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A New World Within Reach for Social Welfare Student 

February 17, 2009



SSW student Courtney DeKorp

Today, Courtney DeKorp is a successful student in the School of Social Welfare. (Photo Mark Schmidt)

When Courtney DeKorp began losing her vision at the age of 26, she thought her life was over. Today, five years later, she is a graduate student in UAlbany's School of Social Welfare with a new-found confidence and a bright future ahead of her.

DeKorp is the recent winner of the Ruth Walsh Smith scholarship from the Northeast Association of the Blind at Albany. The $2,000 scholarship covers classes for the spring semester. DeKorp has combined her desire to achieve with practical networking and accessing resources at UAlbany.

First she moved from Castleton, where there is little public transportation, to Albany in October 2007, greatly enhancing her independence and mobility. Next she sought the services of the Northeast Association of the Blind and had an internship with the New York State Office of Children and Families Services through the Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped. Third, she made a decision to go back to school in 2006, and registered with the Office of Disability Resources at UAlbany.

"In fact, Nancy [Belowich-Negron, director of the Disability Resources office] is the one who told me about the scholarship in the first place," said DeKorp. "Thanks to her, I was considered and granted the tuition assistance."

It was one obstacle after another, when DeKorp's kidneys failed along with her eyesight, and she had a kidney transplant in 2004. "I was introduced to some very wonderful people who had gone through some of the same experiences and clinicians who helped me understand that my life could be full and that life goes on," DeKorp said. This experience led her to social work.

"I was fortunate enough to have my very first class with [School of Social Welfare] Dean Katharine Briar-Lawson, whom you may know as being one of the most soothing, understanding, and strong people. She made the return very doable. It could have gone really badly, but she made me feel like I could continue on to become a good social worker," said DeKorp.

Briar-Lawson said, "We are so thrilled to have Courtney honored with this award. She is an inspiration to so many, and this award is a reflection of her great talents and future impacts as a social worker."

Courtney DeKorp outside Draper Hall

Courtney DeKorp, shown here outside Draper Hall, has gained independence and confidence. (Photo Mark Schmidt)

Finally, DeKorp draws inspiration from SSW professor Lani Jones, who has also had a kidney transplant. "She (Jones) gives me hope that I will be able to handle life after I graduate," said DeKorp.

While obtaining reading materials in a format that her screen reader, JAWS, can read is an ongoing challenge, DeKorp is undeterred. She has "some amazing software" from the Commission for the Blind and NABA.

"One of the best things I have gotten lately is a little MP3-like product the size of a deck of cards that allows me to have 30 textbooks recorded and with me at any time. It is amazing and I can even work out while doing my reading. I think everybody would like that," DeKorp said.

"More than anything, the scholarship has helped my self-esteem, self-confidence, and made me feel that there is help out there. I hope one day that I can give back to someone so that they know the hope I have felt as a result of the things I have received," she added. 


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