CEC recognized 27 Yes I Can! Award recipients at its 2009 Convention & Expo in Seattle, Wash. Congratulations to these exceptional young people!

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



Bruce Amstutz  Bruce Amstutz
Columbus, Ohio
Bruce who has a cognitive disability, has blossomed in the last two years. He has made remarkable growth academically and now maintains a 3.97 GPA. He is also involved in several extracurricular activities, including Key Club and the Special Olympics. A true inspiration to others, Bruce encourages his peers to excel as well.
 Emma Cladis Emma Cladis
Corona del Mar, Calif.
Emma is dedicated to helping other people. Though she has autism and is nonverbal, she takes general education classes and has developed her own true voice, using a Light WRITER device to speak and a laptop computer to write. Emma has written short stories to relay her personal experiences and advocates for others with disabilities to do the same.
  Tyron Davis
Chicago, Ill.
Tyron has worked hard to overcome his learning disability. Through tutoring and other interventions, he has improved his reading skills and vocabulary. Tyron is now a top-five student in his class at Scott Joplin Elementary School and recently became the first student with a disability to perform above average on the Illinois Standardized Achievement Test.
 Robert Dooling Robert Dooling
Omaha, Neb.
Robert was born profoundly deaf but hasn’t let that hold him back. Throughout his high school career he has taken eight advanced placement courses and 16 honors classes. He currently ranks 39th out of the 430 students in his class. Robert is also a swim coach at his local YMCA.
 John Everett John Houston Everett
Magee, Miss.
Houston, who has cerebral palsy, has earned awards in every academic area and won his school’s science fair three years in a row. He is a member of the speech and debate team, National Honor Society, and Beta Club. An advocate for disability rights, Houston successfully campaigned for the installation of a wheelchair ramp at his high school football stadium.
 Jewell IronHeart Jewell Iron Heart
Springfield, S.D.
Jewell has made great strides academically, even though he has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and a learning disability. Jewell used to struggle with authority but is now an honor student with a 3.7 GPA. He has even earned his school’s community service and most-improved student awards.
 Sarah Leslie Sarah Leslie
Silverton, Ore.
Sarah is a determined student who lets nothing, including profound hearing loss, stand in her way. She takes advanced classes in English, humanities, history, and chemistry; maintains a 3.88 GPA; and was recently inducted into the National Honor Society. In addition, Sarah was selected to attend a study-abroad program in Bahrain during her junior year.
 Stephanie Miller Stephanie Miller
Cincinnati, Ohio
Stephanie is an excellent student, despite having physical, language, and math disabilities. She pursues a rigorous college preparatory program and maintains a B average in school. When she isn’t studying, Stephanie coordinates canned food drives and participates in charity walks. Stephanie is excited to attend college, where she plans to major in early childhood education.
 Geraldine Miranda Geraldine Miranda
Phoenix, Ariz.
Geraldine, 18, is a model student. Geraldine, who has spinal muscular atrophy, holds four positions in her student government, is a member of the orchestra, and ranks in the top two percent of her class. She is also a peer mediator, which allows her to help other students with challenging social situations.


Amanda LaMunyon  Amanda LaMunyon
Enid, Okla.
Amanda is a successful artist. This young lady with Asperger’s syndrome has always loved to paint. Her extraordinary paintings have graced the halls of both her school and the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. Amanda, who also loves to sing, has used her talents to increase public awareness of autism and to raise money for children with disabilities.
 Justin Martin Justin Martin
Hillard, Ohio
Justin, who has cerebral palsy, has a passion for writing poetry. His keen keyboarding and computer skills help him keep up with his creative thought process. Justin has held poetry readings at schools, theaters, literary events, community festivals, and radio stations and hopes his work helps those who need a little inspiration.
 Jonathan Tackett Jonathan Tackett
Columbus, Ohio
Jonathan is artistically gifted. He has multiple disabilities and uses art to both express himself and communicate with his peers. Jonathan’s imaginative work, which includes paintings, drawings, digital photography, and two-dimensional designs, has been displayed throughout his school. He even sold one of his pieces at a silent auction to raise money for his school’s art program.
 Ashley Townsend Ashley Townsend
Ormond Beach, Fla.
Ashley hasn’t let a degenerative eye disease stand in the way of becoming an accomplished performer. She uses magnifiers to read music and scripts and is adept at memorization. Ashley has earned numerous awards for her singing and acting, plays the saxophone and the piano, and has performed in numerous musicals.
 Lyndon White Lyndon White II
Alachua, Fla.
Lyndon who has multiple disabilities, is a star percussionist. Though he is unable to communicate verbally, he has perfected other ways of expressing himself, including sign language and playing the drums. Lyndon is the lead in a drum line comprised of students with disabilities that took part in the national Festival Disney competition in March 2008.


Joshua Bos  Joshua Bos
Loudon, Tenn.
Joshua is known by his teammates and coach as “The Marathon Kid.” Josh, who has a cognitive disability, has set high school records in both one-mile and two-mile races. He is also a member of the school swim team. In addition to competitive sports, Josh participates in the Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corp and takes culinary arts classes.
 Jolyn Elordi Jolyn Elordi
Caldwell, Idaho
Jolyn, who has Down syndrome, excels in both individual and team sports. She has participated in the Special Olympics since she was eight years old. An all-around athlete, Jolyn competes in track, gymnastics, swimming, and floor hockey and was nominated for the Special Olympics Best Female Athlete award in bowling.
 Maddie Knoll Maddie Knoll 
Lake Elmo, Minn.
Maddie loves being in the water. In addition to being on her high school swim and dive team, Maddie, who has Asperger’s syndrome, competes in synchronized swimming. She recently began teaching preschool swimming classes at a rehabilitation center for children with disabilities and the pool where she first learned to swim.

Community Service


 Tyler Harvey Tyler Harvey
Jonesboro, La.
Tyler has demonstrated remarkable courage and leadership. Though a car accident left him legally blind at age ten, Tyler is determined to gain independence and serve others. He has made it his mission to raise awareness of accessibility issues in his community. Because of his efforts, many local businesses have begun making the necessary changes to their properties.
 Zachary Kraus Zachary Kraus
Schnecksville, Pa.
Zachary lets nothing, including leukemia, stop him from giving back. Zachary has generated thousands of dollars to purchase toys, televisions, and video games for fellow patients at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. Zachary’s selflessness has also rubbed off on his classmates, who have developed their own fundraisers and donated the profits to his various causes.



Michael Moore
Michael Moore
Avon, Mass.
Michael is a valuable employee. Michael, who has Down syndrome, has worked for several local businesses, including a retail store, a family restaurant, and a minor league baseball team. He holds many important jobs at his high school, including preparing staff lunches, copying and collating materials, and recycling.

Read more about Michael’s accomplishments:

Avon student wins Council for Exceptional Children Award
RIGHT STUFF: Avon senior awarded by national children’s group


Extracurricular Activities


 Alek Masters Alek Masters
Boalsburg, Penn.
Nothing can stop Alek, who has Down syndrome. He plays the cymbals in his high school’s marching band, throws the shot put on the track team, and is a member of swing dance club. Alek also competes in the Special Olympics in skiing, soccer, and baseball. In addition, he is working toward becoming an Eagle Scout.
 Natalie Upp Natalie Upp
Lubbock, Texas
Natalie has Down syndrome but never stops aiming high. She has been a Girl Scout since kindergarten and is consistently the top Girl Scout Cookie seller in her troop. Natalie has won numerous Special Olympics medals in bowling, gymnastics, baseball, swimming, and track and field. She also loves arts and crafts and is an excellent piano player.


Independent Living Skills

Jaclyn Sarmas
Skokie, Ill.
Jaclyn, who has Down syndrome and a cognitive impairment, becomes more self-sufficient every day. She has made remarkable progress with the help of a life skills program. She is now able to shop and use public transportation on her own. Jaclyn acts as a peer leader on group outings to the grocery store, public library, and the community fitness center.


Bryan Aronold  Bryan Arnold
Anchorage, Alaska
Bryan educates people about his degenerative disease, Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). During his junior year of high school, Bryan produced a movie about living with DMD. It has received much attention and has been shown in schools statewide. Bryan hopes to extend his advocacy reach beyond Alaska to the rest of the country.
 Matthew Lipsey Matthew Lipsey
Owings Mills, Md.
Matthew, who has Stargardt’s Disease, is enrolled in a science magnet program and is determined to become a nuclear engineer. He has attended the Space Camp for Interested Visually Impaired Students for three summers and helped raise money so other children could attend. Matthew also volunteers and fundraises whenever possible to help find cures for retinal eye diseases.
 Darius Weems Darius Weems
Athens, Ga.
Darius advocates for himself and others with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Darius has helped generate more than $1.5 million to find a cure for DMD. He starred in the 2005 documentary “Darius Goes West,” which follows a group of friends on a search for a customized wheelchair for Darius. The film has won numerous awards and continues to raise DMD awareness nationwide.

Visit Darius' Web site to learn more.



Bryan Villa
Bryan Villa
Jersey City, N.J.
Bryan is a master of graphic design and looks forward to a career in the field. His entire school has come to rely on his expertise with computers. Bryan, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), has designed three yearbook covers, developed PowerPoint presentations for graduation ceremonies, and created a student newspaper.