Smyrna resident proves blindness is no obstacle to educational and professional success
PRINCETON, NJ – Learning Ally, a 65-year old nonprofit serving individuals with learning and visual disabilities, has bestowed its highest award to Greg Aikens of Smyrna, Georgia. Aikens is one of six students from across the U.S. who will receive cash awards of $6,000 and travel with their families to be honored at Learning Ally’s National Gala celebration in Washington, DC this April.
Aikens has been totally blind since the age of 12, having lost his residual vision to Glaucoma. For the past year, he has worked as a teacher of students who are blind and visually impaired in the metro Atlanta area. He graduated in August, 2012 from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University with an M.Ed. in Visual Disabilities and also holds an M.Div. in Intercultural Studies from the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary and a B.S. in Computer Science from Wake Forest University.
While completing his seminary studies, Aikens participated in an internship in Central Asia which introduced him to the needs of people with disabilities in developing nations. His experiences overseas inspired him to pursue a career in teaching with hopes of serving abroad in the future. He is passionate about international development and harbors a long-term goal to work with the blind as well as the greater disability community in developing nations.
“Learning Ally played an important role in my educational career from grade school to graduate school,” Aikens says. “When I lost the remainder of my eyesight in seventh grade, textbooks in audio format were crucial in helping me make the transition to working as a totally blind student. This will continue in professional life as I work with blind children and adults. I love my job as a teacher; my students are full of joys and challenges. Connecting with them as a blind adult who can relate to their struggles and triumphs is tremendously rewarding.”
About the National Achievement Awards
Since 1959, Learning Ally has honored exceptional students who are blind or visually impaired through its privately endowed Mary P. Oenslager Scholastic Achievement Awards (SAA) for college seniors and beyond. Hundreds of students apply for these prestigious awards each year and are selected by committees of Learning Ally volunteers, board members, parents, educators, donors and staff. Students are recognized for their academic excellence, leadership, and service to others; each award winner has a long list of honors and accomplishments, and has graduated with a GPA above 3.0, with most near the 4.0 mark; and they have thrived on their education paths thanks in part to their use of accessible educational content and assistive technology provided by Learning Ally. For information about applying for Learning Ally’s National Achievement awards, visit https://learningally.org/NAA/apply
About Learning Ally
Founded in 1948, Learning Ally serves K-12, college and graduate students, veterans and lifelong learners – all of whom cannot read standard print due to blindness, visual impairment, dyslexia, or other learning disabilities. Through its programs and audiobooks, Learning Ally enables families and schools to manage the needs of students with learning disabilities. The organization offers integrated learning management systems and professional development for teachers, as well as support for parents through personal consultations, webinars and other tools. In addition, Learning Ally’s collection of more than 80,000 human-narrated textbooks and literature titles can be downloaded on mainstream smartphones and tablets, and is the largest of its kind in the world. Several thousand volunteers help to produce the educational materials, which students rely on to achieve academic and professional success. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, Learning Ally is partially funded by grants from state and local education programs, and the generous contributions of individuals, foundations and corporations. For more information, visit https://learningally.org
Contact: Doug Sprei
Learning Ally PR & Communications