Matthew Cho and Emely Recinos, two teens from the Upper West Side, were among 15 legally blind teens recently awarded $10,000 college scholarships by the Lighthouse Guild.
Lighthouse Guild scholarships are based on strong academic accomplishment and merit to help students who are legally blind successfully transition to college and graduate school. So far, the scholarship program has awarded over $2.7 million in scholarships for almost two decades.
One of those recipients, Matthew Cho, will be attending Marymount Manhattan College as undergraduate student in the fall. The 19-year-old, who lost his vision at the age of 15 due to a brain tumor, had to adapt to a new way of living. Cho, who wants to pursue a Psychology major and become a music therapist, says the Lighthouse Guild has been a great help for him.
“Throughout the years of my vision impairment the Lighthouse Guild has been right there by my side,” Cho said. “I feel that the Lighthouse Guild has not only supported me but has embraced me with the staff, the teachers and the friends that I have met throughout my journey — winning the scholarship means so much to me and I’m very grateful.”
Cho says he will benefit from the scholarship by using it to pay for his tuition, books, supplies and adaptive materials to invest in his academic success.
“In my first surgery, I had a music therapist who came to relieve me in my stress. I felt so relieved that I wanted to make a difference in other people’s lives,” he said.
Another recipient is Emely Recinos, 25, who will be a graduate student at Syracuse University College of Law. This is Recino’s second time receiving the scholarship: she previously received the scholarship for her undergraduate studies to attend New York University.
Recino, who lost her vision at the age of seven, was diagnosed a year later for a rare genetic condition called cone-rod dystrophy (CRD). Teachers were able to convert class assignments into an accessible format for Recinos and she was able to participate in class and be academically successful. She is hoping to pursue a Juris doctorate and become a lawyer.
“I wanted to become a lawyer after seeing the importance of law in my own life,” Recinos said. “The law has protected me and my rights to be in public education. I understand some of those barriers that some people that don’t speak Spanish face when they’re having to advocate for their children with disabilities.”
Recinos, a first generation Salvadoran American, hopes to help the community internationally.
“I would like to join an international disability rights organization and advocate for greater disability rights protections globally,” Recinos stated in her application essay.
Recinos already got a taste of that work working with unaccompanied immigrant children. In her application essay, Recinos said the work motivated her to “learn about how disability law intersects with immigration law, and how to address the additional barriers faced by undocumented disabled youth.”
Fernanda Garcia, director of Research Operations at Lighthouse commends the generous donors throughout the years “who have provided several endowments in the millions.”
Garcia explained that any interest The Lighthouse Guild receives is always placed back into the scholarships.
“We have endowment money that is being continuously invested and then whatever interest rate we see, we use that to give the money every year,” she said.
Former scholarship recipients have gone on to pursue careers as nurses, attorneys, teachers, engineers, chemists, composers, musicians to name a few, according The Lighthouse Guild Program.
“It’s challenging for young people today to achieve their higher education goals, and students who are visually impaired face particular challenges,” said Calvin W. Roberts, MD, President and CEO of Lighthouse Guild. “We are pleased to support these outstanding students, so they have a clearer path to success in their chosen careers. I congratulate them on their academic achievements and wish them well in the future.”
The Lighthouse Guild has a scholarship committee that meets at the end of April to select the applicants for the scholarship.
“We always receive such a high-level pool of applicants that it’s very hard to decide who is chosen for the scholarship,” Garcia said. “Matthew and Emely stood out not just because of their academic achievements but also the fact that they give back to the community — it’s not just about them. They want to give back to those that are visually impaired and people from disenfranchised communities. They truly believe in what they stand for. It’s so admirable that these students do what they do on top of being visually impaired. This is just a small sample of applicants of what a wonderful of a pool of students we receive.”
“Matthew and Emely stood out not just because of their academic achievements but also the fact that they give back to the community — it’s not just about them,” Fernanda Garcia, Director of Research Operations at Lighthouse Guild said.“They want to give back to those that are visually impaired and people from disenfranchised communities. They truly believe in what they stand for. It’s so admirable that these students do what they do on top of being visually impaired. This is just a small sample of applicants of what a wonderful of a pool of students we receive.”