Shawnee Mission School District Student is Braille National Champion

Braille National Challenge
Shawnee Mission School District

Audrey Bethay, who will be a ninth-grader at Shawnee Mission East, won first place in the National Braille Challenge Junior Varsity Division. Bethay has qualified for national competition during her eight years as a Braille competitor.

As a Braille competitor, she is tested in spelling, proofreading, reading comprehension, speed and accuracy, and reading charts and graphs. She qualified for nationals at the Kansas State School for the Blind in the spring.

Jeri Hile, Shawnee Mission vision instructor and 2018 Teacher of the Year for Excellence in Braille instruction, has been Bethay’s teacher since kindergarten. Most recently, Bethay has attended Indian Hills Middle School.

“Audrey is a gifted student and Braille reader,” Hile said. “But beyond that, she is a hard worker who puts in the time to study and prepare for the competition.”

This year there were nearly 1,000 students who participated in the preliminary, qualifying competitions across the United States and in Canada. The top ten in each age group are invited to compete at the national level.

Jude Nickson, first-grade student at Trailwood Elementary School also competed in the national event. This was Nickson’s first competition at the national level where he was able to gain experience and have fun, Hile said.  

The national challenge was sponsored by the Braille Institute of America and hosted by the University of Southern California in Los Angeles