Braille Challenge returns to East Meadow

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The East Meadow School District hosted the Long Island Regional Braille Challenge for the 13th time on Feb. 1, welcoming students, families and volunteers from across the region to the academic competition held at W.T. Clarke High School.

The Braille Challenge was developed by the Braille Institute to motivate students in grades 1-12 to practice their braille literacy skills. Participants are divided into five categories and tested on fundamental braille skills such as reading comprehension, spelling, speed and accuracy, proofreading, and charts and graphs.

The morning began with Braille Challenge Coordinator and visually impaired educator Petra Tarrant welcoming students and their families. She introduced Kaleigh Brendle, a 16-year-old student from New Jersey, to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Kaleigh, a frequent competitor in the Braille Challenge, has already qualified for the national competition in June.

Representatives from the district welcomed participants, including Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Dave Casamento, Assistant Superintendent for Business and Finance Dr. Patrick Pizzo, W.T. Clarke Middle School Principal Stacy Breslin and Director of Special Education and Pupil Personnel Services Patrice Dobies. Also present was board of education trustee Allyson Benowitz.

“The East Meadow School District prides itself on hosting, accepting and educating people of all abilities and we are proud to do so,” said Dr. Casamento.

Following introductions, the day of challenges began and students were divided into groups based on skill level. In addition to the academic tasks, students also participated in interactive workshops with the Long Island Bombers Beep Baseball team and Third Eye Insight – Fitness for the Blind.

In addition, representatives from a number of organizations attended the event to provide valuable information to students and their families. Organizations included Abilities of Long Island, Helen Keller Services, National Federation of the Blind BELL Academy, New York State Commission for the Blind, and VISIONS/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

The day concluded with a closing ceremony to recognize participants and to award them with certificates. Students who competed in the regional challenge are eligible to qualify for the national competition, which will consist of the top 50 students with the highest scores from the regional competitions. The national competition will be held this June in Los Angeles, California.

East Meadow was the first public school district to host a regional Braille Challenge and Patrice Dobies is proud of the annual turnout. “These students are to be commended, and I want to thank the parents for fostering a desire to learn in them,” she said.

A special thanks to the East Meadow SEPTA, the National Braille Press and the New York Institute for Special Education for their generous donations to the event. The district congratulates all of the participants and winners.