Future Reflections         Summer 2011

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Braille Readers Are Leaders 2010-2011

by Natalie Shaheen

Andrea Cordero-Perez, a winner in the K-1 category.From the Editor: As blind people we know that Braille literacy is one of the keys to success for blind adults. The annual Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest embodies our commitment to literacy for blind children. Contest organizer Natalie Shaheen describes the 2010-2011 competition.

For almost three decades the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC), and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB) have encouraged blind children across the country to be proud of their ability to read Braille. The Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest challenges them to improve their reading skills. The children who participated in the contest back in the early years have grown up to be adults with careers and families. Many of them have assumed leadership roles within our organization.

For the past several years the program has followed the same basic timeline. Students pre-register for the contest in October. The reading period--the portion of the contest when the students put their Braille skills to work--runs for sixty-five days from November 1 to January 4, Louis Braille's birthday. Throughout the reading period the participants keep track of the number of Braille pages they read. At the conclusion of the reading period the judges review the reports that the students submit. They determine the top three winners in each category and the winners of the special awards.

This year over six hundred students from forty-two states registered for the contest. Between the categories, special awards, and Team of the Year Award, twenty-eight contestants won prizes in the K-12 competition. These twenty-eight students come from twelve different states, and many of them have been winners in previous years. Here is a full list of the winners in the 2010-2011 K-12 contest and the number of pages read by each one.

Grades K-1

Andrea Cordero-Perez, AZ, 1,638 pages
Camille O'Neill, NE, 1,356 pages
Aunya Anderson, GA, 1,112 pages

Grades 2-3

Christian Adams, IN, 18,584 pages
Alayna Hall, IN, 15,425 pages
Taengkwa Sturgell, IN, 9,469 pages

Grades 4-5

Ahbee Orton, TX, 14,051 pages
Noah Mondor, IN, 12,073 pages
Rosanna Scott, AR, 11,393 pages

Grades 6-8

Lucas Leiby, PA, 9,846 pages
Vejas Vasiliauskas, CA, 9,655 pages
Julianna Reala, NY, 6,595 pages

Grades 9-12

Jonathan Wong, CA, 15,754 pages
Daniel Dintzner, MA, 14,254 pages
Destiny DiMattei, MD, 11,304 pages

Community Service Awards

The Community Service Awards are given to participants who performed a service within the community with the help of their Braille skills. Johnathon Welscott served as an announcer for the athletic department of his middle school. He used Braille notes that included game night rosters and the names of game officials. Chris Mossberger researched local businesses which he could ask for donations to help families of blind children attend the NFB national convention in Orlando. He composed a Braille letter requesting donations and transferred it to the computer so it could be printed.

Chris Mossberger, IN, ninth grade
Johnathon Welscott, MI, eighth grade

Jennifer Baker Awards

These awards are given to contest participants who met special challenges in order to learn and use Braille.

Christian Adams, IN, third grade
Andrea Cordero-Perez, AZ, first grade
Taengkwa Sturgell, IN, third grade

Twin Vision® Awards

These awards are granted to students who are learning to read both Braille and print.

Bryanna Daniels, CA, seventh grade
Amber Steet, TX, twelfth grade
Danielle Sturgeon, MA, seventh grade
Jessica Vaughan, IN, third grade

Team Spotlight

This year six teams competed for the title Braille Readers Are Leaders Team of the Year. The Chinese Phoenix Readers rose above all of the others. This team consisted of four fourth-grade girls from Texas, Arkansas, and Michigan, all of them adoptees from China. The team's original goal was to read 20,000 pages. The Chinese Phoenix Readers blew right past their goal, reading a total of almost 34,000 pages as a group. Through a Facebook page and frequent phone calls the girls kept each other and their fans up-to-date on their progress throughout the contest. As Team of the Year, the Chinese Phoenix Readers become the spokespersons for the 2011-2012 Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest.

Chinese Phoenix Readers

Ahbee Orton, TX, fourth grade
Rosanna Scott, AR, fourth grade
Jenna Scott, AR, fourth grade
Calli Bowman-Tomlinson, MI, fourth grade
Team's Total Pages: 33,828

National Convention Trip

In addition to the standard contest, an essay contest was conducted to select twelve students to win a trip to the NFB national convention. Each of these twelve winners, along with a parent or guardian, had the opportunity to attend the convention. They were recognized at various meetings, and some of them even got the chance to speak publicly. Best of all, the students met thousands of other blind people, young and old. They formed friendships and mentoring relationships that will last for many years.

The following students attended the national convention through the Braille Readers Are Leaders program:

Aunya Anderson, GA, first grade
Andrea Cordero-Perez, AZ, first grade
Bryanna Daniels, CA, seventh grade
Noah Mondor, IN, fourth grade
Ahbee Orton, TX, fourth grade
Julianna Reala, NY, seventh grade
Rosanna Scott, AR, fourth grade
Taengkwa Sturgell, IN, third grade
Danielle Sturgeon, MA, seventh grade
Jessica Vaughan, IN, third grade
Jonathon Welscott, MI, eighth grade
Chris Mossberger, IN, ninth grade

The Future

We are approaching the thirtieth anniversary of the start of the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest. We are looking for feedback from current and former participants, as well as their teachers and parents. We want to know what you love about the contest, what you wish could be done differently, and what you would like us to add to the program.

It is of the utmost importance to us that our programs serve our members. Your feedback can ensure that we meet this goal. Please send us your feedback at <www.nfb.org/BRAL>.

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