Two North Carolina Students to Compete in National Braille Challenge

Raleigh, NC

Two elementary school students from North Carolina will compete Friday and Saturday in Los Angeles in the final round of the Braille Challenge, a series of events culminating in a national competition for students who are blind or visually impaired. 

The Braille Institute developed the Braille Challenge to motivate students to practice and hone their Braille literacy skills, which advocates of the reading and writing system consider essential to academic and employment success. All contestants in first through 12th grades who can read and write Braille are divided into five categories and tested on fundamental Braille skills such as reading comprehension, spelling, speed and accuracy, proofreading, and charts and graphs.

Winning North Carolina’s two regional Braille Challenge events in February were Layla Hildenbrand, a rising third grader from Glenn Marlow Elementary School in Mills River, and Braeden Robinson, a rising home schooled fifth grader from Cameron.

Layla, who won in apprentice group, was one of 23 students competing in the western regional Braille challenge held at Camp Dogwood for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Catawba County. Braeden, winning the freshman group, was one of 17 students who competed in the eastern regional event hosted by the Eye Shine Foundation. 

All regional contests were proctored by volunteer teachers of the visually impaired and scored locally by volunteer transcribers, based on national guidelines. Only the top 50 students nationally (10 in each category) with the highest scores are invited to the University of Southern California in Los Angeles for the final round, which includes two days of competition, camaraderie and fun. In North Carolina, two regional competitions are held. This year we are honored to have national finalists from both the Western and Eastern Braille challenge preliminary events. 

Braille allows users to communicate in print more precisely while adding another dimension to a person's writing, thinking and organizational skills. That's why supporters feel it is a necessary skill to be fully literate. But they are in a distinct minority among those who are blind.

More than 1,000 students (ages 3 to 21) in North Carolina public schools are legally blind, according to the NC Legally Blind Registry. But only about 90 of those students are reported to use Braille as their primary means for reading.

Previous recent North Carolina finalists for the national Braille Challenge were Hayes Hanvey (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools) and Alondra Pagan-Galarza (Wake County Schools) in 2017, Amare Leggette in 2016 and Camila Carvajal in 2015 (both from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools).

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 160 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.

This press release is related to: