Yes I Can Awards, Sponsored by Pearson, Announced at Council for Exceptional Children 2016 Convention

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Children and youth honored for achieving success in six categories

Twelve outstanding young people were honored this year at the Yes I Can awards ceremony at the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) 2016 Convention & Expo. The award recipients, who range in age from nine-years old to 20, are making incredible contributions to their communities as artists, scholars, advocates, technology experts and successful students and employees.

“The recipients of the Yes I Can Awards are courageous and hardworking young people who are supported by families, friends and professionals who believe in them,” said Alexander T. Graham, CEC executive director. “We are grateful to Pearson for its long-term sponsorship of this award program and to the families and thousands of special education teachers around the country who help improve academic outcomes for students with disabilities and special gifts and talents.”

Each year, teachers, friends and family members nominate laudable young people for the Yes I Can Awards and recipients are chosen and announced by CEC. Pearson has sponsored this recognition program for more than 20 years.

Two notable winners this year are nine-year-old Raffaella “Raffy” from Surfside, Florida, and 10-year-old Alex from Powhatan, Virginia.

One night in the neonatal intensive care unit, doctors gave Linda Rinaldi an agonizing choice. Her infant daughter's lungs were failing and she had bleeding on the brain. They told Rinaldi that she could put her daughter, Raffy, on life support, which had a 90 percent chance of stopping her brain from functioning for the rest of her life. Relying on faith, Rinaldi chose the only other option: to let her daughter try to survive the night on her own.
Raffy’s been defying the odds ever since. Even after surviving that night, doctors predicted she would never walk, talk, or possibly even recognize her family. Instead, she worked through it all with many different types of intense therapies, multiple surgeries, and never-ending support from her family and friends.

Today Raffy has moved from a special education school to a public school. She is a hardworking third-grader who, with her full-time teacher as a shadow, tackles grade-level math and reading, and studies during the summer to keep up.

“Raffy is the most positive person you will ever meet,” said her mother, Linda Rinaldi. “If someone tells her she can’t do something, she says, ‘Yes I can.’ She’s the epitome of this award, and she inspires everyone around her.”

In first grade, Alex suffered what no child should. As a talkative, inquisitive child on the autism spectrum, administrators at his school dealt with his behavior by subjecting him to multiple instances of restraint and seclusion. When Alex finally revealed to his family what was happening to him, his parents were surprised to find that there were no state laws prohibiting these discipline methods.

As his parents began the process to change the laws, Alex took a leading role. Learning the power of his verbal talents, he personally connected with lawmakers statewide and told his story to hundreds of decision makers. Because of Alex’s efforts, in 2015, two bills mandating regulations on the use of restraint and seclusion in Virginia’s public schools were passed into law.

“If you would have asked me two years ago if I could imagine my son sharing such a difficult story or being interested in politics, I would have said no way,” said his father, Sean Campbell. “He’s helping us be better people. He showed us that you have to be involved if you want change. There’s always work to do.”

“When you read the stories of this year’s winners, like Raffy and Alex, it gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘Yes I can.’ Pearson takes enormous pride in honoring this outstanding group of young people and the many others around the country who are transforming their lives and the lives of everyone around them,” said Aurelio Prifitera, Ph.D., managing director of Pearson’s clinical assessment group.

About Pearson
Pearson is the world's learning company, with 36,000 employees in more than 70 countries working to help people of all ages to make measurable progress in their lives through learning. Pearson’s Clinical Assessment group provides a comprehensive portfolio of research-based instruments to help clinicians develop insights that support evaluations and shape treatment plans. For more information about Pearson Clinical Assessment visit

Media Contact: Scott Overland, scott.overland(at), 202-909-4528

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