Randy Samson spent four years at Conifer high school and most of his friends knew him as RJ, which was his nickname. He was like any other student in high school but he had one particular tradition that he missed out on, he didn’t read any of his yearbooks. It wasn’t because he wasn’t able to afford one or because they weren’t available, it was because of a much different reason that might take you by surprise.
This student, who hails from Colorado is blind. He has a desire to read the yearbook and has even told people that he wants a version he can read but has been unable to get it up until this time. Perhaps it was the abilities of the yearbook staff that couldn’t create it but he thought that he would check to see if it could be done anyway. He asked Leslie Thompson, the instructor of the yearbook team, “Are you going to make me a braille yearbook?”
Leslie didn’t have an answer for him at the time. It seemed like a fantastic idea but it takes a lot of work just put a regular yearbook together. Braille would make the entire situation even more difficult but the question stuck with her over the years and she decided to get the help of other students to make it a possibility.
Leslie and the yearbook committee started in April 2018 with the planning process. More than 1500 hrs. of the entire class of 2019 was put into finishing this project. They wanted to create a version of the yearbook with braille pages and the theme for the book this year is quite fitting. It is: “More Than Meets The Eye.”
Right before RJ graduated, a special assembly was held and Lauren Ainsworth, the editor-in-chief of the yearbook prevented him with the surprise.
Leslie had remembered his request from a few years ago and he was shocked that they took action. You can see his approval in his smile.
“It really means a lot to me,” RJ said. “The community here is really so loving.”
RJ will now have braille pages in the yearbook to flip through but he also has something interesting. The yearbook staff used apps so that audio recordings and videos could be played on a smartphone when it was held over certain photographs. “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.
It’s amazing what these classmates did when they put their mind to it. I’m sure it will be something that RJ treasures from this moment forward.