22 students from both the Calgary Public and Catholic School boards attended this annual event, held at the Vision Resource Centre in Calgary on February 7, 2013. Regional contest materials are provided by The Braille Institute of America, who host over 30 blindness organizations or schools for the blind regional competitions in the United States and Canada, for a total of over 700 students participating in the event. They also provide a Victor Stream digital recorder for the top scorer, and certificates for braille books from several publishers in the U.S. as additional prizes. The final competition, hosting top candidates from the regions, is held in Los Angeles at the end of June each year. We have had successful candidates in the finals every year since the Challenge was held here, and for the last several years one of our students has won first prize overall.
The Alberta Society for the Visually Impaired in Calgary has been sponsoring this event in our region since 2005. They provide a lunch and snacks for the student participants and the adults who organize the event. This organization also donated five cash prizes, in addition to a braille book and a gift bag for all of the participants.
Students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 are assessed for their reading and writing of braille in five areas: proofreading, reading comprehension, spelling, charts and graphs, and speed and accuracy. The youngest students may work in either contracted or uncontracted braille.
Our overall winner was a first-time participant, Connar Reid, a Grade 11 student.
Second Place - Arkezia Mella, Grade 8
Third Place - Nikita Smith, Grade 6
Fourth Place - Alex Lowe, Grade 4
Most Improved - Mackenzie Parker, Grade 4
Besides the participation in the events, one of the most heartening parts of the day was seeing the students socialize during breaks, lunch, and for the last hour of the day, when they wrote thank you letters to ASVI, chatted amongst themselves and shared in a cake made by one of the Braille Assistants for the event. For several of the students, this was their first time taking part in the Braille Challenge and the more seasoned veterans took the opportunity to make new friends and put them at ease. Connar, who is an accomplished pianist, chatted with a grade 4 student who also takes lessons and they discovered that they both enjoy Korean pop music. An older student in the group discovered that a younger child, who, like herself, wore leg braces. These times were filled with much noise and excitement and everyone left looking forward to getting together for the 2014 Braille Challenge. Thank you to everyone who, once again, made this day a success for our students.
Vision Resource Centre - Calgary