Meet the 2017 Student and President's Award Winners

For more than 97 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 a small number of 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.

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

Student of the Year
John ByiringiroJohn Byiringiro — TX

John learned about Hadley from his adoptive mother while living in Rwanda.

"I was so excited to hear there was a school of the blind that would be free." John has been blind since he was seven months old. His mother was killed in a lightning storm and his eyes were burned, causing his blindness. "In Rwanda, disabilities are seen as a burden and sometimes a curse. My grandmother took me to an orphanage because she could not care for a disabled child."

John's instructor says, "John first registered with us in October of 2014, only two and a half years ago. Since then, he has taken 21 courses. John asks questions and applies what he learns." John says he's able to read faster because he learned to read contracted braille. Teachers in a Rwanda school for the blind told students they couldn't do math. "I used to believe I would never be capable of doing math; however, my experience in the abacus course taught me otherwise. I feel accomplished and proud that I was able to learn how to use an abacus."

John recalls, "One of my most memorable times is in a phone conversation with my instructor as she guided me in reading a world map. I had never seen a map in braille until this class, and it was such an incredible experience to realize that even though I cannot see, I can still read a map with my fingers and picture it in my mind.

"I would never have dreamed that one day I would be chosen as the student of the year. When I start getting discouraged, I can remember this award and be encouraged again."

Braille Student of the Year
Andrew SimpsonAndrew Simpson — TX

Andrew lost his sight at the age of 25, due to Diabetic Retinopathy.

While earning a Masters of Science at a fully-sighted university, a professor insisted Andrew find a school to learn braille, telling him he couldn't maintain a career without effective braille skills. "Now that I have braille skills I can apply my skills effectively in communicating with braille notes I send by postal mail."

Andrew's instructor said, "Andrew has been involved in my weekly Office Hours sessions for several years. He has a Master's in counseling and uses his skills to assist the group. He is a wonderful role model: encouraging, appreciative and willing to share personal experiences and frustrations."

"I'm frequently using my braille to type out notes to other Hadley alums, and braille demo-tape labels for postal packages, going to my peers, with audio cassette tape recordings from our instructor's Office Hour sessions.

Andrew recalls how his instructor helped drive him through the coursework in Braille Literacy III and IV. "These were the toughest times of braille learning. My instructor's patience and consistency in tutelage came through. He caught some of the slightest errors, yet was always gracious in the way he said braille proficiency is ultimately in the quality of the end result of our efforts.

"Now that I have some modest proficiency in braille, I can better plan how to coordinate my home office as I consider a future venture into professional counseling. Hadley has given me the resolve and adaptive skills I need to bring more personal and professional fulfillment to my life."

Donald Wing Hathaway Lifelong Learning Award
Victor PressVictor Press — MO

When Victor became visually impaired due to a retinal detachment, he learned about Hadley from the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital's Blind Rehabilitation Center. He has been taking classes since 2003. "Hadley Institute has filled the missing gaps of my earlier education," says Victor.

One of his instructors says, "Mr. Press not only answers the questions well, but he also includes additional information on many of his answers. I have learned much more from him than he has from me!"

As a veteran of many Hadley courses, Victor says the English and computer courses improved his writing and internet skills, helping with his everyday living activities. "The diabetes course was extremely important to me because I have the disease. I use the skills taught in the course every day to control my diabetes and to keep my remaining eyesight."

Victor expresses his gratitude, "Precious metals are just one type of wealth that can vanish in one's lifetime. But the wealth of knowledge can only be lost by brain damage or death. I have gained my vast source of knowledge from several institutions of learning which includes Hadley. My learning was sometimes hindered due to my poor vision and lack of visual technology. Hadley is the only place that took an enormous concern for both my learning and visual handicap."

Dean W. Tuttle Professional Award
Annely RoseAnnely Rose — FL

Annely was diagnosed with Glaucoma at three months old and had several surgeries throughout the first 16 years of her life. In 2010, she became totally blind after contracting a staph infection in the eye that had some remaining sight. Annely says, "I believe being in the rehabilitation teaching field made my adjustment to blindness less traumatic because I already had been using the skills."

One of her Hadley instructor's writes, "A review of the courses she has completed shows a person who has demonstrated an interest in a wide variety of courses. Annely has completed 24 courses and has never earned a grade lower than an A. In addition to her conventional coursework, she has taken advantage of our seminars."

Annely said all of the courses she took gave her information that can be used in her professional and personal life. "The course Transitioning to UEB taught me the new system and the Braille Teaching Methods courses provided me with information about teaching braille to different age groups. The Using Excel course gave me the knowledge needed to correct a timesheet for work. The Developing Your Technology Toolkit course provided me with a greater understanding of available technology."

Since 2014, Annely has participated in Hadley's Spring into Braille reading challenge. She says, "Spring into Braille has gotten me to use braille more, and has reminded me of how important braille is in my life."

Annely is currently employed at New Vision for Independence as a Daily Living Skills teacher and braille instructor, using the skills and knowledge she learned through Hadley.

International Student of the Year
Maritess DalidaMaritess Dalida — Phillipines

Maritess learned about Hadley from a colleague while teaching children with visual impairments through the Department of Education in the Philippines. She says, "I enrolled and finished my first course, Intro to Braille, and was hooked. I enrolled over and over again."

An instructor writes, "During the time she took my Intro to Low Vision and Adults course, it became clear to me through her responses that she is a committed teacher of children with vision impairments, working in very difficult circumstances with an impoverished population. Her academic performance has been top notch."

Maritess says, "It is my legacy to help those with visual impairment. Dedication and patience are important as they help with my client relationships and with their family members." She visits regularly with a blind and mildly autistic client, neglected by his mother who cannot accept her son's disabilities.

Maritess enjoyed all of the courses she took and says her instructors were very helpful. "All of my courses helped me learn to deal with the needs of my students, from birth to adulthood. I explain to all of my clients' parents, we must teach them to fish, not just feed them the fish. We need to leave these visually impaired students a great legacy by teaching them how to be independent enough to live."

Maritess says, "Hadley played an important role in my life. No schools offered courses for the visually impaired in the city near my home. Taking Hadley courses helped me receive a promotion which is helping provide for my daily needs."

2017 President's Award Winner
Rose K. DonnellRose K. Donnell — IL

Rose and Ed Donnell moved to Mexico City in 1948, when Ed was named President of Montgomery Ward—Mexico. Rose became a transcriber for the National School for the Blind, where she helped establish programs for blind children and pioneered a Guías de México troop (similar to Girl Scouts) for blind girls. Helen Keller visited her troop and acknowledged Rose for her leadership. These activities sparked a lifetime passion for helping people who are blind.

When Ed was promoted, they relocated to Winnetka and Rose joined the Hadley Woman's Board. In 1968, she initiated the idea of selling album holiday cards to supplement the income from the Woman's Board braille holiday card sale. University of Courage, a history of Hadley, chronicles Rose's contribution, "Besides the financial importance of this project, the constant flow of customers into the Hadley building during the last few months of the year helped make the school better known to more and more people in the community." Chris Myers, Rose's friend and fellow Woman's Board member, recalls, "When Rose took on a project, she made things happen."

Rose and Ed joined the Hadley Board of Trustees in 1970, and in 1976 Rose was elected the first female Chair of Hadley's Board of Trustees. "Rose was a favorite of the staff, faculty and leadership at Hadley," says former Hadley President Chuck Young. "At the first Hounds for Hadley dog walk fundraiser in 2005, Rose had an admirer escort her pug Rosie while she drove her Caddy, cheering on the walkers."

Through many decades of dedicated service, Rose has helped thousands of blind and visually impaired people. Her work at Hadley will leave a legacy for future generations.

Robert J. Winn Family Education Award
Amanda Spenner — IL

Amanda first heard of Hadley Institute through her daughter's vision therapist. She enrolled in her first course at Hadley when her daughter, MacKenzie, was just five months old. Amanda successfully completed seven courses in just two and a half years, earning all A's. She took the challenging Abacus 1 course and was recommended by her instructor to take Abacus 2. Her instructor said, "Amanda's average of 97 on each of the abacus courses is quite impressive." Another instructor said, "She did a wonderful job relating the information in the two Human Eye courses to the family's personal experiences and what was happening to her daughter at a particular time."

Other instructors commented, "Amanda is an extraordinary student. Her grades show how well she has mastered the material in each course. Amanda's goal was not only to learn what was needed for herself, but to encourage all family members to learn what they could to support MacKenzie in becoming an independent learner."

Amanda says, "I have enjoyed the braille courses and learning to read braille." She is introducing her daughter to new things and has added braille labels on some of her toys and in her books so she can follow along as they read. Amanda even sent Christmas and birthday cards with braille so family and friends could see how her daughter will eventually read.

"I didn't expect to win an award. I'm taking classes to learn as much as I can to help my daughter as she grows and goes through school," Amanda says.

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