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BELL (Braille Enrichment for Literacy & Learning) Academy

NFB BELL Academy logo

The National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey is getting ready to launch its seventh Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) Academy. This year’s Academy is in honor of Barbara Shalit, a teacher of the blind and visually impaired for many years. Barbara was devoted to the establishment and growth of New Jersey’s BELL Academy and served as its teacher for the first three years. Barbara passed away in 2019.

The goal of the BELL Academy is to provide children with instruction in Braille and nonvisual skills through fun, hands-on learning activities and adventures. This year, we will encourage our students to cultivate their knowledge of music, engage in physical activity, interact in their communities and exceed their expectations of their arithmetic abilities.

Due to the efforts of Linda Melendez, President Ruffalo and First Lady Judy we have a new venue for this year’s BELL Academy:

Where: Raritan Bay Area YMCA
357 New Brunswick Avenue
Perth Amboy, NJ 08861
When: June 29 through July 10, 2020
Time: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

This new location will offer the children access to many of the wonderful facilities of the YMCA including a pool. We do want to make a shout out of thanks to Dr. Ruiz and the Puerto Rican Association of Human Development (PRAHD) who welcomed us at their facilities in Perth Amboy for SIX years and even helped us identify this new facility.

We have applied for three grants and are optimistic that things will work out in our favor. In addition, when our dear friend and fellow Federationist Jerry Fontenelli passed away in December 2019, his family asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to NFBNJ in his memory. Jerry was an avid fund raiser himself and an ardent supporter of the BELL Academy. The funds raised in Jerry’s honor are, with pride, dedicated in support of the BELL Academy and will be used to fund the Jerry Fontenelli “Day at the Keansburg Beach” (with a water park activity!)

Mary Jo Partyka is our BELL coordinator again this year and will work diligently with our Braille teacher to plan fun and exciting lessons for the children. As for our students … yes, we are busy recruiting them and expect many of those who participated last year to attend again.

So, help us to get the word out: NFBNJ BELL Academy 2020 ROCKS! All blind and vision impaired children in New Jersey (ages 4 through 12) are welcome to participate for FREE!

BELL Academy flyer

Please download the 2020 BELL Academy in one of the following formats:

BELL Academy Pictures

To view all pictures and videos from current and previous BELL Academy programs, please visit our BELL Academy Pictures page.

NFB Code of Conduct & NFBNJ Sexual Abuse, Molestation and Harassment Prevention Policy

The National Federation of the Blind Code of Conduct and the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey Sexual Abuse, Molestation and Harassment Prevention Policy will apply to our gatherings during the BELL Academy.

 BELL Academy Sponsorship Request for 2020

You Can Help Sponsor This Summer’s BELL Academy
From Ice Cream to T-Shirts, Braille Paper to Pizza

Please consider the opportunity to help sponsor some part of the Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) Academy this summer. The dates and location for the 2020 BELL Academy program are June 29 through July 10 in Perth Amboy.

The BELL Academy is a two-week program for blind and vision impaired children ages 4 through 12, many of whom have had minimal exposure to braille. The program presents opportunities to enhance braille and blindness skills. Instruction in activities of daily living furthers the children’s independence and self-sufficiency. Blind mentors and volunteers provide excellent role models, keeping expectations high and proving that blindness is not the characteristic that defines one’s future. All BELL Academy children receive a free white cane and a free slate and stylus from the National Federation of the Blind.

Please review and consider the following list of sponsorships. Thank you.

  • $200 Tee shirts for all participants
  • $200 Supplies for arts and crafts
  • $150 Christmas in July party with Santa
  • $100 Louis Braille birthday party
  • $100 Various games: Twister, Bingo, etc.
  • $50 Ice cream at the beach
  • $30 Mid-week pizza party
  • $30 Braille paper
  • $20 Dark lined paper
  • $15 20/20 pens
  • $10 Snacks per day
  • $5 Water for each day

Sponsorship for Tactile Graphic Products

Competence in understanding and using tactile/raised-line illustrations is critical for blind children both for academic and expressive needs. Thanks to the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, each BELL Academy program will receive an InTact Sketch Pad electric eraser and all of the students will receive inTACT Sketchpads. The following three items promote this important but often less-recognized subject area.

  1. 4 or more Sensational Graphics Blackboards at $49.95. Here’s a short video:
  2. 3D Doodler Pens, $100 each with “ink” strands. More packs of “ink strands” cost $12.00 for a 25-pack.
  3. InTact Sketch Pad paper: 100 sheets for $24.00

Note: We have received several sponsorships prior to this posting, and we thank those that have made the donation.

Once again, thanks for your interest and support to drive the BELL Academy vehicle along the road to literacy and learning for blind children. Together, with love, hope and determination, we transform dreams into reality.

Please make checks payable to NFBNJ and mail to:

Joe Ruffalo, President
254 Spruce Street
Bloomfield, NJ 07003

In the memo, please write “BELL.” Any sponsorship in any amount will be appreciated.

Additional Information

For more information about the BELL Academy, please visit To learn more about the NFB of New Jersey BELL Academy program, please contact Mary Jo Partyka, our state BELL coordinator, at or by phone at 609-888-5459.

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