Alumni Connections: Reach for the Stars Scholarship

By: Samantha Adams

“They walk among us.” This is a phrase usually associated with those silly e-mail messages my family sends announcing the Darwin awards for the year. Customarily, this phrase is somewhat derogatory; however, I am choosing to put an awe struck spin on it. They walk among us. “They” are the remarkable members of the GDB family who are out there in the world working with their guides and inspiring all people to strive to do their best; to push the limits of self. 

You may or may not be aware that the Alumni Board of GDB has been vested with the responsibility of selecting a scholarship recipient every year. The scholarship is called the “Reach for the Stars” scholarship and exists due to the generosity of a GDB graduate, Ms. Gina Harper of Davis, California. The value of the scholarship is $1500.

This year, the nominating committee of the Alumni Board was charged with an especially daunting task of selecting one recipient out of a large number of truly remarkable candidates. This predicament was conveyed to Ms. Harper in the context of updating her on the progress of the committee.  Following this comment, Ms. Harper contacted the committee chair and offered an additional scholarship of $1500.

The scholarship recipients were announced at the banquet at the Alumni Reunion on October 5, 2013. I am pleased to introduce to you, two remarkable young women who I am proud to identify as part of our GDB family.

Ms. Cristina Jones travels with guide dog, Kingsley. She is a graduate of California State University, Fullerton. This fall she embarked upon a great adventure across the pond. She is studying music in London England at the prestigious Royal Academy of Music pursuing a Masters of Arts in Voice Performance with an emphasis in Opera Performance - this is a two year program. Ms. Jones explained to the nominating committee that she is required to learn about six pieces of music per week and these pieces are in several languages, including English. Going to school in England means that she does not have the benefit of the ADA and therefore; she finds herself incurring additional costs to get braille music.She anticipates that the scholarship will greatly help with the purchase of braille paper. Ms. Jones is not one to be discouraged by hard work and long roads. After this program, she intends to audition for opera schools and ultimately work as an opera singer professionally.
Our second recipient is Ms. Natalie Martiniello of Montreal, Canada and her guide Carlina. She is a graduate of McGill University in Montreal where she received a Bachelor of Arts in English and Education and she is currently pursuing a Master’s program in Vision Rehabilitation Teaching at the University of Montreal. It is worth noting that the University of Montreal is an institution where all of the courses are conducted in French. Ms. Martiniello speaks English an Italian; however, prior to her enrollment in this program, she would not have called herself fluent in French. Nevertheless, she is learning French to a level which meets the academic standards of her chosen course of study. Her goal is to teach visually impaired and blind people braille and technology and ultimately pursue her doctorate and teach vision rehabilitation professionals. She told the nominating committee that her Masters’ thesis would discuss the role of technology in relation to the use of braille. Ms. Martiniello is one who embraces the challenges of life and rises beyond them. Her first guide led her out of Dawson College during the course of a shooting incident and then went on to be by her side through lengthy chemotherapy. Neither of these incidents have halted Ms. Martiniello’s journey forward. She continues to march forward in search of her goals and dreams.

Are you inspired yet? These are but two examples of our GDB family out there “reaching for the stars.” They walk among us.


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