By Cathy Spaulding
The Norman Transcript
MUSKOGEE — Hailey Baskeyfield faced tough competition recently at the Braille Challenge — herself.
“She’s the only one brave enough for the freshman competition,” retired teacher Sharon Isbell said as Baskeyfield got acquainted with the writing device she would use for the competition.
The challenge, held recently at Oklahoma School for the Blind, drew 26 contestants, said Sherry Holder, the school’s Braille Challenge director. The challenge tests students on proofreading and reading comprehension. Younger students are tested on spelling. Older students compete in graph and chart reading.
“The challenge gives students confidence, encourages them to study and keep up their Braille skills,” Holder said.
Baskeyfield, a talkative 9-year-old from Noble who attends Norman’s Jackson Elementary School, showed plenty of confidence Friday morning as she prepared for the challenge.
“I Braille so fast,” Baskeyfield said. “I’m not doing speed and accuracy this time. That’s later in life.”
Baskeyfield won her two previous challenges. She placed first in the Overall First-Fourth Grade and Apprentice Uncontracted Braille in 2013, and first in Apprentice Contracted Braille in 2012.
She likes winning.
“It feels good. It feels awesome,” Baskeyfield said. “I’ve been to nationals, but I never won,” she said.
The top 60 scores in the United States and Canada compete in the National Braille Challenge, hosted in Los Angeles. Oklahoma School for the Blind is one of 43 regional sites for the competition.
Not every site would have a contestant placing in the top 60, Holder said.
“All the test scores (from regional sites) are submitted to the national competition,” Holder said.
OSB students have done well nationally. Holder said three students from OSB made it to the National Braille Challenge in 2013 — Katelynn Zampella, Richelle Zampella and Baskeyfield. She said Richelle, an OSB seventh-grader at the time, placed second in her division at the national competition.
Most contestants Friday came from OSB, but three came from other schools, Holder said.
Adison Apheatone, 6, came from Lindsay for his first attempt at the Braille Challenge.
“His vision specialist told him about it,” said Crystal Evans, Adison’s mother. “He was really excited to take it. He took a strong turn toward Braille, and he has excelled over the past few months.”
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