Brandon McCullough of Anaconda, Mont., is a recipient of the “Yes I Can” award. Presented by the Montana Council for Exceptional Children (MCEC), Brandon is one of five winners.
The Yes I Can award recognizes students with disabilities who excel in one of nine categories. They include academics, arts, athletics, community service, employment, extracurricular activities, independent living skills, technology or self-advocacy.
A success story among the youth AWARE serves, Brandon was nominated by his teachers at the Center for Excellence and his caregivers for being an outstanding self-advocate.
Kari Hoscheid, lead special education teacher at the Center for Excellence, said nominating Brandon for the award was an easy job. Between all of Brandon’s champions, 13 letters of approval were delivered to nominate him for the Region IV award.
“I’ve had him for years as a student and have watched him develop,” Kari said. “Brandon’s gone through a lot and has persevered even though it was really hard. He’s doing really well.”
The 14-year-old accepted the award during the annual MCEC awards luncheon February 16, 2017. He wore a suit and big smile to accept the award at the Hilton Garden Inn, Missoula.
Courage helps Brandon get through tough times
According to Kari, a few years ago, Brandon had a hard time sticking up for himself and saying how he felt inside. He wasn’t sure how to talk to staff and teachers about his needs.
Growing in many ways, he’s overcome the tendency to go within himself. Now a ninth grader, clearly, Brandon is developing into a courageous young man.
“I believe I can be anything I want to be that’s why I won the Yes I Can award,” he said.
Brandon says he’s a fan of the animated movie, “Stuart Little.” It’s about a mouse who was adopted. When Stuart arrives at his new home, he learns quickly how to stand up and speak up for himself.
“This is where I get my courage,” he said. “I use my courage to show people how to do the right thing.”
Reaching goals means standing up for his beliefs
Most people AWARE serves has a personal support plan. The plan gives each individual the opportunity to discuss their greatest wishes with a team and to create goals.
Now a student at Anaconda Junior Senior High School (AJSHS), Brandon said his biggest goal was to eventually attend public school. He became a full-time student at AJSHS back in January 2017.
“He’s an Anaconda High School student because he advocated for himself,” Kari said. Thriving in this environment both teachers and caregivers have helped Brandon create, “He’s proven that it’s the best place for him.”
Brandon says his favorite subjects are art and PE. He enjoys the friendships he is creating with teachers and fellow students.
In addition to winning the Yes I Can award, Brandon was also a delegate during AWARE’s Corporate Congress in January. He was nominated and elected by peers and staff to participate in the prestigious event.
Corporate Congress is a unique gathering, which allows elected employees to sponsor and vote on bills to improve the way customers are served. Approved unanimously by AWARE board members, Brandon’s bill proposed the creation of community gardens within group homes.
When asked about the leadership roles he’s fallen into, he replied, “I am an awesome kid.”
MCEC holds an annual conference that offers continued education for special education teachers across Montana.
Aware’s Center for Excellence collaborates with Anaconda School District No. 10 to provide educational opportunities for children with severe emotional disturbance and other disabilities who otherwise wouldn’t be served in a classroom setting.