Glen Rock resident proves visual disability is no obstacle to educational and professional success
Learning Ally, a nonprofit educational organization serving individuals across the U.S. with visual and learning disabilities, has bestowed its highest award to Susan Vanino of Glen Rock, NJ. Vanino 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.
Vanino began losing her vision after developing juvenile macular degeneration at age eight. Despite her vision loss, she he has shown remarkable determination while navigating her way through major obstacles and life changes. Now at 58, she is a non-traditional student who returned to college in 2010 to earn a bachelor’s degree after raising two children. In May 2013, she graduated Magna Cum Laude from Ramapo College with her bachelor’s degree in Social Work.
Vanino is now pursuing a master’s degree in the Advanced Standing Masters of Social Work program at New York University. After graduating in May 2014, her professional goal is to work in an agency setting where, she says, “I can strengthen individuals and families affected by disabilities, so they can adapt to handle the stresses and challenges accompanying their journey in reaching their full potential.”
Since 2005, Vanino has worked as the program coordinator for the Adjustment to Vision Loss Project (AVL), where she has maintained an extensive network of nearly 60 peer groups supporting people experiencing vision loss. An accomplished speaker, trainer and mentor, she also volunteers on the Glen Rock Handicapped Persons Advisory Board and as a Board member of the Garden State Guide Dog Users.
Through her leadership roles, Vanino enjoys sharing education resources with others. “Each time I educate an individual about the benefits of resources like Learning Ally and the positive impact it has had on my life, I feel a sense of pride, knowing I am able to help another person and the community we share. I am in a unique position to have opportunities to educate students, faculty, and staff about many things related to vision loss. Information about the advantages of Learning Ally could significantly change an individual’s life, just as it has mine.”
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 http://NAA.LearningAlly.org/apply.
About Learning Ally
Founded in 1948, Learning Ally serves thousands of 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 http://LearningAlly.org