Class surprises blind 5th grader with Braille yearbook and 3-D prints of their portraits


SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — On the last day of school, one Arkansas student received a special surprise from his peers that he’ll never forget.

Mario Pacheco is one of Turnbow Elementary School’s finest students.

“It was a tough year but we finally got it through,” the 5th grader said.

On Thursday, he was gifted with something made especially for him, a yearbook in Braille and 3D prints of his fifth-grade classmates and teachers.

“I can’t believe that everybody, like my friends, are on here,” Mario said. “It just means I will never forget them.”

The masterminds behind the idea were a group of students and teacher Tracy Whelan, who put in hundreds of hours of work towards a gift Mario will cherish forever.

“I thought it would be fun for Mario to see all of his classmates,” student Levi Robertson said.

“It felt special working for someone to be happy,” said student Sima Alsuhaibani.

“Every child is so valued here that even if Mario is visually impaired, it doesn’t matter. He’s one of the classmates, he’s one of their friends, and they take good care of each other here,” Whelan said.

Mario was most excited about the 3D print of his vision teacher, who taught him Braille.

Mario’s mother, Marithza Ocampo, says she stopped purchasing yearbooks after he was disappointed to only feel a smooth page, but now there’s a new meaning to putting a face to a name.

“All this crowd, this commotion just for him, it’s amazing. I’m speechless honestly,” Ocampo said.

Mrs. Whelan says the school just received the technology used to make the specialized yearbook at the end of last semester. She says this only raises the bar for future students and the projects they’ll want to do to give back to their community.

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