When she was in first grade, Lucy Franklin Elementary student Salome Cummins, competed in the National Braille Challenge Finals in Los Angeles for the first time.

She didn’t qualify for the event but served as a substitute for someone who couldn’t go.

She said it was something she enjoyed even though she didn’t place in the top three.

It’s an event for blind students to hone their craft at reading Braille, in which characters are represented by patterns of raised dots felt with the fingertips. It was developed to help “students practice and hone their Braille literacy skills,” according to the Braille Institute website.

Any student who is blind or visually impaired and is in grades one through 12 can participate. The competition is divided into five categories – reading comprehension, spelling, speed and accuracy, proofreading and charts and graphs. Scores are given based on how well the students know the material.

Cummins qualified for the event at a regional competition and took part in the National Braille Challenge Finals June 21-22 in Los Angeles.

She said she had a good grasp of all the categories but spelling, so she worked hard studying it. Her hard work paid off as she took first place in the apprentice division (for first and second graders). She earned a medal, a trophy and a Braille display.

She didn’t shy away from displaying her elation once she was announced as the winner while receiving a round of applause. She leaped up and failed her arms around in jubilation.

“At first, I thought someone was just rooting for me,” said Cummins, who was adopted by Ann Cummins at age 3 years old from the country of Georgia. “But then I jumped up and squealed. I said, Yes! I did it!”

“I was kind of surprised and I was also kind of expecting it. But I also knew I had a chance of not getting first.”

Her key to winning was concentrating on spelling, she said.

“I worked on spelling every single day,” Cummins said. “I didn’t work on reading comprehension and proofreading. Spelling was kind of hard. One of the words I had to spell was grimace. And a first grader having to spelling grimace? It’s like, ‘Oh, my gosh!’”

Cummins plans on trying to qualify for the National Braille Challenge Finals next season but will be competing against older students in the freshman division. She also will have to qualify in a different regional competition as she is moving to Cottleville, Mo., which is close to St. Charles. She will attend Warren Elementary.

“I know my teacher there; her name is Mrs. Hill,” Cummins said. “I am kind of sad about moving. I am kind of depressed right now. But I have an ice cream date two of my bus driver and aide for the normal school (Lucy Franklin).”