Sarah M. Swords
2003 Mary P. Oenslager Scholastic Achievement Award
US EDUCATION SEC’Y CITES ATLANTA RESIDENT AS STANDARD BEARER FOR ACHIEVEMENT
Blindness Does Not Slow Down Award-Winning Student
11 March, 2004 (Washington, DC) – Atlanta, GA, resident Sarah Swords was welcomed into the offices of two of Washington’s most powerful and influential policy makers today as part of the celebration of her National Achievement Award (NAA) from the national nonprofit Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic® (RFB&D®).
Sarah is one of four RFB&D NAA winners flown to Washington for receptions in the offices of US Education Secretary Rod Paige and Rep. Bill Young (R-FL), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Sarah is the recipient of the National Achievement Award Program’s 2003 Mary P. Oenslager Scholastic Achievement Award, given annually by RFB&D to college seniors with visual impairments who have demonstrated exceptional scholarship, leadership, enterprise and service to others.
“It is a privilege to meet young people of such accomplishment and character,” said Secretary Paige. “RFB&D's National Achievement Award winners are the standard bearers for achievement in education and stand as role models, not only for students with disabilities, but for every American with the desire to learn and to create.”
Unlike many RFB&D members, Sarah was fortunate enough to discover RFB&D at a young age. Having lost her sight due to a serious illness when she was in the sixth grade, Sarah appreciates the fact that she had “excellent teachers” who immediately introduced her to assistive tools, such as computers, braille and recorded books. With tapes in hand, Sarah embraced reading, something she had never done before due to additional difficulties with dyslexia. “At last, I could read all the books I had always wanted to read,” she recalls. “All the classics, novels, poetry and even magazines.”
In 1999, Sarah graduated first in a class of 637 from Stoneman Douglas High School and, with a nearly perfect SAT score, entered Princeton University. There, she flourished, graduating with honors in history and a GPA of 3.64. She participated in Princeton’s student government, served as a vice president of the Delta Delta Delta Sorority, delivered food to the needy as a volunteer for the University’s Crisis Ministries and helped out at the Trenton, NJ, Animal Shelter. She also served as a speaker regarding disability advocacy for the Nassau Club, Princeton Alumni Organization.
Sarah has studied at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and is pursuing a PhD in history at The College of William and Mary, where she is also a teaching assistant. “Because of RFB&D, I will remain an independent scholar both in the academic world and in the greater global arena,” she says.
RFB&D, a nonprofit organization, serves 127,000 students of all ages with a one of a kind library of 98,000 recorded textbooks and other educational materials. In Georgia, more than 2,600 students rely on RFB&D’s unique accommodation to access the printed page and to achieve educational success.
All of RFB&D’s accessible titles are recorded by volunteers working in 28 RFB&D recording studios nationwide, including Athens, GA.
For information about RFB&D membership, volunteer or support opportunities, call the Georgia Unit at 706-549-1313 or visit http://www.rfbd.org.