Cherokee Nation celebrates young Braille expert
Hunter Kelley, 10, of Claremore, center, is recognized by the Cherokee Nation on Aug. 12 for his success in Braille competitions. Kelley is flanked by his mother, Kimberly Politte-Pugh, and brother, Tucker, 3, and Dist. 14 Tribal Councilor Keith Austin, left. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation citizen Hunter Kelley’s mastery of Braille has earned the fifth grader accolades across the state, nationally and most recently, within the tribe.
Kelley, a category finalist in June’s national Braille Challenge, was honored during the Aug. 12 Tribal Council meeting.
“We’re proud of Hunter, and we want to congratulate him here tonight,” then-Principal Chief Bill John Baker said before handing the 10-year-old from Claremore a certificate of recognition for winning honors in the regional competition and national event hosted by the Braille Institute. “He’s won overall top score in (the) elementary and middle school category for the past three years in the regional competition. Hunter is one of the best in his age group, not just in Oklahoma, but the entire country.”
At 17-months-old, Kelley was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare childhood cancer that forms in the tissues of the retina, according to the National Cancer Institute. He later underwent chemotherapy treatments, radiation treatments, laser therapy and two surgeries to remove his eyes. Hunter has two prosthesis that match the color of his eyes.
Described by Baker as “another shining example that we survive, we adapt and we excel as a people,” Kelley is the son of Kimberly Politte-Pugh, a former instructor at the Oklahoma School for the Blind.
“We are very proud of him,” Politte-Pugh said of her son, adding that he received a special tribal pin along with his certificate. “He loved it. He wore it the rest of the week.”
Kelley was one of three students from the Oklahoma School for the Blind in Muskogee to participate in nationals this year. He previously earned high honors in the “apprentice” and “freshman” categories.
“He’s participated every year since he’s been able to,” his mother said. “It’s one of his favorite things going to school there.”
Earlier this year, Kelley won a gold medal and the highest overall score in the same categories in Oklahoma’s regional contest.
The competitions measure proficiency in Braille reading and comprehension, speed and accuracy, spelling, proofreading and tactile graphics.