The 12th annual Long Island Regional Braille Challenge returned to W.T. Clarke High School on Feb. 2 when the East Meadow School District hosted students, families and volunteers.
The Braille Challenge is an academic competition developed by the Braille Institute to motivate school-aged visually impaired or blind children to continue their study of Braille.
Visitors were welcomed by members of the W.T. Clarke High School band, and participants marched into the school’s cafeteria for the opening ceremony while district officials, families and community members cheered them on.
Petra Tarrant, the Braille Challenge coordinator and teacher of the visually impaired, welcomed the day’s guests and students before introducing 15-year-old Kaleigh Brendle, a New Jersey native, who sung the “The Star-Spangled Banner” to kick off the event. It was then announced that Kaleigh has already qualified for the national competition in June at the Braille Institute’s headquarters in Los Angeles.
Among those on hand to greet the attendees were Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Card Jr., W.T. Clarke High School Principal Timothy Voels, W.T. Clarke Middle School Principal Stacy Breslin, Director of Special Education and Pupil Personnel Services Patrice Dobies and Board of Education member Marcee Rubinstein.
“It is always an honor to host this Challenge as a district and I want to wish all the best to today’s participants,” said Dr. Card.
Principal Voels added a thank you to all of the parents, volunteers and building workers for their added dedication and commitment to this event each year. He added, “year after year it is a thrill to welcome back the students for a great day at Clarke High School.”
“This is one of my favorite days of the year,” said Ms. Dobies. “I look forward every year to see the growth of the challenge and of the students involved. Congratulations to all the participants.”
Following the introductions, students transitioned to classrooms based on their expertise level and began the day of challenges. Testing included areas of speed and accuracy, proofreading and spelling, as well as charts and graphs. Participants also took part in creating crafts and playing goalball with representatives from Camp Abilities Long Island. The students learned techniques on how to dive and block the ball, and properly roll the ball to earn points.
Other exhibit and informational tables were available to parents and students with groups from the New York Association of Blind Athletes, New York Metro Blind Hockey, New York State Commission for the Blind and the Long Island Bombers Beep Baseball Team. There was also a table where individuals could participate in a Braille book swap.
The day concluded as all participants received certificates of recognition, Braille Institute medallions and goody bags. The regional event is a qualifier for students to move on to the national competition in June. The top-60 contestants will be selected to represent their state at nationals and compete against those from across the United States and Canada.