Learning Ally Blog: Access and Achievement

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Now more than ever, people with learning and visual disabilities are flourishing in the classroom, launching productive careers and becoming assets in their communities. This blog spotlights remarkable individuals who demonstrate that having a visual or print disability is no barrier to educational success.


Brenton Fuchs Wins Learning Ally National Award
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This article, written by Pam Johnson, appeared on 12/4 in The Guildford Courier, a newspaper in Guildford, Connecticut, as well as online on Zip06.

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A recent graduate (cum laude, with University Honors in business) from American University, Kogod School of Business in Washington, D.C., Brenton Fuchs (shown here during a business school tour of the White House) will return to Washington in April to be recognized as one of three top winners of the Learning Ally National Achievement Award. Non-profit Learning Ally provides an online library of 75,000 accessible audio textbook and titles-the largest in the world. The award recognizes blind and visually impaired college graduates for academic excellence, outstanding leadership, and service to others. Growing up in Guilford, Brenton Fuchs recalls, "My parents always had high expectations for me, so I tend to set a lot of personal goals." The Guilford High School Class of 2008 alumnus has already achieved many remarkable goals. By all signs, he's only getting started. Born prematurely, Brenton lives with poor vision, including having lost the use of his right eye. While some may view it as a setback, "the way I look at it, blindness is a characteristic that describes me, but it doesn't define who I am," says Brenton, who can also be called the definition of success. In May 2012, he received a B.S. in business administration, cum laude, with University Honors in Business, from American University, Kogod School of Business. In April 2013, Brenton will be honored as a top winner of the Learning Ally National Achievement Award, which comes with a $6,000 scholarship. He'll use the scholarship when applying for business graduate school, but first plans to gain several years' work experience in his chosen field, marketing. Scholarship winners are selected from an exemplary pool of recent college graduates recognized for academic excellence, outstanding leadership, and service to others. "I applied for a scholarship from them and won their top award, for which I'm very honored," says Brenton. "I thank the Learning Ally volunteers, who put in hundreds of hours of training to record texts and pleasure-reading books, to a lesser extent, in digital format to make them available to the blind and those with other levels of disabilities." Learning Ally services have been familiar to him since his Cox Elementary School days, but, Brenton says, "The first time I was really able to appreciate it was in college, when the amount of reading was exponential. Because I can't read fast, I was able to instead listen to the books, as fast as I could listen. And to have a human voice reading the books is really fantastic and to have the [speakers] explaining charts and graphs in texts like finance was so helpful." Like so many talented business majors, Brenton gained practical experience, too. He interned in New York City with MetLife, reporting to the vice president of Global Brand, Marketing, and Communication (2011) and before that, with Workforce Alliance (2010), reporting to the director of Marketing. Brenton helped with several marketing communication initiative plans at both posts, including his development of a survey for Workforce Alliance, which located an under-served population in New Haven (Brenton then created a social media initiative to reach them). With MetLife, he helped launch the MetLife Employee Benefits Resource Community website as a host website of The New York Times. "I loved my experience at MetLife. I commuted to New York each day by train," says Brenton, currently back in Guilford with his family, including mom Deborah and dad Kurt (Brenton also has a younger brother, Garrett, and older brother, Cameron). While still in Washington, D.C., at American University, Brenton was director of Marketing for Kogod School of Business Undergraduate Business Association and a "Road Scholar," traveling to London, England for an intensive one-week business innovation immersion. He heard talks given by executives from Harrods and Lloyds of London, to name a few. Within that trip also lies the story of just one of many hurdles Brenton's become used to facing in his life. "When I was selected go on the trip, I got a lot of pushback from the travel agency" about being legally blind. "I was flummoxed. After a lot of discussion, I was able to go." Despite his many achievements, experience, and proven ability, finding a job is also proving difficult. Brenton's currently doing mentoring, pro-bono, and non-profit consultant work. "I've observed a great disparity of how blind people, especially, are viewed by potential employers. There's a great misunderstanding of blind people by the public and potential employers. Of the blind population, I was stunned to learn about 70 percent are currently unemployed," says Brenton, who, of course, did his research. "We work our entire lives to overcome obstacles and achieve. Many of us would be an invaluable asset to the workforce." The experience has made a deep impression on Brenton. When the time's right, he plans to do something about it. "I'm looking for a career in marketing; I hope to gain more experience in the field, and down the road, use the skills I've acquired to market blind people to potential employees." http://www.theday.com/article/20121204/NWS10/312069801/-1/zip06details&town=Guilford&template=zip06art


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