On June 22, four students from the Kansas Braille Regionals earned top honors at the National Braille Challenge, which was held on the campus of the University of Southern California.
The competition, sponsored by the Braille Institute of America, invited the top fifty students, who read and write braille, to compete in five divisions–ten contestants in each division. They completed tests in spelling, proofreading, reading comprehension, speed and accuracy, and reading charts and graphs. After several hours of grueling reading and writing, the top three contestants in each division received cash and other prizes.
Twelve year old Brooke Petro, won first place in the Sophomore Division. She also won the 2019 Excellence in Charts and Graphs Award! Brooke – a native of Leawood, Kansas – is a very inquisitive, creative and determined person, enjoys singing reading and learning about geography. If she was invisible for a day she would sneak into a concert of one of her favorite singers like Ariana Grande or Billie Eilish. Brooke believes the greatest invention is the white cane because it prevents her from running into things and helps her get around.
Fourteen year old Audrey Bethay, won first place in the Jr. Varsity Division. Audrey – from Prairie Village, Kansas – describes herself as a funny, smart, witty, quiet and shy person. When she grows up she would like to be a lawyer, and if she could time travel she would go into the future 20 years from now. The accomplishment she is most proud of is making it to the national Braille Challenge 8 years in a row.
Eight year old Blue Springs, Missouri native, Salome Cummins, won first place in the Apprentice Division. When Salome grows up she wants to be a braille teacher! Salome is very active and loves to run! She is a very kind, curious, and sensitive 2nd grader. The accomplishment that she is most proud of is making it to the National Braille Challenge! Salome thinks that the greatest invention of all time is Alexa because she can play a lot of music and games on it.
Seven year old Jude Nickson, also competed in the Apprentice Division. Jude is a funny, kind, and creative 1st grader from Overland Park, Kansas. When he grows up he wants to work with animals! Jude is most proud of participating in wrestling and enjoys sports, swimming, listening to Alexa and playing with his siblings. Jude thinks that the greatest invention of all time is the Great Wall of China because it’s so massive!
What makes the success of these talented young people even more special is that Alphapointe provides the space for Shawnee Mission vision teacher, Jeri Hile and Alphapointe braille instructor, Helen Hahn, to conduct intensive study sessions to help the students prepare for the day of competition. Everyone works hard to make the most of each 90 minute study session. These students have one thing in common—they love to learn! And they are exhilarated by the competition. Their competence in braille literacy gives them the chance to learn and thrive with their sighted peers!
The Alphapointe team is proud of the accomplishments of Brooke, Audrey, Salome, and Jude! We hope they come back and study with us again next year.