Future Reflections Fall 1995, Vol. 14 No. 3

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A SALUTE TO THE WINNERS OF THE 1994-1995 BRAILLE READERS ARE LEADERS CONTEST

The National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille salute the winners of the 1994-1995 Braille Readers are Leaders Contest.

First we salute those of you who have, because of your participation in this contest, replaced feelings of shame about reading Braille with pride. We do not know your names, but you know who you are. You are winners because you proved to yourselves and others that the negative stereotypes about blindness and Braille are wrong. There is no shame in blindness; there is no shame in using Braille. You have rightfully developed confidence and pride in yourselves as competent Braille readers. Your accomplishment is exemplified by contest participant Paul Ruffner of Arizonia whose mother wrote:

"When we first started reading for this program my eight-year-old son said he was embarrassed to be reading Braille. We stuck with it, and I haven't heard another word [about being embarrassed]. I'm so proud of him!" Eunice

We salute you, Paul, and all other participants who are now proud to call themselves Braille readers.

Next, we salute the teachers, parents, and librarians who supported, encouraged, cajoled, and cheered on our contest participants. You are winners because you gave unselfishly of your time and energy to make this experience possible for your children and students. Without YOUR participation, there would be no contest and therefore no winners. You spent precious hours looking for books, even transcribing them, so that your students would have materials to read for the contest. You sat for hours with beginning readers listening to them read and giving gentle encouragement when they faltered. You thought of creative ways to make the contest even more fun and motivational for the children. You stand out among your peers for you are the ones willing to go the extra mile for your child or your student. You are winners, and we salute you!

Our third salute goes to every participant who exceeded his or her performance in previous contest years. The top five such students receive a special award, but ALL of you are winners. You were convinced that if you worked a little harder you could do better, and you did. You persevered, and those who persevere prevail, and those who prevail are winners. Just ask the tortoise and the hare!

A hearty salute goes to every participant who has a special difficulty or circumstance to overcome on the road to Braille literacy. This salute goes to students like Emilie Schultz whose mother wrote:

"Although my ten-year-old daughter has multiple disabilities and reads at about a first grade level, it's been fun for she and I to work together on this contest. Thanks!" Barbara

Then there are students like Gabino Lares. This is what Deborah Hartz, his English teacher, tells us about Gabino:

"Gabino had normal vision until the summer of 1994. He came to ASB October 6, 1994, but told administrators and counselors that he was not interested in learning Braille. He was scheduled for a normal academic load: computers, algebra, English, world history, career explorations, and P.E. (no Braille). The first day in my English class he saw Gaston who reads Braille and was using a Brailler. Gabino was out of his seat amazed and interested immediately. From the second day in my English class he would come in and during spare moments sit at a Brailler and ask how to Braille letters and signs. He Brailled his last quarter's final. Braille reading has only just begun. I showed him the mechanics of it in December and during the last two weeks of January he read these five pages: Dust of Snow, Robert Frost (one page), Everybody Tells Me Everything, Ogden Nash (one page), and Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss (three pages)."

Again, we salute Emilie, Gabino, and all other participants who must overcome difficult circumstances to become Braille literate. You are true winners!

Finally, we salute and recognize the top winners in each of the contest categories. These students won cash prizes and t-shirts for outstanding excellence in each of their respective categories. We also recognize, for the first time, two schools for the blind for their outstanding participation in the contest. This category has been met with much enthusiasm, and we plan to continue offering this award in the years to come.

All winners received special t-shirts. First place winners received $75, second-place $50, and third place $25. Most Improved Winners received $15. Each of the two schools for the blind received $100 and a special plaque for outstanding participation. Here are the 1994-1995 Braille Readers are Leaders contest winners:

Print to Braille
First: Ashley Samp, California (grade 7), 2,530 pages.
Second: Kristin Hinman, Wyoming (grade 4), 750 pages.
Third: Anitra Webber, Utah (grade 12), 500 pages.

Kindergarten - First Grade
First: Elizabeth Catherine Causey, Georgia, 639 pages.
Second: Clayton Jacobs, Iowa, 562 pages.
Third: Kellie Hinman, Wyoming, 454 pages.

Second - Fourth Grades
First: Maria Gabriela Smith, Alabama, 9,263 pages.
Second: Jessica Barr, Massachusetts, 4,449 pages.
Third: Lauren Back, Iowa, 3,285 pages.

Fifth - Eighth Grades
First: James Konechne, South Dakota, 14,309 pages.
Second: Robert Riddle, Washington, 10,853 pages.
Third: Blake E. Roberts, Delaware, 8,838 pages.

Ninth - Twelfth Grades
First: Mike Gilmore, California, 7,315 pages.
Second: Christy Witte, Michigan, 3,753 pages.
Third: Rebecca Hart, Virginia, 3,749 pages.

Most Improved:
William Sparks, Virginia, grade 4.
Francisca Stenbuck, Massachusetts, grade 3.
Apolinar Gonzalez, Texas, grade 4.
Jessica Shofi, Oregon, grade 5 and second year as a beginning print to Braille reader.
Janet Quam, Iowa, grade 5.

School for the Blind Outstanding Participation Awards
Maryland School for the Blind: Certifying authorities Del Simmons, Librarian, and Chris Baugh, Braille teacher.
Participants: Cheryl Higgs, William Ransom, David Wells, Shakir Amjad, Germaine Gardner, Jennifer Baker, Lisa Johnson, James King, Jeremy Lincicome, Brian Blevinn, Laura-Sun Ceferratti, Frank Millner.

Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind: Certifying Authority Deborah Hartz, high school English teacher.
Participants: Gabino Lares, Ronald Talashoma, Sean McMahon, Karla Moreno, Anna Miller, Hannah Goodman, Juan Pablo Moreno, Larry Ruiz, Gaston Mascarenas, Andrea Barker, Josh Baker.

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