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Students make visually-impaired classmate Braille yearbook

A few years ago, when RJ Sampson asked his study hall teacher if she would make him a Braille yearbook, she did not think it was possible.

CONIFER, Colo — The yearbook staff at Conifer High School was buzzing with nervous excitement. 

"Yeah, I'm nervous," said Laurel Ainsworth, the yearbook's editor-in-chief. "My stomach doesn't hurt or anything — it's all in my head." 

Ainsworth and the rest of the yearbook staff spent Friday morning, patiently counting the seconds before the book they had worked on for more than 1,500 hours was released to the student body. 

"I just hope that we covered everything so that they can look back in 20 years and we did it justice," Ainsworth said. 

The black-covered yearbook, full of action-filled, colorful photos was a big project for Leslie Thompson's staff. She said it was the right time to give them another challenge. 

"This was the year — it couldn’t have happened any other year," Thompson said. "These are the kids, the leader, this was the year." 

This was to be the year that the yearbook had a special edition. Years prior, RJ Sampson, a visually impaired student at Conifer, had a simple question for Thompson on the last day of school. 

"Going out the door he said, 'When are you going to make me a braille yearbook?'" Thompson said. "This idea has been percolating since then." 

The vision team at Jefferson County schools did the translating onto clear tape — and then it was Thompson's job to get it in the right spot in the book.

"It was like arts and crafts for the old person — I loved every second of it," Thompson said. 

When the time came to surprise Sampson during the assembly, Ainsworth made an announcement.

"We have a surprise," Ainsworth said. "Freshman year, RJ Sampson asked if she would make him a Braille yearbook — and I’m proud to say we’ve done it." 

Sampson, a senior, had not gotten a high school yearbook until now. He said the small words made them impossible to read. 

"I really appreciate it — there’s no words that I can use to describe how thankful I am," Sampson said. "I’m shocked that Mrs. Thompson and the yearbook staff made it a possibility."

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