District Hosts 10th Annual Braille Challenge

District Hosts 10th Annual Braille Challenge

The district hosted the 10th annual Long Island Regional Braille Challenge for students of Braille on Feb. 4 at W.T. Clarke High School.
The Braille Challenge is an academic competition developed by the Braille Institute of America to motivate school-aged visually impaired or blind children to continue their study of Braille.

During the challenge’s opening ceremony, members of the W.T. Clarke High School pep band performed as the six participants gathered in the Little Theater for recognition.

In his welcoming remarks, Superintendent of Schools Leon J. Campo acknowledged these students who excel in the study of Braille.
“We’re here today to recognize our Braille champions as they continue to accomplish, overcome and demonstrate what they are capable of,” he said. “We are the beneficiaries of their hard work.”                          
Patrice Dobies, the district’s director of special education and pupil personnel services, expressed her gratitude to the district, Board of Education, Braille Challenge Coordinator Petra Tarrant, volunteers and sponsors for hosting and coordinating the annual event.

“Thank you to everyone who made today’s Braille Challenge a success,” she said. “This day could not have happened without all of your hard work, dedication and commitment. I am so proud of all these students and am blown away by their amazing ability to read and write in Braille.”
Following, students had the opportunity to participate in three interactive workshops. In the first, they practiced martial arts and self-defense techniques with Sensei Devin Fernandez from Third Eye Insight in West Islip. With the help of volunteers, participants learned defensive moves using their knees, fists and elbows.  

The students transitioned to the classroom for the second workshop, where they displayed their proficiency in reading, writing and comprehending in Braille. They also created valentines using cookie cutters, metallic paper and stickers.

During the third activity, students met and played with members of the Long Island Bombers Beep Baseball team, a group of players who demonstrate their version of baseball by using beeping baseballs and bases. The young students ran the bases and located the baseball from the sound of its buzzing.  

At the closing ceremony, the students received Braille Institute medallions, certificates of recognition and goody bags for participating in this year’s 10th annual Braille Challenge. Participants and their families also attended a brunch graciously provided by the East Meadow Special Education PTA.

Among the participants in the Braille Challenge were Meadowbrook Elementary School second-grader Kayla Ochtera, Bowling Green Elementary School third-grader Matthew Palmeri and Woodland Middle School seventh-grader Robbie Stahl.

The regional event is the first step toward the national competition, which will be held in June at the Braille Institute’s headquarters in Los Angeles. Students from across the nation are in the process of completing preliminary testing in the hopes of qualifying among the top-scoring 60 contestants. Those top scorers will advance to nationals to represent their state as they compete against the best Braille students from across the United States and Canada.