input when talks begin," she said.

Pam has served on the National Association of Blind Merchants (NABM) Blind Vendors Committee for 26 years. She plans NABM's bi-annual state conferences and ensures that it always includes a representative from Hadley.

Outside of work, Pam enjoys swimming and bowling as well as spending time with her husband Tony, her two daughters and her two granddaughters.

"I would especially like to thank the donors that believe in Hadley and help further the lives of people who are blind."

View Pam's video interview.

Braille Student of the Year Award
Myra BrodskyMyra Brodsky — Gauttenberg, NJ

Myra Brodsky was not born blind. She developed Retinitis Pigmentosa later in life and did not learn braille until after she retired. Prior to her retirement, Myra worked as a court reporter in the New York State Court System for 35 years. During the last 10 years of her career, the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired voted her one of their most successful cases and asked her to become a motivational speaker. She later learned that she was the only blind court reporter in the U.S. who was actively working in the court system.

Since her retirement, Myra has taken six Hadley braille courses. "At home, I do general labeling and write my shopping lists. When I travel, I make bullet cards with flight information and itinerary," she says. Myra has also done some freelance braille work for several renowned museums and galleries in New York, including MoMA, The Jewish Museum, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Whitney Museum and The Frick.

In her free time, Myra enjoys films, is an avid reader, a world traveler and loves to crochet. She is even a high achiever when it comes to her hobbies, receiving three gold medals and winning the Senior State Olympics for swimming.

"Braille has made my life much easier and has enhanced my independence."

View Myra's video interview.

Donald Wing Hathaway Lifelong Learning Award
Charles ScrivenerCharles Scrivener — Jackson, MS

Charles Scrivener was diagnosed as legally blind in 1984 due to a brain tumor. As the tumor grew, Charles' visual acuity decreased. After radiation and chemotherapy, Charles adjusted to his newly narrowed vision field. When further treatments and operations did not help his vision, he sought out other methods to compensate for his sight loss.

For the past 18 years, Charles has been learning from Hadley. "Hadley's high school courses furthered my academic knowledge and preparation for college. Later, the ACE program increased my knowledge about cooking, business principles, and seeking employment."

Since March 2012, Charles has served as a braille and communications instructor for the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services. Hadley's HSPS courses have helped him learn how to teach braille to students who faced different challenges.

"Hadley courses range from academics to leisure topics. I enjoyed learning about chess, braille music, technology, guide dogs and entrepreneurship," Charles said. "Courses are available online, in braille and on flash drives and you can correspond by phone and email."

"Hadley offers a wide range of interesting subjects...Why would you NOT take a Hadley course?!"

View Charles' video interview.

Richard Kinney Challenge of Living Award
Lisa FerrisLisa Ferris — Hillsboro, OR

Lisa Ferris is deaf-blind and has kidney disease due to Alport's Syndrome, a congenital progressive disease, that leads to hearing and vision loss. Lisa has an M.Ed in special education of students with severe disabilities and deaf-blindness from the University of Kansas.

Lisa and her husband, who is also blind, own and run a vocational rehabilitation training business called Miles Access Skills Training (MAST). The entrepreneurial couple works with employers to make their workplace more accessible. They also help people with disabilities gain the technology skills they need to meet their goals.

"One of my favorite things is working with seniors to learn skills that keep them living independently at home," she said. "I also sometimes work with parents of blind children. When their schools districts don't provide enough braille instruction due to lack of funds or personnel, I suggest Hadley."

Lisa came to Hadley seeking business instruction. Hadley's business classes have allowed Lisa to concentrate on the content of the classes, rather than worrying about how to gain access to the material. As Lisa's hearing and vision have decreased, she has also taken Hadley's braille courses.

"Braille is my lifeline to the world... Hadley's braille courses have allowed me to learn at home and at my own pace."

View Lisa's video interview.

Robert J. Winn Family Education Award
Donna McNewDonna McNew — Toutle, WA

Donna McNew's primary focus in life is her family, making it only fitting that she would receive this year's Robert J. Winn Family Education Award. Donna homeschools her three special needs children whom she and her husband adopted from China. They are being raised in their rural country home. "One of my closest friends, Joanie, is blind. Knowing that blindness isn't something to be feared, dreaded or avoided, but in fact, just a personal characteristic—a part of the person that makes each of us unique—led us to not hesitate in bringing home from China our daughter Adelyn Rose who is blind," Donna said.

Before Adelyn even arrived, Donna had completed her first Hadley braille course. "I couldn't get enough of it fast enough—I completed and submitted three of four lessons in one week," says Donna.

In her most recent course, "Transitioning to Unified English Braille," Donna had Adelyn shadow her and they learned together—correcting and reminding each other of the changes in the braille code.

Adelyn now knows UEB even before her teacher of the visually impaired (TVI) and has been able to teach her some of the code changes—all thanks to Hadley.

"For the support that Hadley offers to families, educators and individuals around the world—you are incomparable."

View Donna's video interview.

Dean. W. Tuttle Professional Education Award
Margot A. HaydenMargot A. Hayden — Bradford, MA

Margot A. Hayden's journey as a certified braille transcriber began when she volunteered at her children's school. Staff and faculty were impressed by the way she interacted with children, so they offered her a positon as a paraprofessional assisting a girl who had lost her vision. While the girl was skilled at braille, Margot did not know braille at all. Margot was thus forced to learn braille quickly to transcribe the student's assignments.

A teacher of the visually impaired with whom Margot worked recommended Hadley. Margot has since completed three Hadley braille courses.

"My Hadley instructors have been wonderful. I am a student who loves feedback and they were very good about supplying me with the correct information," she said. "They also gave me additional resources, which reinforced the subject matter—another example of their commitment to their subject."

The more Margot learned of braille, the more she realized she enjoyed it. Several years later, she became a certified braille transcriber, earning the title from the Library of Congress. Thanks to Hadley's Unified English Braille (UEB) course, she already has begun to incorporate some of the UEB changes into her transcription work.

"I would not have achieved a certification in braille without the support and attention to detail of my Hadley instructors."

International Student of the Year Award
Charles ByekwasoCharles Byekwaso — Uganda

Charles Byekwaso was born in 1955 in Uganda. In college, Charles studied bookkeeping and accounting and also earned an advanced certificate in typing. Soon after college, he earned the title of Appointed Clerical Officer/Accounts and served in the Ministry of Labor. Then, a civil war changed the trajectory of his life.

"December 4, 1978 will never go away from my memory because it was the day I lost my sight due to torture by Idi Amin's soldiers," he said. By the time Charles was able to get the medical care he needed, his sight was permanently lost. However, once he was able to receive hospital care, he learned he was in a referring hospital for rehabilitation services for the blind. He was later transferred to a training facility where he learned braille in just three months. Since becoming blind, Charles has undertaken leadership positions in several associations for the blind and other disability organizations.

Charles took his first Hadley course in 2005. He has taken 12 Hadley courses and is currently enrolled in two more. Charles is grateful for the free courses he has been able to complete at Hadley and the life skills he has gained in the process.

"I would appeal to people concerned with the education of the blind to contribute generously to this noble cause."