Madison Mayster, 17, of Chevy Chase, Md., a senior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Bethesda, formed a "Braille Awareness Club" at her school to promote fun ways for visually impaired people to learn Braille, and to raise awareness of social and economic issues facing the blind. Madison's mother founded a music and art school for the blind, and, as a result, Madison is keenly aware of issues affecting the blind. "As a volunteer at many nonprofit organizations for the blind and visually impaired, I was constantly exposed to the sad reality of the dwindling literacy of the blind," she explained. "Only nine percent of blind high school students graduate knowing how to read and write in Braille."
Madison took a two-year course in Braille, and then learned how to teach the subject by introducing it to sighted elementary students. After launching her club at her high school, she educated its members by inviting a variety of experts to speak at club meetings, and she raised more than $3,500 the first year to buy supplies to assist in teaching others. The club has demonstrated innovative Braille-learning methods using a weaving loom and muffin tins at public gatherings, and taught basic Braille skills to 45 kids in kindergarten through fourth grade. "It is extremely important that today's blind youth learn to read and write Braille, as competency in these areas will create more opportunities for economic and social advancement," said Madison.