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Summer Meltdown show ends a year’s worth of work

Annual event draws concertgoers to skate park

Posted: May 4, 2013 10:07 p.m.
Updated: May 4, 2013 10:07 p.m.

Kacey Cook, center, and her friends react to the band "Papa Fish" on Saturday at the Santa Clarita Skate Park.

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More than 1,000 people turned out Saturday for the annual “Yes I Can” Summer Meltdown Autism Awareness Music and Arts Festival in the Santa Clarita Skate Park, marking the end of a year of work by local students.

The event, now in its 10th year, is organized by students in the William S. Hart Union High School District, many of them from Canyon High School.

“The entire thing is a labor of these kids’ love and we couldn’t be more proud,” said Bret Lieberman, an adviser for the “Yes I Can” program.

While the event is a way to promote awareness of autism and other similar disorders, the curriculum leading up to the event provides a way for students to learn social skills, such as collaboration and communication with their peers.

In the program, students diagnosed with disorders such as autism or Asperger’s syndrome join with other students in classes to learn communication skills and develop socially.

“We work all year long on goal-setting, self-esteem lessons, communication lessons, tolerance and then at the end of the year we have a culminating activity,” Lieberman said Saturday.

The Summer Meltdown acts as a final exam of sorts for those classes, where students work together to book bands, vendors and organize the event, Lieberman said.

A music festival made sense because it provided an age-appropriate activity that the students could participate in, said Lisa Lamedman, an adviser with the “Yes I Can” program.

“Music is the universal language,” Lamedman said Saturday. “So we decided to use it to bring people together.”

The event’s impact can be seen in students such as soon-to-be Canyon High School graduate Logan Wilson, perhaps better known by his stage name “DJ Sp3x,” pronounced “specks” in reference to his glasses.

Several years ago, Wilson took the stage at Summer Meltdown and performed some of his electronic music. Since then, he has performed at venues around California.

“I have autism myself and people doubt us,” Wilson said Saturday. “So this (event) shows people what we can do, and I like to do the same with my music.”

More than 200 students worked to make this year’s festival a reality, Lieberman said. The efforts of current students were also augmented by some program alumni who turned out to help.

Jessica Dean, who has been the stage manager of the festival since 2010, was enrolled in the “Yes I Can” program before she graduated from Canyon High School in 2005.

“I always wanted to give back to something that gave so much to me,” Dean said.

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