Fun Filled Summer

I am having the most eventful summer break I’ve ever had in my life. It kicked off in mid-June when I went to the California School for the Blind (CSB) to attend a Technology and Sports Camp. While at CSB I did many things such as: played goal ball, indoor rock climbing, swimming, roller skating, learned about taking videos then editing them, and last but not least took two off campus trips. The first was to a local movie theater where we got to watch/listen to a movie with audio description. The movie was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and it was awesome and action packed. The second off campus trip was to Santa Cruz Beach Board Walk. I went on several different roller coasters and bought myself some fluffy, delicious, mouthwatering cotton candy. Upon my return from Tech & Sports camp I was home for only five days when it was time to pack up and leave but this time for Carlsbad, California.

My family and I were headed to Legoland to celebrate my 13th birthday. When we arrived at Legoland, I immediately wanted to start riding the roller coasters. My favorite ride there was called Technic. I made my mom go on it with me over and over again. Besides going on the rides, I also did a lot of shopping. I bought a lego man cake mold that I plan on using very soon. I also went to the Brick Hut Shop where they sold Lego pieces by the pound. I filled up a bag of different lego pieces so that I could build houses, cars and maybe a space shuttle. It was really cool to pick my own lego pieces. After two days visiting Legoland we went to Los Angeles to finally visit the California ScienCenter! My tour guide, Albert was really knowledgeable and provided hands on experiences. I learned a lot about different ecosystems. The most memorable part was when I got to touch a starfish, sea urchin, and sea cucumber. I enjoyed visiting the California ScienCenter because it was nice to have a personal tour guide taking time to explain all that the science center has to offer not to mention it’s hands on! I hope to visit it again when I’m back in the LA area.

My fun summer didn’t stop there! We came home for a few days then headed off on a road trip to Idaho to visit family. We celebrated Fourth of July there and it was epic. My parents bought a lot of fireworks so I was really excited. My favorites were the Roman Candles. Unlike other fireworks you light the Roman Candle and hold on to the stick and point it high up into the air. The thing that makes them so cool is that they shoot off little balls of fire into the air. Next year, I plan on buying lots more Roman Candles.

After getting back from Idaho, I was home for a week before it was time to leave for Enchanted Hills Camp (EHC). EHC is a camp for the visually impaired where there are so many activities to try like swimming, archery, hiking, boating, and different craft projects. They do way more, but I just listed the basics. I like going to camp there because there is a day called Theme Day and this year the theme was Olympics. They put people in teams and this year I was placed in team South Korea. The first contest was an arts and craft contest. We had to make the largest tower made out of sticks and my friend and I stumbled upon a nine foot branch. That branch is the reason my team won that contest. Contest after contest flashed by until it was the last event. It was a scavenger hunt. After what seemed like hours they announced the winners of the scavenger hunt and my team lost. We thought they were talking about the whole contest but in the end it turned out my team won the whole Olympic games. My team was screaming like crazy and sharing hugs and high fives. I was sad when it was time to go home but was already looking forward to next year.

After EHC camp I came home for one day then headed off to my last camp of the summer. It was at Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB). This was my first time attending this camp and it was really awesome. I learned so much about what it will be like once I get a guide dog. Besides working and learning about guide dogs we did other activities like taking a walk to Muir woods and visiting the GDB gift shop. My favorite time was the over night experience with our own guide dog. I was assigned a golden retriever that got to spend the night in my room. I didn’t want to have to give her back the next day but I did. I can’t wait until the day I get my very own guide dog.

So as you have read, I am having a busy summer. Staying supper busy makes summer vacation go by way too fast but I have done a lot of awesome things and have met some really cool kids at the camps I’ve gone to so that’s the plus side. I can’t believe summer vacation is almost over and that I will be starting middle school soon. I think for the rest of the summer I will take it easy and sleep in. I deserve it.

School’s Out For the Summer!

Pictured: Mario Chitwood at his 6th grade promotion -- Picture courtesy of Mario Chitwood

Pictured: Mario Chitwood at his 6th grade promotion — Picture courtesy of Mario Chitwood

On Friday June 3, I had the pleasure of being chosen as one of two student speakers at my 6th grade promotion. It was nice to be able to thank all the teachers and staff at my school and to wish all my 6th grade peers well in the next chapter of their lives. I was sad to be leaving a school that I had attended since Kindergarten but I’m looking forward to starting middle school, where I hope to start a chess club. To celebrate my promotion to middle school, my family took me to one of my favorite sushi restaurants, where I filled up on California rolls and shrimp tempura rolls.

Another exciting event I recently participated in was a cooking/game day with my T.V.I, my new mobility instructor and a few other students who are blind. Our menu consisted of hamburgers, mashed potatoes, fruit salad, and strawberry shortcake with homemade whipped cream! I was in charge of cutting the potatoes, strawberries, kiwis, and I got to make the homemade whipped cream. Making the whipped cream was my favorite because it was delicious and easy to make. All I had to do was add heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, a little bit of vanilla extract into a magic bullet and blend it until it was the right consistency. My other favorite part of this day besides making the whipped cream was playing an adapted version of Jeopardy. I watch this game show with my family every night and hope to one day make it as a contestant on the real Jeopardy. But for now, it was fun playing and just pretending it was an official game. We played in pairs and my partner was my mom. We started out doing great but then we started trailing behind. Although we didn’t win we had lots of fun because our game show host would trigger a booing sound effect when we got incorrect answers and he would trigger a clapping sound effect when our answers were right. This was a fun day and a great way to kick off my summer vacation.

I have many things to look forward to during my summer vacation. I will be attending three different camps, traveling to Los Angeles to visit the California Science Center, having lots of swim playdates with friends, and possibly going to Idaho to visit family for Fourth of July. I also have my 13th birthday coming up on June 24th. I am still undecided about what I want to do to celebrate officially being a teenager but I am thinking 6 Flags would be fun. I love amusement park rides especially rollercoasters! I hope you have enjoyed this blog. Stayed tuned to find out all the updates on everything I have going on this summer.

Thanks for reading.

End of School Year

Pictured: Chris Serrano with guitar -- Photo courtesy of: Chris Serrano

Pictured: Chris Serrano with guitar — Photo courtesy of: Chris Serrano

I can’t believe that the year is almost over! It’s been a great tenth grade. I’ve made some awesome new friends, learned a lot about playing music with others, and did great in my classes.

Last friday, I played in the last Jazz concert of the year with the big band and other ensembles. We performed four exciting pieces from a variety of different composers. At the end, all the seniors in band were recognized by our music teacher and director. Delicious snacks and drinks were provided for the musicians after the show was over and we all just hung out and had a good time.

I’ve decided to join my school’s Jazz Combo next year as well. This band, though smaller than the big band, is constantly booked for gigs at various locations, and on occasion is paid for playing. Many of my friends are part of the combo and strongly recommend that I join, especially since we’ll be losing a large portion of players this year. I am also super enthusiastic about beginning sound recording classes after school in my junior year. I am currently in the process of acquiring the software I’ll need to succeed in this class.

Not too long ago, some friends and I played music at our school assembly. We played a simple 12 bar blues piece during which we traded solos. Everyone loved it and said we did really good! I told my counselor that I’d certainly love to play in future assemblies. I’m planning to get my own band started over the summer break. Maybe we could play together at school functions.

Thanks again to everyone involved in the Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship and congratulations to the other winner Mario! Hope he enjoys his trip to the LA Science Center!


Such Cool News!

Pictured: Mario Chitwood, Mario smiles as he holds came to him in the mail -- Photo courtesy of Mario Chitwood

Pictured: Mario Chitwood, Mario smiles as he holds his check and certificate — Photo courtesy of Mario Chitwood

My name is Mario and I recently found out that I am one of two recipients of the Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship. I am really elated about this cool news. After receiving the news that I won, I called many family members to share the news. They were all very proud of me and that made me feel so happy.

Since I am still not on summer vacation yet, we still haven’t planned our trip to Los Angeles yet but I can’t wait to go to the California ScienCenter. I think that I will learn a lot and have so much to blog about and share with you all. Thank you CTEBVI for this awesome opportunity. And congratulations to Christopher for winning also.

May 2016 Blog


Pictured: Chris Serrano, 2016 Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship Recipient — Photo courtesy of Chris Serrano

I am still really excited that I won the scholarship. Since receiving the funds, I have started shopping for a bass clarinet to use in my Jazz Ensemble at Culver City High School. Currently I’m playing the standard clarinet, but I’m looking forward to learning this new instrument. Hopefully by next month I will have found something that I can use the funds for.

In addition, I’ve started researching some studio software for blind music producers. I’m really interested in learning to use a program called Sonar. I am learning the accessibility of another program called CakeTalking by Dancing Dots. Once I get this set up on my laptop with JAWS, I will be able to independently make beats, write, and record some original music. I’m also planning on taking a class next year called Sound Recording in which this software will greatly help.

In conclusion, I am thrilled to have the opportunity through the Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship to further my music education.

Thanks again,


CTEBVI Conference


Pictured: (l-r) Bob Sweetman, Taylor Cox, Jamie Murdy at 2016 CTEBVI Conference

Pictured: (l-r) Bob Sweetman, Taylor Cox, Jamie Murdy at 2016 CTEBVI Conference


Hi! My CTEBVI presentation went good. Now I’ll explain it in detail, along with the other parts of the conference.


First, I got to L.A. I met with my teacher, Mrs. Jamie. I ate a lot of candy before my presentation because I was really nervous. We had about twenty minutes with the other presenter, Bob Sweetman, and we were ready.

I was so excited. I presented on the technology I use in my schoolday. I talked about the Computer with JAWS, my Open Book software and the Pearl Camera, which is basically an app on my computer and a camera that connects with a USB port and scans a print paper. I also talked about my BrailleNote,my iPad, and my phone. Sometimes my teacher chimed in, but it was mostly me. I was so happy and calm during the presentation and it felt so good doing it. I loved every second of it. At the end of the presentation, I got a lot of “good jobs” and “you did amazing.” I loved every single part of it. My teacher actually counted fifty people in the conference room!

After the hard part was done, I got to relax. I got to go to the guide dog booth and try a Juno lesson. That basically means that a guy was holding the other part of the harness while I held the handle. It was cool because I felt like I could walk without a cane like sighted people do. It made me feel more independent also because of the fact that I walked faster. Finally, it made me want a dog more. I also got to see the new BrailleNote Touch. It is a model of a tablet, but it has a cool keyboard built in to the case. But when you flip up the case,the keyboard is gone. THERE IS JUST A TOUCH SCREEN. I GOT TO TALK TO THE MAN WHO CREATED THE BrailleNote, Greg Stilton. He’s a genius! After that I went to another conference, then my mom and I left the scene of our crime.

This experience was amazing. I think, though, if more kids could present, it would be awesome. It would not only build their confidence, even if it is nervewracking. Just prepare, and you’ll be fine. This was a great experience, again, and more people should do it.

I hope I’ll get the chance to write again. Most likely, you’ll hear from me soon.

Until next time,


Introducing 2016 DCYS Recipients!

Recipients! Yes, you read that correctly – this year we have awarded TWO students the CTEBVI Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship! We’d like to introduce you to Mario Chitwood and Christopher Serrano, this year’s recipients. Please welcome them to our CTEBVI blogosphere! 

Pictured: Mario Chitwood standing in a white shirt and jeans

Pictured: 2016 Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship recipient, Mario J. Chitwood III — Photo: Family of Mario Chitwood

My name is Mario Chitwood I and I am 12 years old. I am currently in 6th grade and will soon be going into middle school. I lost complete sight 5 years ago do to a genetic eye disease, so now I am a Braille user and I travel using a cane. I hope to one day get a guide dog. I have many interests but some of my favorites include learning about Greek mythology, studying outer space, and of course playing Goalball every chance I get. I have a little brother named Max who is almost a year and a half. I enjoy teaching him new things and hope to one day teach him braille.

If I am the recipient of this scholarship, I would really like to use some of the money towards a trip to Los Angeles to Visit the California Science Center. This center has different exhibitions that Are both Fun and educational. Some of the ones that I am most interested in are the Journey to Space exhibition, the Mission 261. The Big Endeavor exhibition, and the ecosystems exhibition. I would like to learn more about space but also about the people who become astronauts because I know I would find those types of stories fascinating.

I mainly chose this activity because when my mom and I researched educational places to visit that are accessible for the blind, the California Science Center fit the criteria. Not only are some of them exhibitions hands on but they provide audio description for ALL the exhibitions! They also provide a visual descripted guided tour for guests with visual impairments. This sounds like a place I can visit and not have to worry about not being able to participate because of accessibility issues.

If I receive this scholarship it will help me towards one of my ultimate goals which is to make it as a contestant on Jeopardy. I love watching this game show with my parents because it’s an educational game show but it’s competitive too. I think a lot of what I will learn at the Science Center could help me towards achieve my goal of being the first kid Jeopardy contestant that just happens to be blind.

I feel that I should be the recipient of the Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship because I want to inspire other people who are blind but especially kids my age to always goals and try your hardest to accomplish them. I also want to be a positive role model to my little brother and show him that an education and hard work leads to great opportunities.



Pictured: Christopher Serrano dressed in a black tuxedo.

Pictured: 2016 Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship recipient, Christohper Serrano — Photo: Christohper Serrano

Student Essay for Christopher Serrano

My name is Chris Serrano, I’m 16 years old and am currently enrolled at Culver City High School. I am also a part of an after school program at the Junior Blind of America which I attend every day when possible. In my free time, I love to play music. I joined my school’s Jazz Ensemble and Guitar Ensemble. On the weekends, I spend my time at the Academy of Music for the Blind (AMB) where I am learning a total of seven different instruments and other skills such as computer programming, sound recording and braille music.

If I am the recipient of this scholarship, it is in my best interest to put the money toward a cause that would ultimately support my passionate desire to further study music. My favorite instrument, of the many I play, is the clarinet. I play the standard B-flat clarinet, but I’ve been wanting a bass clarinet, an instrument with a wider range of notes and more playability. Because the clarinet is my favorite instrument, I will be twice as inspired to learn how to read more braille music. I will have all my parts for band transcribed into Braille so that I may read and memorize the notes much more efficiently before playing them on the instrument.

I’ve also been wanting to download recording software on my computer called Sonar Professional. Next year, I wish to take sound recording classes as an elective in school. Sonar is the most accessible for the visually impaired users and would make the class easier for me to understand.

Receiving the scholarship would help pay for both pieces of equipment. These essential tools would make y educational experience in the field of music a lot more accessible and enjoyable. I’ll be able to do things more independently without having to rely on my sighted peers. One of the requirements for the sound recording class that I am interested in taking is to create your own composition using the available software and studio. If I receive the money and download Sonar, I will be able to meet the monthly requirement on time. Finally, reading Braille music more fluently will help me learn my parts for both Jazz and Guitar Ensemble more efficiently.

If I should receive this scholarship, I believe it would help me succeed in my music career. The money will enable me to purchase the necessary items that will guarantee my success. Many issues, such as learning parts for band by ear, will be resolved when I learn more advanced braille music and am able to play it on the bass clarinet I hope to obtain.