For Keri, the hardest part is the technology. “With a brain injury, the quick recall isn’t always there, and trying to figure out how something works is a great challenge,” she says. “But then, when I think about it, I never was that interested in technology – I much preferred the gratification that comes from making people feel better,” she says.
She’s grateful, though, that she grew up when she did. “I’m as old as color TV. I remember when the remote was invented. I’ve seen technology shift from a much larger reference point than young people today have. We went from a mimeograph to a Xerox to a scanner and digital photo, and we learned how to do shorthand. When you think of it, texting is nothing but shorthand. I understand hacking because we had party lines. In fact, last year I got an iPad because of its magnification capabilities, and all I can think of is that I finally have Dick Tracy’s two-way wrist radio –it’s just not strapped to my wrist,” she says. “Being my age really has its advantages.”
Keri has learned to take her disabilities in stride – most of the time. “Sometimes I forget. I still feel like a 12-year-old inside, and I want to climb rocks,” she says. Because her disability is not physically apparent, people don’t recognize it. “Just the other day, I got cussed out because I parked in a handicapped space,” she says. “I just looked at the guy for a minute. Then I said, “What you don’t know is that I have a walker in my trunk, and it’s there for a reason. Sometimes that’s the only way I can get around.”
In 2010, Keri got her first AARP Foundation scholarship, which allowed her to transfer to Washington’s Howard University and pursue a double major in photography and filmmaking. “I was so glad that you didn’t ask me to write about dead artists on my application,” she says. “You asked me to write about the artist who is me.”
She reapplied in 2011 and received another scholarship for this year’s studies at Howard. “I can’t even begin to tell you how much the AARP Foundation scholarships mean to me. Your support has been so wonderful – someone is always calling me or emailing me to check in and see how I’m doing, and that has been so important to me,” she says.
“I’ve realized that emotional support becomes more important than ever when you grow older, or at least that’s how it has worked for me,” Keri says. “I want to be standing with people who have life challenges they never saw coming, who didn’t have the resources to deal with them and who had to find their way back out of nowhere. That’s what happened to me, and I bet that’s what happened to the other scholarship winners, too. AARP Foundation has given me a new way of life – or maybe I should say ‘a new life.’ I will always be grateful.”