CEC recognized 29 Yes I Can! Award recipients at our 2008 Convention & Expo. Congratulations to these exceptional students. We are proud of them and all they accomplish, as well as their message of hope to others.

Read more about the Yes I Can! recipients in the nine awards categories:

Academics

  Katelyn Braninburg
California
Katelyn Braninburg has worked hard to overcome the effects of a traumatic brain injury. Today, Katelyn maintains a 3.3 GPA in general education classes and has perfect attendance. She has also served on her school’s Student Council, is a school cheerleader, and participates in numerous extracurricular activities. Further, Katelyn is a positive role model for her fellow students. Katelyn, you demonstrate that there are no limitations to what one can achieve.
  Nallym Bravo
Florida
Nallym Bravo is an accomplished linguist and scholar. Nallym, who is blind, skillfully balances advanced placement courses, including computer programming, and Honors French 3—and she maintains a superior grade point average. Additionally, Nallym won the school-wide Excellence in French Award and is a candidate for the National French Honor Society. Nallym also tutors her fellow classmates. Not averse to challenges of any kind, Nallym learned how to fence, too. Nallym, you can do anything with your “can do” attitude.
 Thomas Ostric Thomas Ostric
Tennessee
Thomas “TJ” Ostric who has multiple disabilities, is determined to attend school every day. TJ takes general education classes and maintains excellent grades. Additionally, he has won more than 20 school awards, including the science fair, spelling bee, and athletics. Thomas also is a thespian, plays the tuba, and is a successful fundraiser. He plans to help save the pandas from extinction. TJ, your courage and determination inspires us all.
  Alexander Quintero
Florida
Alexander Quintero has worked hard to overcome his learning disability. In 2007, he received the highest score possible on the FCAT Writing Test. In addition, Alexander received the Most Improvement Award for academics and his school’s Writer’s Hall of Fame Award. Today, he often receives A’s on assignments. Alexander, you are on the road to success in school and life.
  Kaytessa Marie Robinson
Kentucky
Kaytessa Robinson has learned to overcome her behavioral issues and maintain her composure. At the same time, she has shown remarkable progress academically. She has become a top student, bringing her GPA in general education classes to a 3.0. Kaytessa also had a poem published in the district newsletter. Kaytessa is working hard to achieve her goals, one of which is to become a nurse. Kaytessa, you will be a caring and wonderful nurse.
  Alex Segbers
Ohio
Alex Segbers refused to let a brain tumor and several surgeries keep him from succeeding academically. Throughout his recovery, Alex maintained an A average. He also obtained an Accelerated score on the Ohio Achievement Test in reading and science and a Proficient score in math and social studies. Alex is organized, always prepared, and focused on his studies. Alex, you are an outstanding young man who demonstrates an exceptional strength of character.
 Samantha Simonton Samantha Simonton
Georgia
Samantha “Sami” Simonton is a scholar. Sami, who has multiple disabilities, maintains a straight A’s in her school’s gifted program. She scored in the 99 th percentile in reading and language on standardized tests, placed fourth in the 2006 Braille Readers Are Leaders National Braille Competition, and second in the 2007 State of George Braille Challenge Competition. Sami, you are leading the way with your academic achievements and drive to succeed.
  Daniel F. Starr
Virginia
Daniel Starr has made great strides academically. This young man with autism is an honor roll student; and he passed, with above average scores, the state math, world history, and biology assessments. Daniel is creative, too. He makes Claymation movies from start to finish. Daniel writes the scripts, develops clay images, films each segment, and adds art and music to the movies. Daniel, your talent and drive will take you far.
 Sarah Wilkins Sarah Lynne Wilkins
Ohio
Sarah Wilkins is a determined student who lets nothing, including Down syndrome, stand in her way. Sarah is fully included in her school’s general education classes and receives all A’s and B’s. In fact, she is the only student receiving an A in her science class! Sarah also sings in the school choir and competes in Special Olympics. Sarah, we are very proud of all you have accomplished.

 

Arts

  Bee Sun Chau
South Korea
Be Sun Chau is a musician and author. Despite cerebral palsy, Be Sun has made music an integral part of her life. She has learned to play the recorder, melodeon, and ocrina; and she is in the school choir. Be Sun is also a published poet, whose work expresses the hope children with disabilities have for their future. Be Sun, you have an undaunted spirit that expresses the sensitivity and beauty of life.
 Emma Dinsmore Emma Dinsmore
Florida
Despite a spinal cord injury, Emma Dinsmore never gave up her passion for dance. She learned to ballet dance in her wheelchair, (and taught others to wheelchair dance). Now Emma performs tap dancing and ballet with support only from braces and arm poles. Emma was even asked to join the Northwest Florida Ballet, where she performed a special role in the Nutcracker. Emma also is an Honor Roll student. Emma, you light up the stage.
  Brittney Luna
Tennessee
Brittney Luna is a talented singer. Brittney is a member of the high school chorus and the Choral Ensemble. This young singer, who has multiple disabilities, has performed for the State Commissioner of Education and other dignitaries. Brittany was also selected to perform with students around the world in the musical, Up with People; and she has opened several events by singing the national anthem. Brittney, you bring happiness and hope to others with your singing.
  Stephany Oaks
Kentucky
Multiple disabilities have not stopped Stephany Oaks from becoming an award-winning photographer. Stephany won a blue ribbon at the Kentucky State Fair, Grand Champion at the county fair, and the 2006 Very Special Arts Contest for her work. Her photographs were also selected for the Kentucky VSA Traveling Exhibit. Additionally, Stephany has started a business selling gift cards and bookmarks, which are designed from her photographs. Stephany, you show everyone the beauty in the world through your work.

Read more about Stephany here:
CCHS Student Wins National Award
Stefany Oaks Wins National Award 

 Matthew Savage Matthew Savage
New Hampshire
Matthew “Matt” Savage is an acclaimed pianist who has attracted sell-out crowds throughout the Northeast. He has released eight albums; and his 2006 album, “Quantum Leap,” reached the top 25 on the Jazz Week charts. Matt, who has autism, also has performed with artists such as Chaka Khan and on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and the David Letterman Show. Matt donates part of his profits to raise awareness of autism. Matt, you are taking the musical world by storm!
 

Athletics

Kayla Bowers  Kayla Maureen Bowers
Pennsylvania
Kayla Bowers who has cerebral palsy, is an accomplished athlete. Kayla, an outstanding equestrian, took first place in her class and won Best in Show. Additionally, she plays soccer and baseball with the Fox Chase Champions, and she can now play for an entire session. Kayla is also in the acolyte program at her church. Kayla, you demonstrate all the qualities of an athlete: perseverance, skill, ability, and a love of movement.
 David Buckner David Gary Buckner
Texas
David Buckner refuses to let a health impairment keep him from achieving his dreams. David, a four-year varsity runner on his school’s cross country and track team, lettered his freshman year and has advanced to the Regional Cross Country Meet. He has won more than 30 medals and 10 trophies. David also has given presentations on including students with disabilities in school athletic programs. David, you are a warrior, inside and out.
 Timothy O'Grady Timothy O’Grady
Virginia
Timothy “Tim” O’Grady is a skilled athlete. Tim, who has autism, learned to swim in just one season and became a competitive swimmer. He is a valued member of the McLean Hamlet Swim Team, a competitive team of more than 300 swimmers. Tim won third place in the final race of the season. Tim’s motto is, “O’Grady’s never give up.” Tim, you show us all that we should never give up!
 

Community Service


Kevin Simmons
New York
Kevin Simmons has shown initiative and leadership in community service. He has assumed a leadership position in numerous fundraisers such as Adopt a Family and the American Cancer Society. Kevin, who has multiple disabilities, also served as an officer of the Leo Club and has been active in Healthy Fun Run Race Day, Special Olympics, and the community Halloween party. Kevin, you are a role model for others with—and without—disabilities.

Employment

Traveain Finley
Wisconsin
Traveain Finley has embarked on a successful career as a disc jockey. Traveain, who has multiple disabilities, co-hosted the afternoon drive shift on Jammin’ 98.3, a top Milwaukee radio station, for a semester. He also deejayed a student dance party and got everyone jivin’ on the floor. And, Traveain has lined up several gigs in his community. Traveain, you bring joy to others through your radio personality.

Antoine Hughes
Maryland
Antoine Hughes is a model employee. Antoine, who has cognitive delays, has performed office duties on behalf of the Baltimore and Maryland Special Olympics. He has also received paid employment at the Martin Luther King Day Care Center and Johns Hopkins Hospital. Antoine’s colleagues say he has an “incredible work ethic,” and he readily accepts the challenge of new assignments. Antoine, any business would be lucky to have you as an employee!

Extracurricular Activities

 Michaela Robinson Michaela Robinson
British Columbia
The will of Michaela Robinson is unparalleled. This young lady with multiple disabilities is not only a member of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets, she also won the Royal Canadian Legion Medal of Excellence. Additionally, Michaela is an extraordinary fundraiser, is a medalist in Special Olympics, and is an accomplished speaker. And, Michaela swims, dances, hikes, rock climbs, and glider rides. In addition, Michaela is an experienced speaker. Michaela, your spirit is indomitable.
 Joshua Stump Joshua Lawrence Stump
Michigan
Joshua Stump has a passion for helping others. Joshua, who has a learning disability, was elected mayor of the Student Council, is an advisor of the Greenville Youth Advisory Council, and is a representative to the district’s conservation committees and Michigan Association of Student Councils. Additionally, Joshua participates in his school’s choir, National Honor Society, Habitat for Humanity, theater, chorus, and varsity tennis. Joshua, your spirit and caring create a better world.
  Katherine Margaret Sullivan
New York
Nothing can stop Katherine Sullivan. Katherine participates in her school’s running team, Girl Scouts, band, chorus, color guard, swimming, dance, and community theater. If that weren’t enough, this dynamo also helps out at her school: collecting mail, greeting visitors, working in the school store, and making the morning announcements. Down syndrome takes a back seat for Katherine, who is known as the “Go-to Girl.” Katherine, you shine in all that you do.
 

Independent Living Skills

 

Shirley Alvarez
Shirley Alvarez
New York
Shirley Alvarez refuses to let a physical disability slow her down. This innovative young lady designed makeup applicators for individuals with limited movement and relearned how to eat without any special equipment. Shirley also maintains high grades and participates in Student Council, peer tutoring, and fundraising. Additionally, Shirley was selected as a Natural Helpers representative and received the Girl Scout Silver Award. Shirley, your spirit and determination are unparalleled.

 

Self–Advocacy

 Tyler Greene Tyler Greene
Iowa
Tyler Greene educates people about Ability Awareness. In elementary school, Tyler, who has cerebral palsy, began advocating for the rights of individuals with disabilities. Recently, Tyler wrote and produced his DVD, “I’m Tyler,” which shows how much individuals with disabilities can do. More than 4,000 copies of the DVD are in use in the United States and other countries. Tyler is also on the Kids as Self Advocates National Advisory Board. Tyler, by your advocacy, you give hope and courage to thousands.
  Mitchel Sieling
New Jersey
Mitchel Sieling, 18, who has multiple disabilities, paved the way for other individuals with special needs. Mitchel successfully advocated for his right to participate in graduation at his high school, taking his petition to the highest levels of his school district. He also testified before the Senate Education Committee of the State House in support of Alisha’s law. Mitchel, you have—and will continue—to make life better for others.
 Brandon Wald Brandon Wald
North Dakota
Brandon Waldvadvocates for himself and others with disabilities. Brandon, who has multiple disabilities, advocated for his academic needs and raised his GPA to a 3.5—a feat that earned him his school’s Stretch and Personal Best awards. Brandon also mentors younger high school students, conducts school tours for new students with disabilities, and speaks about his disabilities at education conferences. Brandon, you prove that those with disabilities are very capable, indeed.
 

Technology

  Tim Clawson
Ohio
Tim “Timmy” Clawson who has multiple disabilities, is a master of technology. He uses technology in all areas of his life: to independently complete school work, including giving oral reports; reading independently, communicating with friends and others in the community; navigating his environment, and participating in sports activities. Timmy even played a significant role in his school’s musical program. Timmy, nothing can keep you from achieving your goals. 
Mark Stteidl  Mark Steidl
Pennsylvania
Mark Steidl who has cerebral palsy, uses technology to succeed in school and life. With technology, Mark takes general education classes, including Spanish, and earns all A’s and B’s; interviews others on radio; stages plays for a theater group; and participates in physical education and holiday dances. Mark also composes music, and he is the youngest member of an AAC technology support group for Dynavox. Mark, with your accomplishments, you give hope to others.