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Yes I Can is ‘all-around awesome’

Posted: December 15, 2009 10:29 p.m.
Updated: December 16, 2009 4:55 a.m.

The Canyon High School Yes I Can class focuses on learning about disabilities, how to help others, self determination, goal setting, teamwork and appreciation of diversity.

To a room full of bright-eyed students ready to learn, Lisa Lamedman, the Yes I Can instructor at Canyon High School, teaches things that normal high school classes do not always cover.

“The Yes I Can students focus on learning about disabilities, how to help others, self determination, goal setting, teamwork and appreciation of diversity,” Lamedman said.

It is obvious Lamedman inspires every student in her class to strive to be their best. It is also apparent that all her students bring special qualities that help turn Lamedman’s Yes I Can class into a dynamic family.

Yes I Can is known as a social inclusion program for students with and without disabilities. It was developed at the University of Minnesota to help destroy the barriers that may surround junior high and high school students with mental and physical disabilities.

The Yes I Can program was brought to the William S. Hart Union High School District and other Santa Clarita districts nine years ago and has been a part of Canyon for eight years.

Needless to say, it has been an immense success. Yes I Can not only teaches respect for all levels of diversity, but also builds amazing character in students and creates strong friendships.

Junior Ryan Leimbach described Yes I Can as, “All-around awesome. It teaches all the differences about people.”

When asked what he liked most about Yes I Can, junior Dante Balardinelli said, “Yes I Can unifies all people, no matter (their) race, ability levels or religion. It taught me how to treat people as people.”

Senior Darren Monroe explained, “Everybody and everyone can come together and be one.”

Junior Luke Stockner said enthusiastically, “I wish I could have joined in ninth grade.”

“When people hear about Yes I Can they ask, ‘What’s up with that?’ They don’t understand what it is about,” said senior Riley Powers, a Yes I Can student.

Many have heard of Yes I Can but few know what the class is really about. It is often misunderstood as simply a class for students with disabilities, but the program achieves so much more.

“Open Your Mind” is one of the slogans for Yes I Can, a year-long elective that can be taken at Canyon and other Hart district high schools. The class combines students with disabilities and general-education students, and both groups benefit from the social interaction.

Lamedman and every Yes I Can student will agree that the most exciting and empowering thing about Yes I Can is the annual Summer Meltdown Autism Awareness and Social Inclusion Concert.

Produced by the students under the guidance of Bret Lieberman, the Yes I Can advisor at Golden Valley High, this concert has been held every summer for the past six years at Golden Valley’s outdoor amphitheater, and each time has brought the concept of unity through music to reality.

A dozen or more bands are able to perform and all proceeds go to help defray the cost of producing Summer Meltdown.

It takes $20,000 to $30,000 to produce the festival, so Yes I Can holds many fundraisers through the fall, winter and spring, from food nights at local restaurants to fun days at Mountasia to selling T-shirts. Many local sponsors also contribute to the cause by providing merchandise for giveaways and covering other costs.

At the last Summer Meltdown, students had the pleasure of seeing the very popular rock/hip hop duo Shwayze and will see them again this summer for the seventh annual Meltdown concert in May 2010. Cisco Adler of Shwayze said, “This is our second Meltdown of many. I love to rock out for a good cause!”

Coincidentally, Cisco’s parents, Page Hannah-Adler and Lou Adler, founded a camp for seriously ill children called The Painted Turtle in Lake Hughes, the only camp of its kind on the West Coast to provide safe and fun experiences for children with serious or terminal illnesses.

Seeing as Lamedman provides such great encouragement and inspiration to her students, when asked who her greatest inspiration was she exclaimed, “Riley Weinstein is my hero. Not many people thought she was capable of much because of her physical disability but she proved them wrong.”

Today’s generation of students often gets caught up in dealing with our own issues and problems, and forget about the well-being of others. There is definitely something so inspirational and heroic about the Yes I Can family; it serves as a humble reminder that we all live together so we should all enjoy each other’s company with as little negativity as possible.

Dr. Seuss once said, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” This is the philosophy that Yes I Can lives by and this philosophy will help to eventually eliminate judgment and stereotypes from the world.

For Yes I Can and Summer Meltdown fundraising and event updates, visit, call Ms. Lamedman at Canyon High at (661) 252-6110, or phone Mr. Lieberman at Golden Valley at (661) 298-8140 ext. 1414.  

Juliana Menchaca is a student at Canyon High School.


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