Kendra Holloway, a rising fifth-grader at Hawthorne Elementary, won first place in the freshman division of the National Braille Challenge in Los Angeles, Calif., on June 22.
Ten-year-old Kendra, who represented Georgia in the only national academic competition for blind students in the country, won $1,000, an iPad and a Freedom Scientific 400, an adaptive computer device with a refreshable Braille display.
Kendra’s victory came just after the death of her grandmother.
“It showed a lot of maturity that she could come back and focus,” said Stephanie Kieszak-Holloway, her mother.
The three-part competition tests participants’ spelling, reading comprehension and proofreading skills, said Kieszak-Holloway.
“It demonstrates the importance of Braille,” she said.
Some people think books on audiotapes are sufficient for the blind, Kieszak-Holloway said. “Braille is still important. It’s still necessary.”
According to the Braille Institute of America, “the purpose of the competition is to promote Braille literacy for blind children, because a blind child that cannot read Braille is just as illiterate as a sighted person who cannot read print. The competition has been likened to a blind version of the National Spelling Bee.”
In the competition, 60 of the top blind and visually impaired students from the United States and Canada test their Braille skills using special adaptive devices such as a Perkins Brailler to type, analyze and decode the Braille.
“Kendra is an inspirational kid who is not letting blindness get in the way of her success,” said Christine Valdez, a marketing coordinator for the Braille Institute.
Kendra has participated in three regional Braille contests at the Georgia Academy for the Blind in Macon. This year she won first place for her division.
An avid Braille reader, Kendra started learning to read Braille when she was 3 years old. She was on the principal’s honor roll at her school, placed first at the Georgia Braille Challenge in 2013 and earned an Accelerated Reader Award.
When she’s not busy her favorite books in braille, Kendra enjoys reading, writing, music and yoga.
Kendra also likes swimming and bicycling, Kieszak-Holloway said.
“And she loves technology,” her mother said. “I think she was motivated by the iPad.”
Kieszak-Holloway said the Braille competition is motivational for the students.
“It’s good for all of these kids to know that the skills they have are valued,” she said.
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