The highlight of the CEC conference was the ‘Yes I can’ award ceremony at 6 pm on 10th in the Exhibit Hall F. The picture shows the 21 awardees seated on the stage before the start of the ceremony. These kids are special needs children who have been chosen for the award in various categories –academics, arts, athletics, school & community activities, self advocacy, technology and transition. They have been selected from hundreds and hundreds of applications received from schools around the US and Canada. Their ability and spirit of ‘Yes I can’ was recognized at the event. Two Past Presidents of the CEC read the citation and presented the awards. You can read the citations at www.cec.sped.org/yesIcan
To say the least, this is one occasion which reinforced my faith in the spirit of special education. It is such an event that shows what can be done by investing in kids otherwise destined to a life of hopelessness and despair. I had a lump in my throat as each student’s citation was read and they either walked or steered their wheelchairs to the front of the stage by themselves. There was even one girl who came to the ceremony with her service dog.
Each of them had a story of persistence and survival that helped them to be the best in their community. They overcome challenges everyday to be their best. They make a difference in other people’s lives in the school where they study. There was applause all through. The parents, teachers and family members were seated in the front seats in the audience and they were cheered for their commitment and support in these children’s brave journey.
There was one kid I cannot forget. He obviously has Down syndrome and his citation said that his sense of humour and spirit of positiveness brightened everybody around him everyday. As he received the award and walked back, he looked at the audience, smiled, waved and pulled down and up his elbow with a clenched fist in a show of cheer. Everybody just roared!
Two events that I loved at CEC were the first key note address by Cohen and then this ceremony. Everything in between was bland compared to these – the meetings, the discussions, the information collected from various booths, the new connections made, the old acquaintances renewed. I think we need to celebrate the success stories more and more in NISH too!
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