SYRACUSE, NY – Aurora of CNY, Inc. presented its Excellence Awards recently at its annual meeting at the Mulroy Civic Center in Syracuse.
The awardees are:
Nasser Fitwi: Blind since he was eight years old, Fitwi came to Syracuse almost two years ago from a refugee camp in Ethiopia. Without the help of any vision at all, he had to learn his way around and adjust to a new culture, country and climate. Aurora helped with mobility training, assistive devices such as tape recorders, and advice on handling the reams of paperwork that face a new immigrant. Fitwi learned quickly and now he is working to give back and help others. At Aurora he tutors consumers in English as a Second Language. He lives in Syracuse.
Timothy Conners: Conners, an 11th-grader at G. Ray Bodley High School in Fulton, says he’s up for the challenge of dealing with both cancer and blindness. It’s a relatively new challenge for him. He became legally blind just over a year ago due to the cancer, and he had a bone marrow transplant last year. Conners is still a member of G. Ray Bodley’s varsity football team, and wears his jersey when he goes to games to root for his team. Conners, who lives in Fulton, said he plans to attend college after graduation.
Lindsay Ryan Anthony: Anthony, who has been deaf all of her life, has a long history with Aurora. She worked in Aurora’s Summer Education Program and then joined Aurora’s Deaf Employment Services staff. During her time at Aurora, Anthony held lunchtime sign language classes for staff, took part in the agency’s Deaf Awareness Week activities, and was always willing to do whatever was necessary to represent Aurora and educate the community about deaf culture. Anthony is a member of the Deaf Advocacy Council of Central New York and now works for Project Emerge, a collaboration between Arise and Vera House, where she advocates for people with disabilities who experience domestic and sexual abuse. Anthony lives in Syracuse.
Breanne Kisselstein: Kisselstein, who is a senior at Cicero-North Syracuse High School, is dealing with the dual challenge of being hard of hearing and legally blind. She maintains a 90 GPA and her plans include college and a career in science. An active volunteer at her church — Assembly of God in Brewerton — she works in the nursery, belongs to the youth group, and helps out wherever there is a need. She also spent this past summer working at the Aspen Athletic Club and recently enrolled in the Explore Your Future Program at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester. Her NYS Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped counselor, Beth Bigness, says Kisselstein is devoted to her family and friends and calls her a “positive, forward-looking, caring, personable, down-to-earth young lady.” Kisselstein lives in North Syracuse.
Affordable Cleaning Service: Affordable Cleaning Service, based in Hastings, is Aurora’s Employer of the Year. The service specializes in general home, business and office cleaning as well as waxing, stripping and buffing of floors. Owner Rosemarrie Stone has hired some of Aurora’s deaf clients to work for a variety of customers, including a post office, an apartment complex and an office building. Stone is flexible about their transportation schedules and is also eager to learn about deaf culture and the deaf community.
Laura Smith: Smith was awarded Aurora’s Mattie Letham Community Leadership Award. Diagnosed with macular degeneration in 1997, she is the president of the Oswego County Visually Impaired (OCVI) organization. Along with members of the Vision Network, she advocated with the Oswego County legislature to reinstate funding for transportation for OCVI members. She founded the Oswego County Book Club and continues to draw Oswego County residents who have vision loss into the network of support and social opportunities provided through OCVI. “Laura has been a tremendous support to me personally and professionally, and she is a strong and loyal advocate for the people we serve,” said Debra Chaiken, Aurora’s executive director. Smith lives in Oswego.
Aurora of CNY, Inc. is the only non-profit that works exclusively with people in Central New York who are deaf, blind, visually impaired or hard of hearing.
Aurora is a United Way agency of Central New York and Oswego and Cayuga counties.
For more information, call Aurora at 422-7263 (TDD 422-9746).