Megan Marsh, 14, of Shoemakersville, won second place in the middle school short stories category of the Youth Braille Writing Contest sponsored by the nonprofit National Federation of the Blind Writers' Division. The announcement was made in July at the NFB's annual convention in Dallas, Texas. Megan, who will be a freshman at Hamburg Area High School this fall, is the daughter of Lori Marsh, Shoemakersville, and Kevin Marsh ,Hamburg.
A Student Council member this past year, Megan, who has written many stories, hopes to be a low vision teacher and a professional writer. Her winning story is 'The Haunting.'
In second grade, Megan was diagnosed with Stargardts, a degenerative retinal condition. She is legally blind and uses magnification to operate her computer, as well as a CCTV. She began learning Braille five years ago and loves it. A low vision teacher from the Berks Intermediate Unit works with her for one hour each day, teaching her Braille, the use of the white cane and other nonvisual skills.
Megan and her mother are active in the nonprofit Foundation Fighting Blindness. In addition to participating in the annual Vision Walk and other fundraisers, Megan mentors young people who have been recently diagnosed with retinal diseases.
'She doesn't let anything stop her,' her mother said. 'She doesn't let low vision get her down.'
After she spoke to the local Lions Club and demonstrated the adaptive equipment she uses, they sponsored her to attend the Beacon Lodge Camp, in Mount Union, in July. She enjoyed swimming and exploring the Braille Trail. She also enjoys taking care of her little sister, Morgan, who is two and a half years old, as well as going to movies and hanging out with friends.
The annual Youth Braille Writing Contest promotes Braille literacy and excellence in creative writing. Despite strong evidence that Braille literacy significantly improves a visually impaired person's ability to obtain employment and advanced degrees, only 10 percent of America's blind and low vision children are taught to read it.
Contestants were required to hand emboss their entries using either the slate and stylus or a Braille writer (no computer generated Braille was accepted). Entries were judged on creativity and quality of Braille. The NFB Writers' Division encourages all people with visual impairments to adopt a 'can-do' attitude and learn the skills that will enable them to live full, productive and independent lives.
'We are all impressed and delighted with Megan's creativity and Braille skills,' said Robert Leslie Newman, president of the NFB Writers' Division, 'and we are thankful for the support she is receiving at home and in school.'
Megan will receive a cash prize and the chance to be published in 'Slate and Style,' the quarterly literary magazine of the NFB Writers' Division.