Harwood 4th grader earns national ‘Yes I Can’ Award

Duane O'Neill earns national recognition at Harwood Elementary School.
Duane O'Neill earns national recognition at Harwood Elementary School.(West Fargo Public Schools)
Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 1:10 PM CDT
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WEST FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Duane O’Neill, of Harwood, ND, received the 2023 “Yes I Can” Award for Academics from the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC).

Duane was honored on March 3, along with other Yes I Can recipients, at the CEC Convention and Expo in Louisville, KY. Duane was unable to travel to Louisville and was presented his award during an all-school assembly this week at Harwood Elementary in front of staff, his family, and peers.

The Yes I Can Awards celebrate the achievements of children and youth with exceptionalities, encouraging them to seek their highest potential and increase public awareness of the abilities, aspirations, and personal qualities of those with disabilities.

When Duane entered Harwood as a kindergartner, he was overwhelmed by the classroom environment and unable to participate for several months. But Duane had goals, and worked with his teachers and paras to find routines and communication styles that suited him. Thanks to this steadfast dedication, as a fourth grader he now spends most of his day in the classroom with his peers.

His teachers say “Duane thrives on the school routine. He loves coming to school and is a light in the building. He brings smiles to his peers and to the staff in the building. Duane has made a positive impact on his peers by showing that having a disability does not deter a person from participating fully with their class.”

Duane enjoys engaging with other students during lunch time in the cafeteria. He not only participates in group work, but can be found participating in spontaneous communication with his peers and staff members.