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NO LIMITS – Brooke Petro

Brooke Petro at her competition in 2017

Brooke Petro is not going to let anything get in her way – literally or figuratively. Visually impaired since the age of 18 months with a rare disease, this smart dynamo has conquered the world around her with intelligence and grace. Brooke Petro is changing the face of a visually impaired teenager. 

Before learning more about Brooke, it is important that we learn a little about Braille. 

*The original Braille typewriter has six keys to produce everything. (Now there is software that does the work.) 

  • Braille requires a special embosser printer in order to print out the raised dot configurations that are needed. 
  • The printer is so noisy, that the Petro family had to build a special soundproof closet in order to house it. 
  • Many school Braille textbooks are made in prisons. 
  • The Library of Congress certifies Braillists. The National Federation of the Blind offers courses so that individuals can be certified in the areas of literature, music, and mathematics transcribing and proofing. Certified persons can then produce materials or work in the field of Braille instruction.
  • Ten percent of blind people know Braille. With those low numbers, there are not enough teachers to reach all of the students who need assistance. 

How does all of this apply to Brooke? She, with the help of her parents, Lyn and Soren Petro and the staff at the Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired (CCVI), has been learning Braille since she was three years old. With a combination of CCVI’s instruction and resources, and her parent’s steadfast determination, the now junior at Notre Dame de Sion is an AP student with a bright college future. Brooke loves music, plays the piano, sings, and wants to be a psychologist. 

In her spare time, she is a seven-time National Champion at the Braille Institute’s annual Braille Challenge Competition at the University of Southern California. After nailing the regional competition, Brooke has moved on to the finals, and won the competition in her age group seven times! In late April, she will find out if she is destined for California again in 2024. She will likely compete in the areas of reading, charts and graphs, proofing, and speed/accuracy. 

We can’t quite comprehend AP Statistics for a grown, sighted woman! But, Brooke is ready, with a very expensive Braille textbook, to take on that challenge through Sion. Besides that, though – we can only marvel at Brooke and her unassuming high school life with her friends and family. While she is special in many ways, she is also an average teenage girl with high hopes for her future. According to her mom, Lyn, that is just what they anticipated. “We told her to be independent, go to college, practice leadership, and live her life.” 

Featured in the March 23, 2024 issue of The Independent.