NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media ScholarshipThe NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship recognizes eight (8) students with disabilities who are passionate about increasing disability representation in the media, communications, or entertainment industries.
The NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship annually provides eight (8) scholarships to high school seniors, undergraduate, and graduate students with disabilities who are pursuing careers in media, communications, or entertainment industries. Each recipient receives $5,625 to help cover the cost of education at their college or university.
With partnership from NBCUniversal, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is proud to announce the recipients for the 2023 NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship. Applications for 2024 will open in Spring 2024, with further details to be announced.
This scholarship has been named in honor of Tony Coelho, a former United States Representative from California and the primary author and sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the House.
Coelho was elected to Congress in 1978 and served for six terms until 1989. During his terms, Coelho authored the original ADA, signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. By 1994, the U.S. Census Bureau reported 800,000 more people with severe disabilities were employed than when the ADA was first enacted, in large part thanks to the work of Coelho, his successors, and predecessors.
From 1994 to 2001, after being appointed by President Bill Clinton, Coelho served as Chairman of the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. He also worked as the Vice Chair of the National Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities. In 1998, Clinton appointed Coelho as the United States Commissioner General at the 1998 World Expo in Portugal. Clinton also appointed Coelho as Co-Chair to the U.S. Census Monitoring Board, a position he held until his appointment as general chairman of the Gore Presidential Campaign.
Meet the 2023 Recipients
Cristina Arellano Chiroque
Cristina is an aspiring Product Designer, and Higher Education advocate passionate about storytelling. She graduated from Tufts University, located in Medford, MA, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Human Factors Engineering, a mix of engineering and psychology. She was born in Arequipa, Peru, grew up in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, and traveled throughout the Northeast for most of her young adulthood. She believes a more inclusive and equitable workforce is necessary to provide a diversity of thought. Her goal is to create a more accessible and inclusive landscape within media that represent people with disabilities, including invisible disabilities. As someone with an invisible disability, she wants to encourage others to take charge of their own stories that help reduce the stigma around mental health. She considers herself a mental health and inclusion advocate.
Taiwo Adebowale is a rising freshman who will attend Howard University this fall. Under the Cathy Hughes School of Communications, she is pursuing an education in strategic communications on the advertising track. Throughout high school, she studied literary arts at Carver Center for Arts and Technology, where she developed her voice as a writer and grew interest in various kinds of media. She has been recognized for her work, being one of the sixteen Scholastics Art and Writing Gold Portfolio recipients of 2023. After college, Taiwo plans on using her degree to advocate for more authentic representations of marginalized groups in media and eliminate pervasive the stereotypes within it.
Melina List is an undergraduate interdisciplinary studies major at Emerson College. Within the Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies, they study community building and storytelling, with a minor in Health and Society. At Emerson, they are the Co-President for Advocacy at Access: Student Disability Union, and the Editor in Chief of Generic Literary Magazine. Born and raised in the greater Boston area, List is a passionate writer, reader, artist, gardener, and friend.
University of South Florida
Gabrielle is a junior at the University of South Florida, studying humanities and cultural studies, film and new media studies, and political science. She is also a student researcher who focuses on the socio-political context of popular media products. Gabrielle aspires to be a screenwriter and creative producer whose work focuses on using research and academic theories to inspire narratives which actively counteract negative stereotypes surrounding marginalized groups. She hopes to shed light on the complexities in the existence and experiences of minorities, including the BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and disabled communities. She also plans to pursue further education in entertainment law and business with the intent of one day founding her own entertainment media company.
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
Devon is a student at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona with a passion for technology. He aspires to integrate engineering solutions to make filming sets and equipment more accessible. Devon is interested in research around design and customized modifications, such as adjustable camera mounts, adaptive lighting systems, and inclusive sound equipment, to ensure that individuals with mobility, sensory, or visual disabilities could actively participate in the production process. He believes these innovations not only empower individuals with disabilities but also create an inclusive environment that fosters their creative contributions. By providing technical expertise and insights, Devon aims to promote accurate portrayals and challenge stereotypes by collaborating with casting directors, producers, and writers to ensure authentic representation of individuals with disabilities on screen. This can include utilizing AI-based facial recognition technologies to improve casting processes and ensure fair and inclusive representation of individuals with disabilities. This involves collaborating with casting directors, producers, and writers to ensure authentic representation of individuals with disabilities on screen.
Fennik is a film production student at Hofstra University, looking towards a future in production management or art direction. In addition to being a student, they are a freelance visual and performing artist who works in just about every medium they can get their hands on and loves working with clients and other artists to bring creative ideas to life. Fennik has a passion for storytelling and hopes to use it as a way of furthering diversity, equity, and inclusion both in their personal life and in their work. Their experience as a queer and trans person with several chronic illnesses has made them a resilient disability and LGBTQ+ rights activist, and proud mobility aid user. In their free time Fennik is an avid reader, an RPG enthusiast, and a dog lover. They are grateful to receive this scholarship to support their education, and look forward to continued collaboration and creation in the coming years of their degree program.
University of Arkansas-Fayetteville
Kadesha (she/her) is a third-year Public Policy Ph.D. student at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville. As a doctoral student born and raised in Nassau, Bahamas, Kadesha moved to the United States in 2014 to pursue higher education studies. Her circuitous journey navigating the landscape of higher ed accommodations, combined with her previous work as an assistant Test Center manager for students with disabilities, coalesced to spark her interest in policy studies. Kadesha is currently pursuing the Social Justice track of her program, and she researches critical disability studies, students with disabilities, and access to higher education. Kadesha has a growing interest in global disability studies and exploring the use of podcasting to experiment with how researchers can lean on public media tools to bring marginalized voices into traditionally exclusionary spaces. Her career goals involve working with think tanks to explore accessible and participatory ways to bring people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups into policymaking spaces while engaging them on important issues and empowering them with agency to foster an active citizenry. She is honored to receive this prestigious award and thankful to NBC Universal & the Tony Coelho Media Scholarship Committee for supporting her studies.
Ruby Lee is a filmmaker, photographer, and community organizer born and raised in Rainier Beach, Seattle. As a kid, she was introduced to grassroots artists and activists working to foster creative leadership in the community’s youth. Through free arts education programming in Seattle, Ruby explored realms of her identity at wonderful non-profit organizations like Youth In Focus, Rain City Rock Camp, The Vera Project, NFFTY, and more. Access to free arts education was vital to who she is as an artist today, and she believes in the unity between creative expression and social justice. As Ruby heads to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, she strives to create work she wishes she could have seen in her developmental years as a queer, BIPOC, neurodivergent woman. Ruby is passionate about advocating for the amplification of diverse youth voices and accessibility to art expression for all young people.
Learn About our Past Scholarship Recipients
Scholarship Application Process
Applicants for the 2023 NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship must:
- Be currently enrolled as an undergraduate or graduate student at and plan to be enrolled during the fall 2023 semester, or (2) a current high school senior and plan to enroll at a college or university during the fall 2023 semester.
- Self-identify as a person with any type of disability.
- Be interested in pursuing a career in communications, media, or entertainment (all majors are welcome to apply, including computer science, engineering, information technology, statistics, etc)
- Currently attending a college or university in the United States, or plan to attend a college or university in the United States during the fall 2023 semester. You do NOT need to be a U.S. citizen in order to qualify.
PLEASE NOTE: You will not be required to disclose your specific disability at any point in the application, selection, or scholarship process. However, your application for this scholarship will signify that you self-identify as a person with a disability. This is a scholarship run specifically for students with disabilities by AAPD.
Applicants for the 2023 NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship release information provided on their application for use by AAPD, program funders, and potential employers.
The NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship requires that recipients must maintain continuous fall semester enrollment at their university. If awarded, students who will not be enrolled in Fall 2023 semester must notify AAPD by July 15, 2023, or as soon as reasonably possible when an unanticipated leave is required.
A deferment is used when a student is not enrolled at their university for the Fall 2023 semester in which the NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship is offered. The deferment can be extended within one year from the awarded date (i.e. Fall 2024).
Approval of a deferment extends semesters of eligibility only. It does not increase the amount of the award in any semester. Students must maintain the renewal requirement (i.e. pursuing a career in communications, media, or entertainment industry) for continuation of the award to be eligible for a deferment.
A deferment request cannot be approved if the student requests after the deadline of July 15, 2023.
Requirements for Seeking Deferment
If the reasons for requesting deferment are other than the student’s own mental health, injury, or disability, student must:
- Attach a personal statement explaining circumstances of the request, which should be no longer than one page in length
- Attach supporting documentation (e.g. letter of support from academic advisor, letter of acceptance to non-university study abroad program, call to active duty, etc)
Regardless if a student is requesting deferment related to or other than student’s own mental health, injury, or disability, students must email AAPD at firstname.lastname@example.org with the official university deferment letter by the deadline and the official university reenrollment letter when applicable.
Applications must be received by Monday, May 22, 2023 by 5:00pm ET. Applicants must submit an online application with the following information:
- Unofficial transcript from current college or university
- Three (3) 300-word essays (topics provided below)
- One (1) letter of recommendation from a professor, academic advisor, or mentor. If preferred to send directly to AAPD, please email the letter to email@example.com with the title “(First and Last Name) – 2023 NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship”
- Additional portfolio of creative work (optional)
It is recommended the applicant should type up their essay answers in a separate word processing form in case there is an error with submitting an application. All applications must be submitted with all required attachments via the application portal. We are not able to consider incomplete applications.
Completed applications received by AAPD by Monday, May 22, 2023 by 5:00 pm ET will be collected and submitted for review by our Selection Committee.
PLEASE NOTE: All applicants will be evaluated based on demonstrated leadership characteristics, involvement with the disability community, engagement within the communications and/or media and entertainment fields, and success in coursework. AAPD reserves the right to alter this list of criteria during the selection process.
The essay questions are as follows:
Essay 1: Share your career goals related in media, communications, or entertainment industries and how these goals will advance the disability rights movement. (300 words max)
Essay 2: Describe a past experience related to media, communications, or entertainment that you are most proud of and please share why. (300 words max)
Essay 3: Which career path with media, communications, and entertainment (examples: marketing, public relations, production, performance, research, journalism, etc) are you most interested in and why? (300 words max)
It is recommended the applicant type up their essay answers in a separate word processing form in case there is an error with submitting an application. All applications must be submitted with all required attachments via the application portal. We are not able to consider incomplete applications.
Our Selection Committee will select applications for a final review.
All applicants will be notified of a decision by mid-July 2023.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-521-4316 with any questions or concerns.