Scholarship recipient Ellie Thompson.
Congratulations to Ellie Thompson! She is one of the Council’s outstanding scholarship recipients for 2021 and is receiving $2,000 to support her continuing education.
The Madison 18-year-old plans to attend Madison College this fall. She started taking college classes after recently graduating from the iForward Wisconsin Online Charter School. She attended Madison East during the first three years of high school. Ellie is currently working as a counselor at the Wisconsin Lions Summer Camp in Rosholt.
Ellie has created educational videos to advocate for people who are visually impaired or blind, sharing the positive messages on her YouTube channel. She produced and starred in a 14-part series during low vision awareness month in February of 2021 and plans to continue providing content about living with a visual impairment.
Council writer Teri talked with Ellie to learn more about her hopes for the future and why she believes every day offers something beautiful.
Teri: Why are you looking forward to continuing your education?
Ellie: There are a few reasons. The first is to reach my goal of being a special education teacher. Second, as a student who is visually impaired, I understand the struggle to learn when trying to access textbooks, worksheets, or material on the board. But I don’t take any education I get for granted and value every ounce of it to help myself and others.
Teri: What makes you proud of yourself and what you’ve accomplished so far?
Ellie: Overall, I am proud of myself for where I am in life right now. Not many 18-year-olds can say they’ve already started college classes right out of high school or have their dream job at Lions camp. According to the numbers I have found from the National Federation of the Blind, 60 percent of all students who are blind or visually impaired drop out of school. Unfortunately, it doesn’t surprise me with how many challenges we face. However, the fact that I have defied this statistic makes me incredibly proud of myself.
Teri: You mentioned you are working at the Wisconsin Lions Camp. Can you tell me more about it and why this is important to you?
Ellie: I am working at the Wisconsin Lions Camp, a place that is near and dear to my heart! If you don’t know about this camp, it serves individuals with disabilities. It is one of the five projects of the Lions Foundation, and most certainly the biggest. Every week a new group of campers arrives, with a different disability being served. I attended the blind and visually impaired week as a young camper for five years. Now I am a counselor at camp, and it’s already the most fun and rewarding experience of my life. Camp provides a safe place to make connections with each other and try new things that in your everyday life might be inaccessible. So, knowing I am part of the staff making this beautiful place a positive space for the campers is a dream come true for me.
Teri: In your scholarship application you wrote that you truly believe that your positivity and passion to push through the bad, and live vibrantly through the good, shows the passion you have in your heart to better yourself with more education. How do you keep this great attitude?
Ellie: It can be hard to maintain a positive attitude, and I have my negative moments too. In terms of how I keep this (positive) attitude for the most part, I just think about all the beautiful things. Something as simple as filling my lungs with air or hearing the chirping of birds. These are the things that are such small beauties, so I ground myself by being thankful for all of it.
Teri: Is there one thing you hope those who read your story will remember about you?
Ellie: The message that no matter your circumstances, you can always improve yourself and the world. Being visually impaired, I’m faced with many challenges. But it also gives me a unique perspective on life, and I plan to use my own life to improve the lives of others in the world around me.