A Fairfield girl finished in the top 15 during a North America braille competition in Los Angeles recently.
Eight-year-old Maggie Wehrle came in second place of the 12 students in the apprentice category (children in Grades 1 and 2) and finished in the top 15 against 60 other competitors from around the continent during the 15th annual Braille Institute Challenge on June 20.
Winners were announced during a gala on the final night.
“I was all tense and holding my mom’s hand. They announced the second place winners and that was me,” said the Margaret Jenkins Elementary school student. “I totally danced around my table, I was really, really, really happy.”
The one-day competition is similar to a spelling bee with spelling, proofreading, reading comprehension, and speed and accuracy tests to see how well competitors understand braille.
Though she came in second place, there’s a possibility she could have beat the first-place winner Brooke Petro from Kansas, whom Maggie had become close friends with during the competition.
“Brooke kept trying to give me her trophy. She kept saying, ‘you deserve this, take it, take it’,” said Maggie. “I helped her with her tests. I heard her muttering to herself so I gave her a few hints.”
But she remains adamant that the right person won the top prize.
“She’s my friend and I wanted to help her,” added Maggie, who has been nicknamed “Ms. Modesty” by her mother Melissa who accompanied her to the competition.
“She puts a lot of hard work into school and into extra curricular activities, whether that’s sports, music or scholarly things,” said her father Trevor. “We always encourage and give her feedback, but for her to get responses and accolades and awarded by people she doesn’t know, I imagine it’s quite gratifying for her and I couldn’t be happier for her.”
Nancy Niebrugge, associate vice president of national programs with the Braille Institute, said Maggie has a bright future in other competitions with the organization.
“Somebody like Maggie, as she grows, hoping she’ll come back, I anticipate she’ll make friends for life in a competition like this,” she said.
“For children who are visually impaired, the world doesn’t tend to expect as much from them, and this contest really demonstrates that they can live up to the highest expectations.”
With a silver medal under her belt, Maggie said she’s ready to compete for gold next year.