Braille Institute Announces 60 Braille Challenge Finalists from US & Canada

More Than 1,100 Visually Impaired and Blind Students Competed in the International Competition

Final Winners to be Announced June 20th After Daylong Finals at Braille Institute Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES--()--The 15th Annual Braille Challenge, the only national reading and writing contest in braille for students who are blind and visually impaired, announced the 2015 finalists (see list at end of release). The top-scoring 60 finalists, ages six to 19, will gather June 20 for a daylong academic competition, camaraderie and fun at Braille Institute in Los Angeles

“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.”

Using a device called a Perkins Brailler, #BrailleChallenge finalists will embark on the daylong competition to showcase their skills in five categories: reading comprehension, spelling, chart and graph reading, proofreading and speed and accuracy. Following the competition, winners will be announced at an awards ceremony highlighted by musical performances and celebrity attendees honoring the incredible achievements of the 60 finalists.

"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."

Sponsored by Braille Institute (www.brailleinstitute.org), 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.

“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.

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.

The 2015 finalists (and cities) are (listed alphabetically):

APPRENTICE (1st and 2nd Grade Students)
Bryant Cisneros Hernandez, Lawrenceville, GA
Lauren Ellis, Spartanburg, SC
Landyn Francis, Lawrenceville, GA
Emily Groves, Bettendorf, IA
Summer Johnson, Austin, TX
Calli Larison, Alexandria, KY
Bella Liborio, Coconut Creek, FL
Teresa Liu, San Francisco, CA
Zachary Nolin, Spencer, IA
Brooke Petro, Leawood, KS
Fernando Reyes, Farmington, NM
Maggie Wehrle, Victoria, BC, CAN

FRESHMAN (3rd and 4th Grade Students)
Hailey Baskeyfield, Noble, OK
Audrey Bethay, Prairie Village, KS
Holly Connor, Mercer Island, WA
Sujan Dhakal, Glen Burnie, MD
Josh Goldenberg, Simi Valley, CA
Marin Gundlach, Belleville, WI
Jennifer Kasunick, Bay Village, OH
Andrew Mueting, Dodge City, KS
Ciara Peterson, Tucson, AZ
Julia Stockburger, Nottingham, MD
Richard Tienter, Ballwin, MO
Katelynn Zampella, Muskogee, OK

SOPHMORE (5th and 6th Grade Students)
Christopher Abel, Acworth, GA
Samantha Bomberger, Lincoln, NE
Kaleigh Brendle, Freehold, NJ
Camila Carvajal, Charlotte, NC
Donavan Chasson, Sulphur, LA
Paige Drury, Glastonbury, CT
Yael Korc, Oak Hill, VA
Julia LaGrand, Grand Rapids, MI
Ryan Menter, Berwick, ME
Joey Parra, Tucson, AZ
Richard Yamamoto, Towanda, KS
Xinyou (Ella) Yu, Delta, BC, CAN

JUNIOR VARSITY (7th, 8th, 9th Grade Students)
Baylee Alger, Green Bay, WI
Kate Antolak, Venice, FL
Chloe Ashford, St. Amant, LA
Emily Bowe, Gilbert, AZ
Mitchell Bridwell, Pittsboro, IN
Kelly Cusack, Glenmont, NY
Jessica Lemond, Davisburg, MI
Jack McPadden, Winchester, MA
Griffin Miller, W. Bloomfield, MI
Mikaela Smith, Valparaiso, IN
Ashlee Thao, Overland, KS
Richelle Zampella, Muskogee, OK

VARSITY (10th, 11th, 12th Grades Students)
Keisha Anderson, Lower Nicola, BC, CAN
Cricket Bidleman, San Diego, CA
Annabelle Costanzo, Polk City, IA
Danielle Cowan, New York, NY
Harley Fetterman, Austin, TX
Brandee Hick, South Jordan, UT
Jessica Minneci, Fairview, PA
Christopher Nusbaum, Taneytown, MD
Natalia Ratcliffe, Carson, CA
Hannah Saunt, Canton, OH
Lauren Thomson, Adel, IA
Alyssa Townsend, Burr Ridge, IA

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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Release Summary

The 15th Annual Braille Challenge, the only national reading and writing contest in braille for students who are blind and visually impaired, announced the 2015 finalists

Braille Institute