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Vision Impaired Student Determined to Succeed

June 18, 2010

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UAlbany junior Brenda Talbot has won a scholarship from the Northeastern Association of the Blind.

UAlbany junior Brenda Talbot has won a scholarship from the Northeastern Association of the Blind. (Photo Mark Schmidt)

Brenda Talbot, of Schenectady, N.Y., handles being legally blind as she does everything else -- with wit, humor, and a solid support system.

The junior psychology and communication major recently moved from home to campus to take summer courses, and is getting used to finding her way around.

"I love living on campus so far. It's very accessible, and my roommates Jen (McKinnis) and Terri (Lewis) are amazing," said Talbot, who is working toward a Ph.D. in psychology. As she familiarizes herself with her new surroundings, occasionally bumping into furniture, Talbot kids and jokes with McKinnis, a senior biology major from Glenville, N.Y., who also has vision problems, and Lewis, a senior psychology major from North Chatham, N.Y. The three roommates met at the Driving Force commuter club and quickly became friends.

Talbot began to lose her eyesight at 17 due to a genetic condition that damages the retina. A text-to-speech program on her computer reads text aloud to her. She uses a wheelchair because of other disabilities.

She credits Nancy Belowich-Negron, director of the Disability Resource Center and D. Ekow King, director of Multicultural Student Success, with helping her adjust to navigating the UAlbany campus.

"Nancy has kept me on my toes. Without her constant support, I wouldn't have adjusted to the University as well as I have," said Talbot, who won a UAlbany President's Leadership Award and a Disability Resource Center award earlier this year. She has a 3.6 GPA.

From left, roommates Jen McKinnis, Terri Lewis, and Brenda Talbot.

From left, roommates Jen McKinnis, Terri Lewis, and Brenda Talbot share a laugh. (Photo Mark Schmidt)

King has also been a great support. "He has taken the time out of his busy schedule to help me walk and learn the campus, as well as support my learning Braille, and encouraging me to do the things I'm scared to death of doing…such as crossing a busy street. Both he and Nancy have made a huge difference in my life," said Talbot.

The Northeastern Association of the Blind at Albany (NABA) recently awarded Talbot the third annual Ruth Walsh Smith Scholarship. The award is $2,000. Ruth Walsh Smith, who died in 2006, provided the scholarship money in her will so that an award would be made each year for five years to a legally blind woman pursuing higher education or career training.

"This scholarship is allowing me to continue my dream of going to college. It is helping me become a better person myself, but it is also helping me learn so I can help other people as well," said Talbot.

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