Kansas City area student Brooke Petro was named a 2021 Braille Challenge National Champion for the sixth time, while Emrie Wisner finished in third place. Students learned of the results by watching a live online awards ceremony on Friday, July 30.
Petro, a resident of Leawood, Kan., became a national champion for the sixth time as she won first place in the “Junior Varsity” division, which features students from 7th-9th grade. Wisner, a resident of Olathe, Kan., finished in third place in the “Apprentice” category, which is for students in first or second grade. It was Wisner’s first time competing in the Braille Challenge. Both students have previously trained with Alphapointe braille instructors.
Somewhat of an equivalent to the Scripps National Spelling Bee for students who are blind or visually impaired, the Braille Institute started the Braille Challenge in 2000 and it remains the only competition of its kind in the United States and Canada. The Braille Challenge focuses on testing the capability of students in five primary areas: spelling, reading comprehension, speed and accuracy, proofreading and charts/graphs.
Annually, more than 1,000 students in both countries compete to advance to the national Braille Challenge event with only the top 10 students in one of five age groups advancing. Four Kansas City area students – Charlie Bethay (Prairie Village), Jude Nickson (Leawood), Petro (Leawood), Wisner (Olathe) – qualified for the national event. Qualifying meant the Kansas City students are in the top 95th percentile for braille aptitude among all students in the U.S. or Canada.
Typically held in Los Angeles, the national Braille Challenge was held remotely in 2021 due to the pandemic. Instead of competing in person, students were administered proctored tests in June or July by braille instructors.