Going Home Soon

Pictured: Mario Chitwood swimming -- Photo courtesy of Mario Chitwood

Pictured: Mario Chitwood swimming — Photo courtesy of Mario Chitwood

Hey blog readers,

I hope everyone’s New Year is off to a great start. I have mixed feeling about mine. As you know, I’ve been in Mexico for almost three months! I will be returning home in 2-3 weeks and I’m really excited to get back to California. I am actually ready to start school again even though I know I will have a lot of make up work to do. I am also looking forward to hanging out with all my cousins and finally getting to hold my baby brother Max. I talk to him on the phone but he’s only 2 years old so he mostly just likes to push the buttons. I think he knows that sound irritates me.

Although I am excited to return home, there are some things I will miss about Mexico. I will miss being able to ride in the back of my aunt’s truck. I will definitely miss the amazing fireworks. And I will also miss the many cousins I spent time with here.
I hope in the future they will visit me in California so my mom and I can be their tour guides.

Recently, we went to a public swim center. It was super crowded so I didn’t enjoy it too much. The water was warm though. One pool was actually super hot natural spring water. I only got in up to my knees and stayed in for a couple of minutes. It was good that we got to experience those thermal waters because a lot of locals say they are therapeutic but I don’t really want to go back because the crowd was overwhelming.
One new thing I’ve been doing a lot of is watching cooking tutorials on YouTube. My mom and I have watch a lot of new recipes that we can’t wait to try once we get home.
It will be a great excuse to visit our local spice shop. I like going there because you can taste all the spices before you buy them.

Another new place we recently checked out was the local sports center here in Mexico. There is a huge soccer field, lots of basketball courts, and a track. My great aunt, mom, and I walked about a mile and a half but then my mom wanted to go check out the Zumba class they were offering. Overall, it was a good place to visit and we are planning on going back soon.

Thanks for reading my blog. Hope all is well with Christopher. Until next time.

Peace,
Mario

Making Memories in Mexico 

Pictured: Mario Chitwood and his great-grandmother, Alicia -- Photo courtesy of: Mario Chitwood

Pictured: Mario Chitwood and his great-grandmother, Alicia — Photo courtesy of: Mario Chitwood

Hello friends,

I am still visiting family in Mexico. It is so different here. I have met so many new family members. I have a lot of cousins my age so it’s been fun trying to teach them English. I also met my great grandmother. She loves me and thinks I’m handsome.
On December 11, 2016 I got baptized. Even though the whole ceremony was in Spanish, I still enjoyed the whole event. Afterwards we had a small celebration in my honor. We ate chicken with vegetables and for dessert my mom ordered a costume made cake. It was decorated with a giant white cross and it read Felicidads Mario (Congratulations Mario).
Even though our time here has been enjoyable. The biggest adjustment has been living without internet. We usually go every few days to my Mom’s cousin’s house where there is internet but I miss having access to it everyday. I play some resource management games that require internet and so I’m sad I can’t play as often as I want to.
A few days ago we visited a flea market and I bought a bunch of fireworks. My favorite was called Crackling Saturn Missiles. It was a small square box with 25 missiles tips pointed upward and the fuse was on the corner of the box. When I lit the fuse, seconds later each missile launched out of the box and made whistling sounds and crackling noises. It was awesome! My mom is going to take me back to the flea market to buy more so that on Christmas we can lite some fireworks.
One sad thing that has happened here is that I tried to introduce s’mores to my cousin’s and it didn’t work out as planned. My mom went shopping for the ingredients but wasn’t able to find graham crackers so she substituted for cookies sprinkled with cinnamon. When my cousin’s and I roasted marshmallows then put our s’mores together and took a bite, we did not like the flavor. I was sad that my plan had failed but at least we had fun roasting marshmallows and eating those all by themselves.
Take care blog readers. Until next time!
Peace,
Mario

Amazing Holiday Concert

Pictured: Chris Serrano in a tuxedo -- Photo courtesy of: Chris Serrano

Pictured: Chris Serrano in a tuxedo — Photo courtesy of: Chris Serrano

This passed month has been great! I had the first show with both the Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Combo at the end of October. Using my bass clarinet (that the scholarship funded), I took a solo for the first time with the Combo for the song Blue Train by John Coltrane. We also performed Fly Me To The Moon, a jazz adaptation of Thriller, and a song originally composed here in Culver City called Blue Moon.

 

The event itself was amazing! My band teacher hired a food truck to sell pupusas (a delicious Salvadorian dish) and ten percent of the proceeds went into funding the music program. It was also nice to watch all of the other bands perform their pieces. Most of the songs played that night were either Fall or Halloween related. We even set up a small carnival for elementary school kids to win prizes and candy before the show. Overall, it was an awesome way to start the year.

This coming Saturday, I have another gig with some friends of mine from the Academy of Music for the Blind. We’ll be playing a variety of jazz tunes such as Song For My Father and Blue Bossa. My friends and I recently got together and created an all winds group consisting of two flutes, a saxophone, a melodica, and my bass clarinet. We will be accompanied by our teachers who will play drums, piano, bass, and guitar in the background. Then each of us will take a short solo to show off our abilities as wind players before returning to the main melody.

Other than music, everything is going fine. School is going well but I can’t wait for the weekends to finally get here. I hung out with some friends on Halloween night and it was a blast.
Thanks again and I hope that Mario is doing well.
Chris

Happy Fall!

Pictured: Mario Chitwood and his brother Max -- Photo Courtesy: Mario ChitwoodPictured: Mario Chitwood and his brother Max -- Photo Courtesy: Mario Chitwood

Pictured: Mario Chitwood and his brother Max — Photo Courtesy: Mario Chitwood

Hello my blog followers,

I am so glad it’s the fall season. I love when it gets close to all my favorite Holidays. I am not sure what my plans are for Halloween yet but I do plan on dressing up. I am thinking of dressing up as an FBI agent. I like to go trick-or-treating with my family until it gets pretty late. My favorite candy to receive is snickers. I really like going to the house that have life-size scary characters and with spooky music or sound effects. I can’t wait until Halloween!

Recently my homeroom class held elections for class representative. I wasn’t going to try out but then I changed my mind at the last second. The next day after all the votes were counted, I was told that I had won. That means that for an entire trimester I will be the 7th grade class rep. I will be going to meetings once a week to discuss school events, school spirit and a lot of other topics. I signed up for the service committee I will be promoting fund raisers and other things like that.

My mom will be traveling out of the country in a few weeks and I’m sad about her leaving. She will only be gone for a week or two but I will miss her. As you can tell I am not looking forward to her leaving. When she gets back I will help her plan my baby brother’s 2nd birthday party that will be on November 20th. I think his birthday theme is going to be all about Elmo so I will help my mom make some decorations. A few days ago I made a triple chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and it was extremely delicious. I think I will ask my mom if I can make this for Max’s birthday. It will be my birthday gift to him.

With Thanksgiving coming up I will also be busy helping my mom out by choosing the menu and helping her out in the kitchen. I usually am in charge of being the taste tester but this year I want to help make a dish. I think a dessert will be fun to make. I take pride in my baking.

Also this Friday my school will be hosting a Fall Festival. My mom and I will be in charge of running the cake walk booth. There will also be a silent auction, lots of inflatable activities like bungee basketball, splash seat, and zorb balls. I want to play the game splash seat where we will have a chance to dunk one of our teachers if we hit a target. I also will be buying cotton candy and popcorn to snack on. It should be a really fun night. I can’t wait!

Another thing I did these past few days was that I made a video for a HIMS contest. The video was about my Braille Sense and how I use it. It took almost a full one hour to make a two minute video. Some of my mistakes were hilarious. I hope I can have more news in the upcoming months but for now my life is pretty calm. Peace! out!

Middle School Begins

 

Hi CTEBVI blog readers! If you read my last blog you know that I had a really fun and super busy summer. But unfortunately summer break is over and it was time to start MIDDLE SCHOOL.

I started on August 15 and my first day went well. It was an adjustment learning the lay out of my new school campus but I have it down now. Another huge adjustment was getting use to traveling to six different classrooms each with different teachers. My favorite class this semester is science. I am currently memorizing the ENTIRE periodic table of elements. So far I have memorized the first 20 out of 118.

During the second week of school we had our first field trip. We went to the Four Winds ropes course. This field trip was for the purpose of having fun but also to do team building exercises with our new classmates. I went on two different high course challenges that were so amazing. The first one was zip lining and I had to climb a tree to get to the platform. The climb hurt because I had to hold onto metal rings. Slowly and painfully I got to the top and when I was standing on the platform I realized my hands were stuck in the position of a claw. After loosening up my fingers I jump off the platform and I dropped for a few feet before shooting forward. There are no words to describe how fun and exhilarating it is. I felt free. I also felt like the world was perfect in that moment.

After the zip line came a ropes course called the xylophone. The xylophone is about twenty feet off the ground. When I was a few feet from the top I accidentally dropped about ten feet before I reached the platform. Thankfully I was in a harness which caught my fall so all that happened was that I swung a couple times back and forth towards the tree. After swinging for a bit I managed to grab a ring with my right hand. It felt like I might dislocate my shoulder. My friend who was waiting for me at the top, wanted to get down. I told him he could go down, but I said I would try to do the course by myself even though the course was meant for two people. After I said that my friend changed his mind and said he would continue. My friend and I manage to finish the course and everyone cheered. Unfortunately the two people that were going after my team weren’t able to go because we ran out of time. They said they didn’t care because it was good enough watching my team. In my opinion that was kind and I think this was a great way to get to know people at my new school.

Another change that has occurred since starting middle school, is that every Wednesday we are required to run a mile. My first run was pretty slow but then my second time I had improved my time by 15 seconds. One of my new goals I have set for myself is to keeping improving my time every single week. I don’t really enjoy running the mile but since I have to than I will keep trying to break my own records.

I don’t have many activities going on outside of school right now. September is my most laid back month. I do plan on joining the Lego robotics team at my school. That should be starting in the next few weeks. I have also thought of starting a chess club during lunch break at school but that’s not for sure yet. I will give you an update on whether or not I decide to start the chess club in my next blog. Until then take care and as always thanks for taking the time to read through my blogs. Peace out!

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,

Taylor

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.

 

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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.