Braille Institute Announces International List of Top 50 Youth Braille Readers/Writers

Apr 26, 2017 by

Finalists Who Began Their Path Alongside More Than 1,100 Visually Impaired & Blind Students Will Compete in The Braille Challenge Finals Held This Year at the University of Southern California

Los Angeles – April 26, 2016 – Braille Institute, host of The Braille Challenge (  – the only national reading and writing contest in braille for students who are blind and visually impaired – announced the top Braille Challenge 2017 finalists (see list at end of release). These 50 finalists, ages six to 19, their families and industry leaders will gather on June 17 on the campus of the University of Southern California for the annual Braille Challenge finals academic competition, camaraderie and fun.

Knowing that braille literacy is essential for success of youth with low to no vision, Braille Institute developed the two-stage annual competition, now in its 17th year, to encourage children to fine tune their braille skills and celebrate their accomplishments.  This year more than 1,100 braille readers participated in one of 51 preliminary regional events across the US and Canada.

The top 50 Braille Challenge finalists compete in five categories: reading comprehension, spelling, chart and graph reading, proofreading and, speed and accuracy. Once the competition is complete, the top three finalists in each age category are recognized at a special awards ceremony honoring all 50 finalists and their families.

For the first time in the 17 year history of the annual event, Braille Institute has moved The Braille Challenge finals from its Los Angeles headquarters to the USC campus. In this move, Braille Institute staff worked with USC to create a Braille Challenge Village environment so that each family can stay in apartments on the campus and experience the excitement of college life.  As students compete, parents are invited to attend special workshops, classes, and tours.   Additionally, finalists and their families can participate in hosted on and off campus excursions to popular Los Angeles spots.

“The Braille Challenge is a hallmark program for Braille Institute as it focuses on braille literacy while supporting children with vision loss in communities across the country and in Canada to strengthen their academic and social skills,” said Peter Mindnich, President, Braille Institute. “We see participants blossom with confidence, self-assurance and a belief that they can accomplish anything they set out to do. The rewards are immeasurable for everyone involved in the annual event.”

“We are thrilled to move our 2017 Braille Challenge Finals to the University of Southern California, one of the world’s leading private universities,” said Sergio Oliva, Director of National Programs, Braille Institute. “By having students and their families spend time in college classrooms and apartments, we hope to demystify many elements of higher education and related support services so that youth we serve and their families are encouraged to pursue their education and career dreams.”


The 2017 Braille Challenge finalists list along with additional information can be found here:



APPRENTICE (1st and 2nd Grade Students)


Carmynn Blakely                                Louisville, KY                                      American Printing House (Kentucky)

Kaylei Carie                                        Dubois, IN                                           Indiana School for the Blind

Hayes Hanvey                                    Charlotte, NC                                     North Carolina (Western)

Hunter Kelly                                        Claremore, OK                                   Oklahoma School for the Blind

Miles Lima                                          Manteca, CA                                      Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired (No. CA)

Darren Ou                                           Sunnyvale, CA                                   Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired (No. CA)

Alondra Pagan-Galarza                      Fuquay-varina, NC                             North Carolina (Eastern)

May Resendiz                                     Avon, IN                                              Indiana School for the Blind

Sheema Shaikh                                  Corona, CA                                        Braille Institute (Southern CA)

Matthias Vescelus                              Noblesville, IN                                    Indiana School for the Blind


FRESHMAN (3rd and 4th Grade Students)

Emily Groves                                      Bettendorf, IA                                     Iowa Braille School

Caden Johnson                                  Red Deer, AB                                     Alberta Society for the Visually Impaired (Canada)

Calli Larison                                        Ft. Wright, KY                                     American Printing House (Kentucky)

Christopher Morgan                           Lithia Springs, GA                              Georgia Academy for the Blind

Brooke Petro                                     Leawood, KS                                      Kansas State School for the Blind

Alden Porter                                       St. Augustine, FL                               Florida (North)

Philip Sotak                                        Westerville, OH                                  Clovernook Center for the Blind (OH)

Logan Strickland                                Orlando, FL                                        Florida (East)

Bryce Sumner                                    West Bend, WI                                   Wisconsin Center for the Blind

Maggie Wehrle                                  Victoria, BC                                        British Columbia, Canada


SOPHOMORE (5th and 6th Grade Students)

Audrey Bethay                                    Prairie Village, KS                              Kansas State School for the Blind

Eunbyul Cho                                       Anaheim, CA                                      Braille Institute (Southern California)

Holly Connor                                      Chesterfield, MO                                Missouri School for the Blind

Sujan Dhakal                                      Glen Burnie, MD                                Maryland School for the Blind

Anthony Moncman                             Center Valley, PA                               Maryland School for the Blind

Ciara Peterson                                   Tucson, AZ                                         Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and Blind

Ian Receveur                                      Georgetown, IN                                  Indiana School for the Blind

Julia Stockburger                               Nottingham, MD                                 Maryland School for the Blind

Sean Strasser                                    Columbus, GA                                    Georgia Academy for the Blind

Katelynn Zampella                             Muskogee, OK                                   Oklahoma School for the Blind


JUNIOR VARSITY (7th, 8th, 9th Grade Students)

Christopher Abel                                Acworth, GA                                       Georgia Academy for the Blind

Jalen Ballard                                       Toldeo, OH                                         Individual   (Ohio)

Kaleigh Brendle                                  Freehold, NJ                                      Individual    (New Jersey)

Paige Drury                                        Glastonbury, CT                                 The Carroll Center (Massachusetts)

Julia LaGrand                                     Grand Rapids, MI                               Michigan Dept. of Education-Low Incidence Outreach

Annette Lamas                                   Miramar, FL                                        Florida (South)

Ryan Menter                                       Berwick, ME                                       The Carroll Center (Massachusetts)

Griffin Miller                                        Valencia, PA                                       Individual   (Pennsylvania)

Joey Parra                                          Tucson, AZ                                         Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and Blind

Mitchell Smedley                                Ivyland, PA                                         Individual   (Pennsylvania)


VARSITY (10th, 11th, 12th Grades Students)

Baylee Alger                                       Green Bay, WI                                    Wisconsin Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Kate Antolak                                       Venice, FL                                          Florida  (West)

Cricket Bidleman                                Morro Bay, CA                                   Braille Institute    (Southern California)

Mitchell Bridwell                                  Pittsboro, IN                                       Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Luther Fuller                                       Lawrence, KS                                     Kansas State School for the Blind

Brandee Hick                                      South Jordan, UT                               Utah Foundation for the Blind

Ashlee Thao                                       Overland Park, KS                             Kansas State School for the Blind

Lauren Thomson                                Adel, IA                                               Individual     (Iowa)

Alyssa Townsend                               Burr Ridge, IL                                     Illinois School for the Visually Impaired

Richelle Zampella                              Muskogee, OK                                   Oklahoma School for the Blind


Braille Institute is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to eliminate barriers to a fulfilling life caused by blindness and severe sight loss. It serves thousands of adults and youth each year through a broad range of educational, social and recreational programs designed to help people with vision loss lead enriched and fulfilling lives. Services are provided through six Southern California centers and hundreds of other community locations. Additionally, Braille Institute’s national programs encourage school age students to pursue braille literacy and orientation and mobility skills. Funded by private donations, all services are free of charge. For more information, visit:, or on twitter @BrailleInst.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.