On behalf of the Student and Education Committee and my Co-Chair, Betty Nobel, I would like to introduce you to the five amazing students who were awarded scholarships this year. They embody the spirit of diversity and academic excellence which we strive to encourage.
This year, we honoured the founders of AEBC as well as a long-time member through the two scholarships from our anonymous donor. The first is Maggie Ingleson, who was awarded the AEBC Scholarship in honour of Irene Lambert. Irene Lambert is a long-time member who has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of individuals who are blind, deafblind, or partially sighted locally in Quebec and through her national work with AEBC. Her many achievements include a successful presentation to the CRTC advocating for more audio-described programming on television.
Maggie Ingleson wants to become a Lawyer and will be studying psychology at the University of Waterloo in Kitchener Ontario. She hopes that, with her law degree, she can "make policy and legal changes so that the foundation that serves to oppress is weakened". In the summertime Maggie helps with an orientation program for upcoming grade 9 students. She helps deliver games and lessons and foster social time. High school students, like herself, are paired with elementary youth and, through a series of interactions, foster strong relationships and connections that last lifetimes. As she progressed, Maggie remembered thinking how lucky she was to get the opportunity to facilitate and experience the inner workings of CNIB and its Youth Mentorship Program.
Maggie’s personal interests are languages—French and Spanish, and music—she teaches piano to students with and without vision impairments. “People like me, we were born with backpacks. An extra weight forever tied to our backs that makes running the marathon that much more difficult. I have and am still learning how to carry mine so that I do not lose my footing under it, but to instead embrace it for the strength it gives me and the endurance I reap.”
The second AEBC Scholarship, in honour of Paul and Mary Ellen Gabias, was given to Caelin Lloyd. In 1992, Paul and Mary Ellen Gabias founded the NFB:AE, modeled on principles of the National Federation of the Blind in the US. Their philosophy was rooted in the tenets of the consumer driven movement -- we must have access to, and control over, the goods and services needed allowing us to live productive and independent lives. Over the years, we sought a more Canadian brand for our organization, which included changing our name to AEBC, but the foundation of advocacy and public education has remained the focus of our work to the present day.
Caelin Lloyd is blind and lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he plans to attend Mount Saint Vincent University in pursuit of a Bachelors degree in Public Relations. He lived in a small town until 2022, where he was the only blind student in his high school. He held leadership roles on the Student Council as well as various other organizations, and he is still active in the Nova Scotia Secondary Schools’ Students Association, where he has helped to raise funds while advocating for the accessibility issues faced by students in the organization. "Of course, self-advocacy isn’t always done alone. I was presented with many accessibility challenges from bodies outside the school – notably standardized assessments. It is advocating against systems like these that I learn the value of being assertive and having a support system willing to back me up. I will spare the details, but my school team (if collaboration yielded no results) wasn’t afraid to tell government: “Caelin will not participate in assessments that are not fully accessible. They are not an accurate reflection of his learning.”" In 2022, he moved to Halifax to finish high school. This has allowed him to work as a full-time Program Coordinator at CNIB while taking his Grade 12 courses online. His work has been diverse—he has run programs for seniors as well as for youth. We know he will be able to thrive at university with all the skills he has gained.
We are also pleased that Allyant (formerly T-Base Communications) continued their twelve-year tradition by sponsoring a scholarship, which we awarded to Christel Oguchi. She is a legally blind Nigerian, Black African with Oculocutaneous Albinism living in Calgary, Alberta, who will be attending Western University in London, Ontario, in pursuit of a BSC in Biomedical sciences. She has experienced the gamut from unconditional educational support to being the administrator's last priority, but she has managed to discover her own technological accommodations when the school system failed to provide them. She is a mentor to other newcomers to Canada and is a member of a Youth Advisory Council. She plans to create a peer mentorship program for international students and BIPOC Alliance Society at Western. She believes: "I envision that as a Black person with Albinism, I change the stereotypes about both groups of people and show others like me that nothing is impossible if you have the will to make it real."
This year, we added a scholarship in memory of one of our long-time and influential members. John Rae was a member of AEBC whose unwavering support of this organization has been recognized for many years. John was a true advocate, someone who firmly believed in our ability to positively make changes to improve the lives of blind Canadians. He was involved in many disability organizations, where he influenced decision making processes which resulted in the provision of better conditions for folks who needed extra support to achieve equality. While he was a long-time member of the Toronto Chapter, he also took the time to touch the lives of many folks including friends from British Columbia who were mentored by him. He was a colleague and dear friend to many of us; he will be sincerely missed. We chose Éliane Doucet as the recipient of this award. The scholarship is awarded to someone who shows interest in music and advocacy. Éliane applied for the first time this year and impressed us with her passion for music.
Éliane carried out her elementary studies at the École Jacques-Ouellette, a school for blind children. She attended regular high school, where her musical talent was more than evident. She also functioned independently as a blind person. In 2018, Éliane won a prize for her perseverance. The following year, she won a gold medal in a competition called the Concours des solistes de Victoriaville. She has written several compositions and was able to take advantage of a chance to study at the Berklee College of music. Éliane plans to return to Boston this summer. She intends to complete her college-level diploma in Jazz Trumpet at Cégep St-Laurent, while preparing for employment in social work. In the conclusion to her essay, Éliane clearly indicated why she would benefit from this scholarship: “If I win the scholarship, I will be able to continue my studies without having to worry about finances, while leading a full life and contributing to our society like everyone else.”
Once again, the BC Affiliate sponsored a scholarship, dedicated proudly in honour of Dr. Paul Thiele, a long-standing AEBC member who has served locally and nationally at both board and committee levels while mentoring many folks over the years. Paul is extremely passionate about the quality and accessibility of education needed for post-secondary students who are blind, deafblind and partially sighted, and was instrumental in shepherding AEBC towards promoting a scholarship program many years ago. The BC Affiliate is honoured to have worked closely with Paul over the years and this award represents his dedication which has enhanced the lives of so many who looked forward to furthering their educational goals. The Committee chose Nina Steyn, a high school student from Vernon BC. Next year, she will be attending UBC taking courses towards a BA degree. She is interested in Psychology, particularly animal therapy.
Nina has many interests. She plays piano and cello, and believes playing with others in a band has helped her to develop good communication and team building skills. She also loves to ski. Learning to ski again after significant vision loss was a challenge, but with the help of the team at Silver Star Adaptive Snow Sports, she has gained confidence. Her dream is to continue training so she can compete in the Para-Alpine race circuit. Nina is an active volunteer at her school where she helped organize and plan grad events. She has also worked with others to help the homeless by packaging and distributing shoeboxes. Performing at retirement homes is another activity Nina enjoys. But her favourite volunteer activity has been her work with Blind Beginnings. As a graduate of the Blind Beginnings Youth Leadership program and a volunteer, Nina assists the organization with events, raising awareness, and supporting children who are blind or partially sighted. This is what Nina wrote about accessible education: “It is true that I need more help than most students in order to succeed in a schooling system that was not designed for people with visual disabilities; but I am very lucky to live in a country where I can receive the support I need to do so. My education is accessible because I want to access it. My education is accessible because there are individuals and groups who want me to do well and achieve my dreams in this world: and it is thanks to support from organizations like AEBC that I know I will.”
I hope you have enjoyed reading about the wonderful students who received our scholarship awards this year. We could have given out many more awards—our candidates were all worthy.
Marcia Yale and Betty Nobel
Co-Chairs, Student and Education Committee