The Mary P. Oenslager Award is open to college seniors or graduate students who are blind or who have low vision. The deadline for submitting an application is just around the corner on November 30, 2020. If you are a Learning Ally member who meets these criteria, you can brush up your application essays during your Thanksgiving break. We'd love to hear from you! Read more about the award and submit your application here.
We interviewed one of our most recent winners, Timothy Jones. We hope you enjoy his story!
Timothy Jones is a winner of the Mary P. Oenslager Scholastic Achievement Award. Timothy was born blind and was homeschooled; he used braille to access textbooks and course materials. Due to the age of some existing braille books and the prohibitive cost of producing new braille books, his family sought an alternative. When he was about eight, Timothy's mother heard about Learning Ally (Recording for the Blind and Dyslexia at the time) during one of her TVI courses at Georgia State University.
This discovery changed Timothy's academic career. His comprehension increased significantly, especially when accompanied with a braille display. At first, he used technology such as a 4-track tape recorder from his local chapter of the Georgia Council of the Blind and a Victor Reader WAVE. In high school, as technology advanced, Timothy used a computer and a PacMate and later a BrailleSense braille display to access his books. The enormous catalog of audiobooks allowed him to comprehend his material much more quickly and to succeed in high school. He graduated with a 4.0 thanks to Learning Ally.
In the summer of 2015, right before starting a Bachelor of Music at Mercer University, Timothy discovered the College Success Program while browsing for audiobooks. The program gave him the ability to connect both with other blind student and with a great source of encouragement: his mentor. He had previously met his mentor at Columbus State University, where he was a music major as well. Overall, the CSO provided an enormous amount of support for Timothy during his college journey. Timothy went on to receive numerous honors and awards, such as the Al Camp Memorial Scholarship through the Georgia Council of the Blind, the Floyd Qualls Memorial Scholarship through the American Council of the Blind, and even graduated Summa Cum Laude from Mercer University.
Now, life is great for Timothy since receiving the award. Unfortunately, Timothy cannot hang out and play with other musicians due to COVID-19. However, he was able to attend the 2020 National Federation of the Blind Convention online. With his award, Timothy plans to pay for graduate school, and even have a little leftover for personal school related expenses. Since his mother helped him through undergrad, he would like to return the favor and help pay for graduate school.
To other blind and visually impaired students, Timothy offers three pieces of advice: work hard, press on during difficult times, and build a strong network of both blind and sighted colleagues. Peers who are blind can help you find resources, and peers who are sighted can provide a competitive environment for you to grow.
Hear from Timothy himself about what this award means to him in this video.
Learning Ally's National Achievement Awards applications can be found here.