2013 Yes I Can! Award Recipients

CEC recognized 21 Yes I Can Award recipients on April 5 at the 2013 CEC Convention & Expo in San Antonio. Congratulations to these inspiring young people!



Asha B. Gandhi
Winston-Salem, N.C.

Asha, 12, soars above her peers academically. By third grade, she was exceeding her peers in the classroom and was placed in a gifted program. Her accomplishments include first place in the science fair, as well as first place in the National PTA Reflections Program.


Grace Jones
Fort Thomas, Ky.

Grace, 22, knocks down barriers and shines as a model student and community member. She enrolled in Northern Kentucky University’s Supported Higher Education Project and has blossomed in college, taking part in a mentoring video for the University and volunteering weekly.


John Carson Morris
Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Carson, 18, is determined and perseveres in all he does. While enrolled in the math, science and engineering magnet program at Suncoast High School, ranked one of the nation's top 10 high schools by Newsweek, Carson also has taken numerous Advanced Placement and Dual-Enrollment courses at Florida Atlantic University.


Olivia Vice
Denham Springs, La.

Olivia, 6, may be small in stature, but she faces life with a big heart and lots of determination. Not only is she thriving academically, but she is confident in interacting with her peers and working independently. Her teachers say it’s not uncommon to hear  “Let me do it!” from Olivia.


Matthew Villanueva
Montgomery Village, Md.

Matthew, 13, is a consistent honor roll student, earning membership to the National Junior Honor Society. He excels in science having won his school’s science fair, an Excellence in Science Award and even earned a paid summer science internship at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. Matthew also has contributed 184 volunteer hours as a teacher's assistant.


Montrell Washington
Kansas City, Kan.

Montrell, 12, has unwavering  smile on his face, a friendly hello for all and mischievous sense of humor.  He is praised by his teachers for working hard and making great strides academically, coupled with his desire to interact with almost everyone he meets—a vast difference from the shy and quiet student his teachers remember from kindergarten.



Kevin Hosseini
Carpinteria, Calif.

Kevin, 18, is an internationally distinguished painter inspiring the world with his story. In 2012, he artwork on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s Ripley Center in Washington D.C., in Hong Kong and in Florence, Italy. In 2011, he received a national award from Naturally Autistic for best visual artist in his age category.


Connor Long
Louisville, Colo.

Connor, 18, shines as a star on screen, in school and in the work place. During his senior year of high school, Connor won a lead role in an independent short film, and has since taken a class with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, helped found a local mixed-abilities community theater troupe and continues to perform.


Darien Williams
San Antonio

Darien, 21, is a true musician, exemplifying the meaning of dedication. Darien plays multiple instruments—the piano, the organ and the accordion, to name just a few. He has performed in more than 20 public and community service recitals each year since 2008. In the five festivals he has entered, Darien has received all 1st-place awards.



Samantha Cline
Taylor Mill, Ky.

Samantha, 14, prides herself on working out every day and staying healthy. She is an avid athlete, enjoying yoga, basketball, tennis and volleyball, among others. Samantha is enrolled in artistic gymnastics and has participated in the Special Olympics, where she won five gold medals for rope, hoop, ball, ribbon and all-around.


David Damron
Georgetown, Ky.

David, 16, is a leader on several champion sports teams. He began playing Special Olympics basketball five years ago and since then has begun playing softball and football. During David’s athletic career, he has been a member of numerous silver- and gold-medal-winning teams, making it to the state tournament in all three sports more than once.


Dixi Kay Kinchen
Albany, La.

Dixi, 16, knows no boundaries when it comes to effort, participation and love of sports. She has played sports since she was three, including basketball, soccer, dance, T-ball, softball, cheerleading, bowling, golf, horseback riding—and has even tried line dancing. She has brought home multiple medals from her state’s Special Olympics games.

School & Community Activities


Michaela Deputy

Mickey, 15, uses her positive attitude to change her community. A busy public speaker, Mickey shares her personal story as a leukemia survivor with her audiences. To celebrate her 16th birthday, Mickey will participate in the 2013 Nike Women’s Half-Marathon in San Francisco, as the first cancer survivor who has Down syndrome to register.


Michael Kaip
Mandan, N.D.

Michael, 18, is a leader in school and community—bringing sports to students with disabilities. Michael has been captain of the Great American Bike Race, manager of the varsity hockey and baseball teams and is founder of Dreams in Motion, a nonprofit group that helps provide sports activities for individuals with mobility challenges.

 Claire Menke

Elizabeth Claire Menke
Middletown, Md.

Claire, 17, is determined to share information about disabilities and make a difference as a volunteer in her community. She has been a guest speaker for the Jerry Lewis Telethon and was named the 2008 National Goodwill Ambassador for Tall Cedars of Lebanon of North America. Every year, Claire raises funds for the annual Muscular Dystrophy Association Muscle Walk.


Brian Slatky
West Babylon, N.Y.

Brian, 19, is a leader in his school and community. He joined the Boy Scouts in first grade and is now an Eagle Scout. He has held various leadership positions and is currently an assistant scout master. A gifted artist, Brian produced videos for his high school and hopes to some day strike it rich as a cartoon animator in Hollywood. 



Justin Bachman
Solon, Ohio

Justin, 15, advocates for tolerance with the motto “Eduction overcomes ignorance.” He was selected as a youth ambassador for the Tourette Syndrome Association, emceed an event for more than 2,500 college students and organized a Tolerance Fair to showcase how to help people with disabilities or how to find more information about disabilities.


Brian Meersma
Princeton Junction, N.J.

Brian, 17, is a strong advocate for himself and others individuals who benefit from the use of technology. Brian also travels annually to Capitol Hill to garner support for gifted and special education issues. He maintains a blog, gives presentations and workshops on assistive technology and has run a summer reading group for struggling readers.



Charles Jackson Hebert
Prairieville, La.

Jake, 20, persevered to learn to communicate through technology. After many attempts at various techniques and technologies, Jake finally found the correct mix allowing him to successfully communicate and work more independently. For the past year, Jake has worked as a disc jockey for a weekly online radio show and goes by the handle DJ Bad Monkey.



Raquel Bernstein
Woodmere, N.Y. 

Raquel, 18, has overcome adversity to achieve independence and give back to her community. She has worked tirelessly to create devices that improve her daily life skills. Raquel not only sets goals for herself, she was a volunteer counselor at Camp Discovery, a camp for children with disabilities, where she won the “Friendship Award.”


Madison Hill Morsefield
Kent, Ohio

Madison, 20, has successfully transitioned from high school to college, while making a difference in her community. She is currently taking part in a four-year program at Kent State University, which combines academics, career development and independent learning. She is studying hospitality management and volunteers on a weekly basis.

Read about past Yes I Can award recipients: