Young Latinas Design App For Blind Classmate & Win $20,000!

Six young women from Los Fresnos, Texas, are hard at work developing an application that could radically change the way the visually-impared navigate unfamiliar spaces.

The preteens recently became one of eight teams to win the Verizon Innovative App Challenge. The girls earned their school, Resaca Middle School, a $20,000 grant from the Verizon Foundation for their impressive win.

The winning team consists of six incredible young ladies: Kayleen Gonzalez, 12, Grecia Cano, 12, Cassandra Baquero, 12, Jacqueline Garcia Torres, 12, Janessa Leija, 11, and Caitlyn Gonzalez, 12. Their science teacher, Maggie Bolado, also assisted them with their endeavor. 

Inspired by a blind classmate, the middle schoolers designed Hello Navi, an application that measures a user's stride and combines this information with digital building blueprints. It then gives verbal directions that can help users easily navigate unfamiliar spaces. 

"I jumped, then screamed and cried tears of joy," Gracia Cano told People about their win. "I got up too fast from my chair when they announced we won, that I even hurt my leg a little. I couldn't stop smiling."

The girls have one supporter who's especially proud: their muse, Andres Salas. The 12-year-old student is visually impaired, and said he was "super duper" excited to be the girl's inspiration for their project. "I have adopted six news sisters, because they care for me, and made this happen for me," he said. 

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About this author

Cristina Arreola, Associate Editor

Cristina Mari Arreola is the Associate Editor. Originally from El Paso, Texas, she earned her degree at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University before moving to New York City. In her downtime, you can usually find her scouring the city for the most authentic Mexican food (still looking), scaring herself silly watching horror movies, or frantically reading a novel from her (extremely lengthy) reading list. See what she's reading now on Goodreads, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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