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Meet the 2020-2021 CSP Mentors Part 5

Categories: Blind or Visually Impaired

Compiled by: Kristen Witucki, College Success Program Curriculum and Content Editor

The College Success Program is pleased to introduce our 27 Mentors for the 2020-2021 academic year, and what better time to do it than during Meet the Blind Month! Our Mentors represent a variety of interests, personalities, experiences, and knowledge. Read on to learn more about a few of them in Part 5 of this blog series and see if you have anything in common. You never know when or where a connection can be made!

This blog is the fifth in a 5-part series. You can read Part 1 herePart 2 here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here.

If you are a college student who is blind or low vision, and who is interested in working with one of our Mentors, please email csp@learningally.org to begin the process!

Rachel Grider
Education: BM in Vocal Performance and Composition from CSU Stanislaus; MM in Music Performance and Theory Pedagogy from Peabody Conservatory

Rachel is from Modesto, California. She is currently teaching music at the Modesto Academy of Music and Design and Gottschalk Music Center, as well as performing freelance. Rachel is a member of Sigma Alpha Iota and Py Kappa Lambda.

For Learning Ally, in addition to mentoring students, Rachel co-hosts our podcast, College Knowledge.

Rashad Jones
Education: BM in Music Education (choral/voice) from Columbus State University

Rashad is a native of Columbus, Georgia (where he currently resides), and is the 2nd oldest of 4 siblings. As a self-proclaimed people person, Rashad can often be found enjoying a conversation with close friends and family, while relaxing in the comfort of his home. He enjoys attending church where he serves as minister of music, traveling, interacting with people, and helping others whenever possible! 

For Learning Ally, in addition to mentoring students, Rashad co-hosts our podcast, College Knowledge.

Sam Van Der Swaagh
Education: BA in Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies from City University of New York

Sam grew up in NYC in the West Village with his large family of 2 sisters and 3 brothers. He was homeschooled through high school along with his siblings by his outstanding parents. Sam has experience in tutoring college freshmen and sophomore level courses such as STATS, biology, and chemistry.

Although Sam's major during college was Applied Psychology and Neuroscience, he is currently pursuing a career in textile design. His interests were radically changed! If Sam is not "in the studio" weaving carpets and fine fabrics, he spends his free time swing dancing, training for long distance runs with friends, and experimenting with origami. Sam's artistic passions are certainly bolstered by his visual impairment that drives him toward tactile forms of expression and affords him a unique perception of the world. Sam's visual condition consists of albinism, nystagmus, and astigmatism. He is a large print reader yet often prefers listening to audiobooks or utilizing speech-to-text options. Sam also enjoys talking about the latest science and technology innovations.

Stephanie Zundel
Education: BS in Child Studies with minors in Special Education and Psychology and an MS in Human Development Counseling from Vanderbilt University

Stephanie grew up in New Jersey and is the oldest of four siblings. Her passion is working with children and animals. She lives in Colorado with her Seeing Eye dog, Marley, where she works as an elementary school counselor.

She absolutely loves to exercise! She recently tandem cycled for the world championship in Milton, Canada, where she and her pilot represented the US and won a bronze medal in the sprints. She also enjoys running and ran the New York City and Boston marathons with Achilles International Nashville. She ahs junior and senior black belts in White Tiger Kempo and has been boxing since the age of ten. She believes that education and advocacy are the key ingredients for a successful college experience.

Tabitha Brecke
Education: BA in Humanities and Find Arts from the University of Wyoming; MA in Counseling with emphasis on rehabilitation from the University of Arkansas; PhD in Adult Education from Auburn University

Tabitha currently works as an accommodation specialist in the Office of Accessibility at Auburn. Prior to returning to school, she worked in the rehabilitation field as a rehabilitation teacher, counselor, and supervisor. The achievement of goals by students or clients that they previously thought impossible is the aspect of her career that she enjoys the most.

Tabitha has many hobbies including reading, knitting, weaving, playing harp and singing. She is a member of the American Association of Blind Teachers, an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind, and is the secretary of that organization.

Zachary Mason
Education: BS in Animal Science from Cornell University; MS in Animal and Dairy Sciences from Mississippi State University

Zachary grew up on a dairy farm in Northern New Hampshire. He lost almost all of his vision due to a brain tumor. His involvement in county and state 4-H livestock extension programs impacted his professional and personal life. At Cornell, he was involved in many groups such as the Cornell Dairy Science, Cheese, and Food Science clubs and became a member of the Alpha Zeta honors agricultural fraternity. He also belonged to the Cornell Dairy Fellows Program; a curriculum within the Animal Science department, which is well-known for training the future leaders of the dairy industry. Zachary has a passion for problem-solving, farm families, and agriculture as a whole. He believes ingenuity and flexibility are the keys to success for the exemplary people who are blind that he knows.

To read the biographies of the rest of our Mentors, click here.