29 June 2015

Two Iowa Residents Place In National Braille Challenge

LOS ANGELES (June 22, 2015) – On Saturday, June 20th, Bettendorf, IA resident Emily Groves and Adel, IA resident Lauren Thomson both placed 3rd in their age range at the 15th Annual Braille Challenge®in Los Angeles, the only national reading and writing contest in braille for students who are blind and visually impaired. Sponsored by Braille Institute, The Braille Challenge is an academic competition designed to motivate students and emphasize their study of braille, while rewarding their success with fun-filled, challenging events. This year, regional Braille Challenge events were held at 46 different sites in the US and Canada from January through March. Collectively, more than 1,100 students participated in the regional events. Fifty-seven finalists (three finalists were unable to travel to the event) from the United States and Canada competed over the weekend.

"Braille is a crucial tool that opens the doors of literacy and drives educational advancement and future employment opportunities," said Peter Mindnich, President, Braille Institute. "We continue to be inspired each year by the passion and commitment of the students who compete in The Braille Challenge. Their achievements can empower others who are affected by sight loss to develop their braille skills as well."

Of all the literacy issues in America, braille literacy is one of the most underrated and overlooked, and advancements in technology have not replaced the need for children who are blind or visually impaired to learn to read using this vital medium. Understanding how essential braille literacy is for success in the sighted world, Braille Institute developed the two-phase, annual competition as a way to encourage children who are blind and visually impaired to fine tune their braille skills and celebrate their accomplishments.

“This challenge has influenced so many families who have a child or children who are blind or visually impaired. For many participants, this is their only opportunity to truly test their skills against others academically.” said Nancy Niebrugge, Associate Vice President of National Programs, at Braille Institute.

2015 Winners of The Braille Challenge (full list of all contestants is available):

FIRST PLACE

Apprentice Brooke Petro, Leawood, KS

Freshman Richard Tienter, Ballwin, MO

Sophomore Christopher Abel, Acworth, GA

Junior Varsity Richelle Zampella, Muskogee, OK

Varsity Cricket Bidleman, San Diego, CA

SECOND PLACE

Apprentice Maggie Wehrle, Victoria, BC, CAN

Freshman Audrey Bethay, Prairie Village, KS

Sophomore Kaleigh Brendle, Freehold, NJ

Junior Varsity Kate Antolak, Venice, FL

Varsity Harley Fetterman, Austin, TX

THIRD PLACE

Apprentice Emily Groves, Bettendorf, IA

Freshman Jennifer Kasunick, Bay Village, OH

Sophomore Paige Drury, Glastonbury, CT

Junior Varsity Mitchell Bridwell, Pittsboro, IN

Varsity Lauren Thomson, Adel, IA

TEACHER OF THE YEAR Patricia L. Leader, San Jose, CA

NBC4 AWARDS

Reading Comprehension Kate Antolak, Venice, FL

Spelling Brooke Petro, Leawood, KS

For additional information about the competition and this year’s winners, please visit www.braillechallenge.org.

About Braille Institute

Braille Institute is a nonprofit serving tens of thousands of people of all ages through an array of integrated educational, social and recreational programs and services designed to help people with vision loss lead enriched and fulfilling lives. Funded entirely by private donations, all services are free. For additional information, please visit www.braillechallenge.org or www.brailleinstitute.org. Follow Braille Institute on Facebook and Twitter (@BrailleInst).

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