CEC recognized 27 Yes I Can! Award recipients April 27 at its 2011 Convention & Expo in National Harbor, Md. Congratulations to these inspiring young people!

Watch the full awards ceremony on YouTube!

Read more about the 2011 Yes I Can! recipients in the nine awards categories:

    Academics

     Alaly Bernal

    Alaly Bernal
    S. Sioux City, Neb.
    Alaly hasn’t let a developmental delay hold her back from excelling academically. Though she has trouble recognizing letters and sight-reading, she has established herself as an avid reader. Thanks to her hard work and dedication, she advanced seven full reading levels in her third grade year alone. Now she enjoys reading to others.

     Dillon Burroughs Dillon Burroughs
    Gardner, Kan.
    Dillon has made great strides academically. Though he has Type I diabetes and ADHD, and is recovering from a drug addiction, he has blossomed in the gifted education program at Gardner-Edgerton High School, where he will graduate this spring. He earns all As and Bs in school and scored a phenomenal 33 out of 36 on the ACT.
     Brad Cook Brad Cook
    Columbia, S.C.
    Brad is a model student. While unable to attend school full-time due to an emotional disability, he consistently makes the honor roll, scores well on standardized tests, and was elected to the Fifth Grade Student Council. Brad has also learned to self-monitor his behavior, allowing him to explore and enjoy new hobbies and make lasting friendships with his peers.
     Ariel Depler Ariel Depler
    Marion, Kan.
    Ariel exceeds all expectations. Her positive attitude and strong work ethic have had a tremendous impact on her grades and self-esteem. To help prepare herself for college, Ariel, who has a learning disability, pursues a rigorous school schedule that includes all general-education classes. “She is definitely a success story,” says her principal, Brenda Odgers.
     Megan Diffey Megan Diffey
    Lakeland, Fla.
    Megan is a determined student who lets nothing stand in her way. She has developed excellent strategies for grasping reading, writing, and math concepts, including sitting at the front of the class and taking advantage of available assistive technology resources. Now a senior, Megan also serves as a class senator and swim team captain.
     John Dujmovich John Dujmovich
    Marengo, Ill.
    John excels in the classroom. He graduated in the top 10 percent of his high school class and now attends McHenry County College. He hopes to become a sports broadcaster. John, who has autism, has also received numerous certificates of achievement from the state of Illinois. “John not only possesses a constellation of gifts and abilities, but also drive and determination,” says high school teacher Susan Steffan.
     Rachel Duncan Rachel Duncan
    Ashville, Ala.
    Rachel is determined to succeed, despite the physical challenges of arthrogryposis. A role model for her peers as well as adults, she is known for putting a lot of thought into her academics, as well as her lively class participation. Last year she was recognized as having the fifth-highest grade point average in her entire class.
     Michael Gerl Michael Gerl
    Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
    Michael stands out in the classroom. He attended a German bilingual program from kindergarten through high school, where he consistently made the honor roll with a course load that included Pre-Calculus, Biology, and Application Software. Michael, whose multiple disabilities include hearing loss, a visual impairment, and cerebral palsy, is now pursuing a four-year degree from the University of Winnipeg.
     Alexander Heller Alexander Heller
    Milford, N.J.
    Alex is unstoppable. Once a shy student, he now flourishes as an independent thinker at Delaware Valley Regional High School, where he has made the honor roll for 16 consecutive periods. Outside the classroom, Alex participates in the school’s book club, contributes to the literary magazine and newspaper, and provides videography and photography services for school events.
     

    Arts

     Shailen Abram Shailen Abram
    Pittsburgh, Pa.
    Shailen is a stunning musician who sings and plays several instruments. By age two, he was able to replay melodies after hearing them only once. Shailen’s formal training at the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children has propelled his talents to new heights; he has performed at countless concerts, competitions, and fundraisers. He has even played alongside his idol, Stevie Wonder.
     Christopher Benjamin Christopher Benjamin
    Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
    Christopher is an accomplished actor who finds that performing helps him improve his social skills, coordination, and reading comprehension. Christopher has acted in 11 stage plays since joining the Fort Lauderdale Children’s Theatre several years ago. He is also a very talented writer with a knack for crafting comedic monologues and short plays.
     Courtney Cashell Courtney Cashell
    Butte, Mont.
    Courtney shines brightly in the visual arts. While she has been faced with many challenges due to scoliosis and Stickler syndrome, she has chosen to draw on her experiences to inspire others through artwork. This National Honor Society member has won countless awards from state and other competitions, and many of her paintings are on display throughout the school district.
     Haley Moss Haley Moss
    Parkland, Fla.
    Haley is a self-taught artist particularly interested in Japanese anime and computerized sketch art. She wrote and illustrated a book to help other children, both with and without disabilities, navigate the middle-school years. This experience likewise helped Haley, who has autism, improve her own social skills. She also raises money for local disability organizations by auctioning her artwork.
     Drew Murray Drew Murray
    Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
    Drew is a talented photographer. He uses a digital camera adapted with switches to take pictures that express how he sees the world. His work is sometimes emotionally charged, sometimes quirky and whimsical, but always striking. In June 2009, Drew, who has cerebral palsy and a motor disorder, held his first exhibition, aptly called “Life Through the Lens.”


     

    Athletics

     Paul Buck Paul Buck
    Sedan, Kan.
    Paul is a stellar athlete who doesn’t let a visual impairment get in the way of sports. He is a starting lineman on the junior varsity football team and in 2009 earned the Spirit of Sport award from the Kansas State High School Activities Association. A talented wrestler and wakeboarder, he also enjoys fishing, hunting, and skateboarding.
     Carlie Crockett Carlie Crockett
    Willcox, Ariz.
    Carlie has a passion for organized sports. She first played softball for a city league team at age seven. Throughout high school she has participated in volleyball, basketball, softball, and cross-country track. Carlie, who has learning disabilities, relies on special techniques to help her remember the correct order of plays and other game details.
     Amanda Lambert Amanda Lambert
    Irving, Texas
    Amanda shines as a student athletic trainer at Irving High School. In this role she assists in the treatment, prevention, and care of students’ athletic injuries under the supervision of a professional. Amanda, who has an intellectual disability, is also responsible for sideline setup at games and practices, and these experiences have strengthened her communication and multi-tasking skills.

     

    Community Service

     Aizlyn Auckland Aizlyn Auckland
    Terrace, British Columbia, Canada
    Aizlyn loves to serve her community by educating others about disabilities. She has developed a custom PowerPoint presentation and travels to local elementary schools to increase awareness of cerebral palsy and other disabilities. She has even served as a guest lecturer for nursing students to help them learn how to better communicate with children with exceptionalities.
     Jessica Rodriguex Jessica Rodriguex
    San Jose, Calif.
    Jessica has a passion for volunteering. She enjoys tutoring and counseling her peers and works closely with administrators to ensure the best experience for students with disabilities. Jessica, who has ADHD and dyslexia, also volunteers for the San Jose Police Department Cadet Program, where she assists officers with traffic control, paperwork, and translating. She recently won an award for her 3,600 hours of community service.
     

    Employment

     Christopher Williams Christopher Williams
    Katy, Texas
    Christopher is a valuable employee who performs stocking, packaging, labeling, and other tasks at Walgreens pharmacy. He gained the necessary work skills with help from his high school’s Work-Based Learning Program. Christopher, who has autism, has become so successful that the district manager recommended him for a position at another Walgreens location, thereby increasing his work hours.
    Callie VanWallendael  Callie Van Wallendael
    Oakhurst, N.J.
    Callie is an exceptionally hard worker who has obtained a job at the Ivy Hedge Early Childhood Learning Center through her high school’s Cooperative Business Education Program. There she enjoys creating lesson plans, assisting with outdoor activities, and reading to the children. Callie performs these duties independently, despite having visual impairments, learning disabilities, and mild cerebral palsy.
     

    Extracurricular Activities

    Hannah Baird  Hannah Baird
    Hull, Ga.
    Hannah abounds with such enthusiasm that she is an inspiration to her peers, teachers, and community. She participates in Girl Scouts, Special Olympics, Anchor Club, and her church youth group — but her greatest passion is cheerleading. Additionally, Hannah, who has Down syndrome, has managed her high school’s junior varsity soccer team for four years.
     Mikaela May Mikaela May
    Crowley, Texas
    Mikaela hasn’t let learning disabilities or fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD) stop her from pursuing her interests. Passionate about agriculture, she is the Chapter Secretary and District Reporter of her high school’s Future Farmers of America program. Her projects have garnered numerous awards, certificates, and scholarships. Mikaela also developed a campaign to spread awareness about FMD that has reached more than 200,000 students.
     

    Independent Living Skills

    Skylehr Stiles
    Skylehr Stiles
    Belgrade, Mont.
    Skylehr becomes more autonomous every day. He has learned to manage his busy schedule and bank, shop, and cook on his own. Skylehr, who has multiple disabilities, also works at a local sandwich shop and volunteers as an office aide at Belgrade High School. He travels independently throughout his community on his bike and recently even flew solo to Arizona to visit friends.

     

    Self–Advocacy

    Chris Maus
    Christopher Maus
    Greenwell Spring, La.
    Christopher is a strong advocate for people with Tourette syndrome. He first honed his public speaking skills at school, then put them to use for the Tourette Syndrome Association. His presentations seek to help peers, teachers, and lawmakers better understand the disorder and dispel misconceptions. He was the only teen from Louisiana selected to be a TSA Youth Ambassador.

     

    Technology

    Chewynn MasurMardiros
    Chéwynn MasurMardiros
    Birtle, Manitoba, Canada
    Chéwynn is an expert with assistive technology. His remarkable aptitude for technology has helped him overcome learning disabilities to achieve academic success. Chéwynn uses a text-to-speech device for reading, word predication software to assist with spelling, audio books to complete reading assignments, and graphic organizer software to help him organize his thoughts.