I now feel confident about my ability to help visually impaired children. I know the techniques to guide them toward a successful life.
— Sherry, VA

Group picture: 2012 Hadley Student Award Winners
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2013 Hadley President's Award and Student Award Winners

On October 10, The Hadley School for the Blind presented awards to seven students at the school's Annual Meeting of the Board of Trustees at the Skokie Country Club in Glencoe. Each year, Hadley instructors and faculty choose seven students to honor for their outstanding achievement in their studies. Hadley has formally presented student awards for more than 50 years.

President's Award
Lenore Valery at workLenore Valery

In 2013, Hadley received a bequest in the amount of $2.1 million—the largest in the school's history—from Lenore Valery, a student from Queens, New York. Lenore lost her vision to diabetes in 2000 and passed away on September 8, 2012, at age 70. She took seven Hadley courses, including three braille literacy courses. Her instructors were Naomi Tuttle, Sue Melrose and the late Martha Pamperin. "Hadley and my doctor are my only support group," she once told Naomi Tuttle. "I do not lean on friends."

An early adapter in the field of electrolysis, Lenore had incredible drive and was not afraid of failure, selecting one of the highest rent districts in New York (57th & 5th) to start her business. She was fond of saying, "Every failure is a learning experience and will lead to success the next time." She called it "failing forward."

Lenore was a self-made business woman who saved her money, invested wisely and liked to be in charge. Her cousin and accountant, Larry Goldman, believed that she would have wanted her estate to be used to help others who are disabled to start their own businesses.

In recognition of the tremendous impact this gift will make, we are pleased to honor Lenore as the 2013 President's Award Winner posthumously.

Student of the Year Award
Kenneth E. NeadKenneth E. Nead — Kansas City, Kansas

Kenneth worked as a mechanic at Strongheart Dog Food Co. for more than 19 years, then provided childcare for his granddaughter for several years.

Kenneth learned about Hadley through a classmate at Leader Dogs for the Blind. His first instructor, Linn Sorge, helped him learn to use a computer with speech output. "It was quite a change, moving from mechanical work on machines to using a computer," he says.

Now retired, Kenneth continues to take Hadley courses and online seminars. He appreciates that Hadley's instructors use the same access technology as he does and "are willing to go the extra mile" to help him understand a challenging concept. "Because of all I have learned in the area of access technology, I am sometimes able to help others with computer issues," he says. "I have learned many tips and techniques that help me in many areas of growth and in gaining independence."

Kenneth and his wife of 35 years, Karen, have three children and nine grandchildren. He says he still uses recipes from a Hadley cooking course he took with Patti Jacobson. His other hobbies include weightlifting, woodworking, reading, walking, chess and gardening.

Hear Kenneth's story

International Student of the Year Award
Ming LiuMing Liu — Shanghai, China

As a child, Ming was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary eye disease. She is now legally blind. Witnessing her mother's anxiety and feelings of helplessness as she struggled with the same condition inspired Ming to pursue a career in the field of special education. Today she works with individuals with visual impairment and other disabilities as an associate professor at a university in Shanghai. One of her life goals is to help those with special needs live independent, quality lives.

Ming learned about Hadley through a friend and through her own research online. Courses she has taken include "Using Raised Markers," "Self-Help Groups: An Introduction," "Self-Esteem and Adjusting with Blindness," "Independent Living" and "Braille Literacy 1 and 2." She plans to take Hadley's new course, "Orientation and Mobility," in the near future.

Ming says Hadley's courses not only helped her help herself, but also understand more deeply the situations of others with low vision so that she can provide more effective solutions. "I feel more confident and hopeful about my career and my life," she says. "I share my knowledge and try to create a better living and learning environment for others with special needs."

Braille Student of the Year Award
Allen R. KmiotekAllen R. Kmiotek — Kissimmee, Florida

Allen has worked in the insurance industry and as a lifeguard and relief coordinator for the Walt Disney Company. In December 2006, he suffered a stroke, which left him unable to walk and with vision and hearing loss, among other life-threatening medical conditions. With great determination, he left rehab, using just a walker, in March 2007.

Allen began "Braille Literacy 1" with Sharon Howerton in July 2008 and finished "Braille Literacy 4" in October 2011.

"My main reason for taking braille was to be able to read a restaurant menu," he says. "However, it turned out to be much more than that. I am quite fortunate and pleased to have taken this braille voyage, because I have found new friends who give me support, encouragement, advice and the feeling that I'm not alone in my darkness. It was the smartest decision of my life, and I will continue to learn and improve my skills for the rest of my days."

Hear Allen's story

Robert J. Winn Family Education Award
Candice M. PalmisanoCandice M. Palmisano — Hastings, Florida

Candice is the proud mother of beautiful 9-year-old Kyah Rose. When doctors told her that, at four months, Kyah was blind, Candice had no idea what to do. "I started to search for guidance on raising a blind child," she says. With some help from DBS (Division for Blind Services), Candice "began a journey into a new and unfamiliar way of life."

In 2005, Candice began her first Hadley course, "Reach Out and Teach." "It was the most eye-opening course for me, because it gave me a lot of ideas on how to get started," she says. "It also showed me what I could do to improve Kyah's opportunities to learn and grow at a very young age. I felt relief knowing there was somewhere to turn with my questions and concerns."

Over the years, Candice has found answers to questions by reflecting back on a Hadley lesson. "Hadley's instructors have been helpful in teaching me skills I need to help my daughter by providing information, encouragement and advice. I can tell they have a real love for and commitment to their students."

Hear Candice's story

Dean. W. Tuttle Professional Education Award
Keith C. FordKeith C. Ford — State College, Pennsylvania

Keith learned about Hadley at the Spring Vision Conference for Teachers of the Visually Impaired in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. His work as a teacher of the visually impaired/orientation and mobility specialist has included instruction of a wide range of blind and partially sighted children in the use of compensatory skills, including the use of braille materials, cane travel, keyboard usage, magnification devices, visual efficiency skills, special education software and hardware such as braille embossers and note-taking devices.

"My experience with Hadley has provided me with useful and essential insights about the unique needs of adventitiously blinded students and potential applicants for guide dog schools," he says. "Understanding the 'grief management' part of losing one's sight later in life and the decision-making process related to obtaining a guide dog has added to my experiences as a teacher and as a resource person for parents, teachers and school officials."

Hear Keith's story

Richard Kinney Challenge of Living Award
Robert E. CraigRobert E. Craig — Salisbury, North Carolina

"I have always thought that a school is not bricks and mortar, but people and ideas," Robert says. "This belief has been actualized through my experiences at Hadley." Robert learned about Hadley through a good friend and member of the Lion's club. He found Hadley's braille courses to be most helpful because they opened a new avenue of communication.

He also appreciates his instructors, all of whom went above and beyond: Julie Kay, who added interesting tidbits to extend her lessons, and braille instructor Bob Rathbun, who encouraged him to pursue Hadley's "Orientation and Mobility," course, which, he says, "enhanced my independence in a sight-governed society.

"Throughout my learning, all my instructors have been friendly, helpful and encouraging," he says. "I never felt that there was such a thing as a dumb question.

"This award is the physical acknowledgement of an inner sense of accomplishment," Robert adds. "It is so uplifting to know that others not only see but appreciate my efforts. I want others to know that the loss of one's sight musn't equate the loss of focus needed to achieve a well-rounded and fulfilled life."

Donald Wing Hathaway Lifelong Learning Award
Dianne S. FerrellDianne S. Ferrell — Seattle, Washington

Dianne learned about Hadley while consulting with a librarian at the local state school for the blind. Her intent was to locate resources that would be useful as she returned to school. The librarian gave her Hadley's number, and since that time, she says, "I haven't stopped periodically dialing 800-323-4238."

Dianne says Hadley has enriched her life both personally and professionally—as a parent, helping to maintain a home and raise two children, and as a professional, working in the fields of vocational rehabilitation counseling and as a teacher of the visually impaired. "Under the direction of very able instructors, Hadley courses have given me a greater awareness of individual differences and enabled me to work more effectively with coworkers, students and people in general," she says.

The most valuable thing Dianne has learned from her Hadley experience is the satisfaction of being a lifelong learner and the willingness to try different strategies to attain her goals. She says, "I would advise anyone considering a Hadley course to choose one that looks interesting, check out the course content, call Student Services and give it a try!"

Hear Dianne's story