Throughout his four years at Conifer High School, Randy Sampson, known by his friends as RJ, has missed out on one high school tradition: reading his yearbooks.
The Colorado student is blind, and has expressed his desire for a version he could read since his freshman year. He wasn’t sure whether the yearbook staff had the time or the ability to create such a book. But he figured it didn’t hurt to check, so he casually asked the instructor, Leslie Thompson, “Are you going to make me a braille yearbook?”
At the time, Leslie didn’t really have an answer for him. While she loved the idea, she wasn’t sure she could make it happen. Typical yearbooks already take a lot of work to put together. Braille would be even tougher. But RJ’s question stuck with her over the following few years, and finally, with a lot of help from other students, she made RJ’s wish come true.
Starting in April 2018, Leslie and the yearbook committee began planning. They worked more than 1,500 hours on the Class of 2019 yearbook, finishing earlier than usual so they could then create a version with braille pages. The book’s theme this year couldn’t be more fitting: “More Than Meets The Eye.”
Just before RJ graduated, the school held a special assembly, during which senior Laurel Ainsworth, editor-in-chief of the yearbook, revealed RJ’s surprise.
The stunned teen no idea Leslie even remembered his long-ago request, let alone that she and others acted on it! His huge smile said it all about how he felt.
“It really means a lot to me,” RJ said. “The community here is really so loving.”
Not only will RJ have braille pages to flip through and read, but he’ll have something to listen to as well! The yearbook staff used an app to play audio recordings and videos when a smartphone is held over certain photos. “It just made the book completely accessible for him so he can enjoy it just as much as the rest of the students,” Laurel said.
Could RJ’s classmates be any more thoughtful? Now he’ll have a treasured keepsake from his teenage years he’ll actually be able to use! Thanks to everyone who put in all those hours, RJ will always be able to relive his favorite high school memories.
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