Keshawn Kemp was the first up on stage and he was met with a warm welcome from his peers at a recent Denison Independent School District board meeting. Keshawn, who is legally blind, was one of dozens of stuents honored at the end of the year awards ceremony.

Earlier in the year, Keshawn competed in a braille contest that tested his reading comprehension, spelling, speed and accuracy, proof reading and charts and grafts. He took home first place in his level, braille apprentice.

During the award presentation at the school board meeting, Keshawn’s teacher ensured his certificate was in braille so he could read it.

“He is a real good student,” Keshawn’s mother Shlonda Ford said. “This year he was put into the gifted and talented class. You have to challenge him. He is a very knowledgeable student. He likes to learn. He does have a lot of questions and he picks up on things quickly. Once he learns about something he can explain it back. He learns on his own too. We gave him a tool box and he told us what ever tool was used for without anybody telling him.”

Keshawn lost his left eye when he was two years old after being diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma, a rare form of eye cancer.

Ford described Keshawn as a typical eight-year-old. She said he always has a smile on his face. She said his family encourages him to follow his passions and that he is a very bright student. She said being blind has not held him back at all. He loves riding his bike and is involved in gifted and talented classes in school.

She said this year, he even ran in the Special Olympics where he took third place. His mother said in an act indicative of his big heart, he gave his medal to his running partner who helped him win the race.

“Whether it’s lunchtime, recess time or class time, Keshawn is right with all his peers, not missing a beat,” Houston Elementary School Principal Kyle Uber said about Keshawn’s independence. “It’s safe to say everyone calls Keshawn their friend. Keshawn has such a great outlook on things. He always has a positive attitude about things. I can’t wait to see what great things Keshawn continues to do. He’s an inspiration to everyone at Houston Elementary.”

Ford said Keshawn gets along well with other students and his teachers all encourage him to grow. She said when he found out he won the braille challenge he was so excited. Then he got to walk on stage in front of the school board she said he was even more excited.

“I was very proud of him,” Ford said. “When I got the letter telling us they were recognizing him, it was very amazing. We brought him in early so he could walk across the stage. He wanted to be able to do it on his own. The teacher made sure the certificate was in braille so he could read it. He was very excited. He has it propped up next to his bed.”

Ford also said although Keshawn’s cancer has been stable for three years, he still requires regular doctor visits.

Keshawn loves school, Ford said. His favorite subjects are science and math, and Ford said Keshawn’s only major disappointment is how he can’t get perfect attendance because of his medical checkups.

Richard A. Todd is the Denison area reporter. He can be reached at