Defending champion Richelle Zampella from Muskogee took home the Harley Fetterman Award for Excellence in Charts and Graphs at the national Braille Challenge competition in Los Angeles.
This was the third time Zampella, now a sophomore at the Oklahoma School for the Blind, has competed at the national level.
In 2015, she won first place in the junior varsity division at national Braille Challenge against students from the United States and Canada. This year, Zampella took second place.
“I am satisfied with how I did this year,” she said. “I am honored to be the first person to receive the charts and graphs award named in honor of Harley Fetterman, and it was great to share the excitement of placing in the top three in junior varsity with some friends I made who also placed.”
Braille Challenge is a national program sponsored by the Braille Institute, a nonprofit organization that eliminates barriers caused by blindness and severe sight loss.
This year in the Oklahoma Regional Braille Challenge, Zampella earned first place honors in the junior varsity division and first place overall for grades seven through 12. The competition was held in February at the Oklahoma School for the Blind.
Nationally, her scores placed her in the top ten among 213 contestants in her division at 47 Regional Braille Challenge events. A total of 1,123 Braille students in grades one through 12 participated at the regional level.
The Braille Challenge measures students’ proficiency in Braille reading and comprehension, speed and accuracy, spelling, proofreading and tactile graphics.
“I think the level of competition was much higher than last year,” Zampella said. “On more than one occasion I had to remind myself, ‘Don't focus on how far they got or how quickly they finished the tests, don't compare yourself to them.’”
Zampella plans to compete again in 2017.
After high school, she plans to pursue a career as a professional saxophonist and music teacher. This was her sixth time competing in The Braille Challenge and her fifth in the finals.
The Oklahoma School for the Blind has achieved a 100 percent graduation rate for five years. Academic programs are fully accredited with a focus on state-mandated education requirements and specialized skills that help students live independently. In 2015, 158 students lived at the school Monday through Thursday, commuted from home or attended summer school classes. OSB provides thousands of free evaluations, consultations and outreach services each year for students attending local public schools, their families and educators.
For more information about the Oklahoma School for the Blind, phone 918-781-8200 or visit http://osb.k12.ok.us/.