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Announcing the Winners of the 2011-12 AEBC Scholarship Awards

Editor's Note: Rajesh Malik is 2nd Vice President of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC), and Chair of its Scholarship Committee. He teaches Psychology at Dawson College in Montreal, Quebec.

This year, the AEBC received a number of applications from highly motivated and well-deserving students, and after reviewing their submissions, the Scholarship Committee has selected two recipients.

The Alan H. Neville Memorial Scholarship for $1000 was awarded to Vytautas Bucionis Jr. of Montreal. Born in Lithuania, Vytautas is presently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in composition at the Universite de Montréal. As a highly skilled pianist, he has given numerous concerts and has many musical compositions to his credit. He takes delight in many different musical genres, including classical, jazz and folk. He is also passionately interested in the music created by birds and spends a great deal of time identifying birdsongs in nature and incorporates them in his music.

As a blind musician, he faces many challenges while studying and performing in a sighted world. Working with modern musical notation on paper is quite a complicated task for anyone, but having no vision presents its own unique difficulties. With patience, perseverance, creativity and the use of various assistive devices, however, Vytautas has managed to make this undertaking seemingly effortless, and has thrived as a student and performer. He has a GPA (grade point average) score of 4.0 to prove his mettle.

Ruby Szpeflicki is the recipient of the Rick Oakes Memorial Scholarship for $1000. Resident of Hamilton, Ontario, Ruby has faced the challenge of gradually becoming blind with determination and inner strength. Persistent hyperplastic primary vitreous affected her vision during childhood and a tumour on the optic nerve of her right eye sometime in adolescence led to a significant decline in sight. With courage, as well as the support of family and friends, she began to acquire new skills in the area of orientation and mobility and did whatever was required to live successfully as an independent blind person.

Currently, Ruby is enrolled at the Mohawk College of Applied Arts and hopes to graduate with a degree in broadcasting. Her goal in life, she says, is to “get a job in radio, have my own show and hopefully own my own radio station.” Her hard work has earned her a superb average grade of 89% so far.

Besides her academic interests, she enjoys a number of other activities, including reading and writing, listening to music and singing. In addition, she strongly believes in volunteering her time for various causes. She has planned and organized a successful fundraising event for the CNIB, has similarly helped to raise money by participating in MS (multiple sclerosis) Walks, CIBC Run for the Cure, and has supported the work of Camp Oochigeas, a camp for children with cancer.

The AEBC Scholarship Committee, consisting of Sara Bennett, Valentina Gal and I, extends its congratulations to Mr. Bucionis and Ms. Szpeflicki for winning the awards and wish them success as they continue their journey on their chosen career paths.