Dec. 4, 2013 — An East Carter High School freshman was one of seven winners named in the 2013 Yes I Can! competition last week.
Morgan Jones, 14, won the award that honors Exceptional Children and Youth who shine in a particular area. It is given by the Kentucky Council for Exceptional Children.
Seven awards were given. The children were recognized for their exceptional talents, each in a different category: technology, sports, academics, school and community, arts, vocational training and self-advocacy.
Jones won the award for the School and Community area.
Despite having multiple disabilities, she continues to strive. In the fourth grade, Morgan competed in 4-H demonstration speech competitions and won for her school.
The following three years she won school, county, and regional competitions and each time advanced to state competition at the University of Kentucky. In 2012, she placed third in the state.
Morgan does not use note cards when she gives speeches because of her outstanding memory. Judges and competitors are always amazed at her ability and what she has overcome to accomplish her goals, according to her mother, April Keelin.
“I want to inspire others to never give up,” Morgan said during her speech at the awards ceremony. “I am a living example of someone who never gave up. If you work hard, stay positive and never give up on your dreams and goals, you will succeed. Let your accomplishments define who you are, not your disability!”
Morgan has a metabolic disorder called GA2. When she was two days old, she had brain and eye hemorrhages which caused many health problems and delays.
Around 2 years old, Morgan still wasn’t speaking. Her parents got her hearing aids and started using sign language around this time. It wasn’t until about first or second grade that she was finally putting sentences together. By third grade she was winning school speech competitions.
Morgan’s mother found out about the award from Andie Holbrook, a former special education teacher who taught her daughter. Her mother sent in letters from Holbrook, Cynthia Bond, Morgan’s vision teacher, and Missy Pennington, her personal aide.
“I thought we would try it but never thought she would really win,” her mother said. “We found out in July that Morgan had won! She was so excited!! Morgan kept saying ‘Can you believe that I won?’ We were crying.”
Winners and their families were honored with a reception and luncheon awards ceremony at the Galt House in Louisville last week. Additionally, all were featured at a session in which their individual stories were highlighted.
All of the recipients have been sent on to the National Yes I Can nominations. Those results will be revealed in January.
Mark Maynard is the editor of the Ashland Daily Independent and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2648.