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Blind student honored for essay
Na’im Harris, 10, poses with his mother, Tene Gibson-Harris, left, Misty Barnes, Sheri Reddicks, Mike Hodges and LaVerne Halliburton. - photo by Photo by Jen Alexander McCall
Fifth-grader Na’im Harris, 10, is probably more prepared for a natural disaster than most adults, and his creative expression of this knowledge recently earned him an honorable mention in the Ready Georgia art and essay contest, which recognizes National Preparedness Month.
Students from across the state submitted original artwork and essays on the importance of being prepared for natural disasters and other emergencies and how they have helped their families prepare.
Harris, a student in Ervin Beanum’s class at Button Gwinnett Elementary School, crafted a readiness kit using play foam to create items that should be standard in emergency preparedness kits.  
“We were very excited” when the announcement was made, Button Gwinnett Principal Dr. LaVerne Halliburton said.
Harris said he created things with foam that everyone should have on hand: batteries, a can opener and clothes. He also said children can help parents get ready for emergencies by helping pack the car before they evacuate.
Suzy Bowen, a spokeswoman for Ready Georgia in Atlanta, said it was the accompanying essay that struck a chord with judges. Harris, who is blind, wrote his essay in Braille.
“I’m so proud. It was unexpected,” said his mother, Tene Gibson-Harris. The fifth-grader kept his response more low-key — he was “a little happy” to hear about the honorable mention, he said.
At a brief award ceremony in December, Harris received a plaque and a certificate for his achievement from Mike Hodges, director of the Liberty County Emergency Management Agency.
Hodges said school lessons about disaster preparedness can help families.
“If you start preparing here, they take it home. People listen to their kids,” Hodges said. “The fact that this child has the challenges he does and is still concerned about emergency preparedness, it’s astounding.”
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