NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship 2019 Recipients

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NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship

2019 Recipients 

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) announced the recipients of the 2019 NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship. Describing this year’s class of eight (8) college students with disabilities, Carrie Wade Programs manager at AAPD stated, "I'm incredibly excited about this year's class of scholarship recipients. They represent a wide variety of perspectives and interests, and are all united by a desire to advance disability representation in entertainment, media, and communications. I have no doubt that each of them will continue to do great things, and am thrilled that we are able to support them as the 2019 school year begins."
The NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship, named for a former United States Representative from California and the primary author and sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act, are made possible by generous support from NBCUniversal. The scholarship program provides support to undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities who are interested in pursuing a career in the communications, media, or entertainment industry.
“We’re proud of our partnership with AAPD and the work that we’re doing together,” says Craig Robinson, Executive Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer for NBCUniversal. “We share a commitment to supporting talented communicators and creators who bring varied perspectives and experiences to the conversation.”
Each recipient from the 2019 NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship was awarded for their outstanding and innovative studies in media related fields. Recipients were selected from a competitive pool of 127 students from colleges and universities from across the country. Recipients were chosen on the basis of their commitment to stronger disability representation across media industries. Award recipients received $5,625 each to help cover the cost of education at their current college or university.
The 2019 scholarship recipients are highlighted below:
Ryan Harman
University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts
Ryan Harman grew up in rural northern Idaho. He is currently working towards his MFA in film. He received a BA in architecture from Columbia University and worked in contemporary art before resuming his education. Following graduation, he aspires to work as a writer and director for film and television. 
Madison Jennings
Pikes Peak Community College 
Madison Jennings is working towards a BFA in Illustration, specifically to be a concept artist for video games, animation, and a comic creator.As a member of several minority groups, including being adopted, African-American, and disabled, she was accustomed to seeing herself tokenized in media. Madison’s disappointment with frequent tokenism and a lack of dynamic minority representation is her motivation for becoming involved in media. She believes that there's no reason to settle when it comes to representation. 
Sajja Koirala
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Sajja Koirala became interested in communications and media at a young age and is motivated to improve the presence of people with disabilities in these fields.  She is currently a PhD student in the field of communication and information sciences at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she studies media accessibility and audio description. She hopes that her research will increase the participation of individuals with disabilities (as knowledge producers and consumers) in the fields of media and communication, and change the nature of audio description worldwide. 
Tara Martens
Madison Area Technical College
Tara Olivia Martens is a Communications undergraduate with a minor in Global Studies. Martens is a non-traditional return student who has accepted the challenges of higher education and is passionate about writing, singing jazz standards, thinking outside the box, and traveling at every available opportunity. She is also a writer and photojournalist, and opened her first photo gallery of post-field research expeditions that took place while she was in Africa in 2015. Advocating for herself and others has been of deep importance in her life and receiving a higher education, she believes, plays a crucial role in helping the community. 
Natalia Pozuelo-Arbide
John Carroll University
Natalia Pozuelo-Arbide, a Spaniard-American, is a 21-year-old studying Integrated Marketing Communication & Spanish Studies at John Carroll University, with the goal of a minor in Political Science. Natalia is the 2019-2020 Vice President of JCU’s collegiate chapter of the American Marketing Association. During the summer of 2019 as a Cleveland Clinic marketing communication intern, Natalia developed a strong passion for effective communication within the healthcare field. She also enjoys photography and campaign tactics in the fashion industry;. She is a member of the Business of Fashion, as she enjoys learning the latest global marketing communication trends.
Matthew Shifrin
New England Conservatory of Music
Matthew Shifrin is a singer, accordionist, and composer. He studies singing and accordion at the New England Conservatory of Music. He recently had his acting debut as a blind subway musician in Mark Turtletaub's "Puzzle," which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and is available for streaming on Amazon. Matthew loves helping blind people enjoy previously inaccessible forms of entertainment. He and a friend created a system of text-based instructions which let blind people build Lego sets independently, and he is now collaborating with Lego to generate text-based instructions using artificial intelligence. Matthew also founded the startup Project Daredevil and recently gave a TED Talk on creativity and accessibility.
Nikita Sibley
George Washington University
Nikita Sibley is a 24-year-old Media and Strategic Communications Masters student at George Washington University with a wealth of experience in campaign work in his home state of Florida and beyond. Nikita believes in the ability of good government to play a positive role in the promotion of social justice and is now transitioning towards a career in political communications. Being a part of the disability community himself, Nikita truly believes much good can be done by strengthening the bridge between the disability community and the public sector, as well as the value of much-needed representation, especially from those in the disabled community. 
Lindsay Varney
Loyola Marymount University
Born and raised just outside of Hartford, Connecticut, Lindsay Varney is a pure New Englander at heart and is completing her degree as a double major in Film & Television Production and Screenwriting at Loyola Marymount University. Passionate about entertainment in a variety of ways, Lindsay is a current intern at Live Nation Entertainment. She has also interned for the late-night television show CONAN and written music blogs and reviews published on Live Nation’s setlist.fm website, with the ultimate goal of becoming a writer. She hopes to one day create her own foundation dedicated to helping people with rare genetic disorders.
You can learn more about the NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship and previous recipients on the AAPD website. Please join us in congratulating this year’s recipients on their accomplishments and outstanding work.


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AAPD is a convener, connecter, and catalyst for change, increasing the political and economic power of people with disabilities. As one of the leading national cross-disability civil rights organizations, AAPD advocates for the full recognition of rights for the over 60 million Americans with disabilities. AAPD’s programs and initiatives have been effective in mobilizing the disability community through communications advocacy; cultivating and training new and emerging leaders with disabilities through leadership development programs; increasing the political participation of Americans with disabilities and elevating the power of the disability vote through the REV UP (Register! Educate! Vote! Use your Power!) Campaign; and advancing disability inclusion in the workplace through the Disability Equality Index (DEI) — the nation’s leading corporate benchmarking tool for disability equality and inclusion. To learn more about AAPD, visit www.aapd.com.