It was a hot Saturday afternoon, and after months of preparations and fundraising, the Canyon High Yes I Can program’s second annual Making a Difference Festival had begun. The festival was dedicated to autism awareness, autism appreciation and social inclusion.
Yes I Can is a social inclusion program for students on the autism spectrum, and their general education peer mentors. At Canyon High School, the program is led by two teachers—Lisa Lamedman and Rich Bristow—and their assistants.
“It helps kids on the autism spectrum, and it also teaches the general education peer mentors that we’re all the same,” said Lamedman about the program.
This program has made an impact on the students, giving them an opportunity to be themselves and bond with one another, as multiple students attested.
“I love it. It’s my favorite part of the day, going to the class. Everyone’s very welcoming and inclusive. And it’s just a happy place in my life.” said Hannah, who has been in the Yes I Can program for one year.
Angel, who is in his third year with the program, feels similarly, “It’s like having a new family once you join. It can be a little hard for some people, because it’s like a new thing, but they’ll easily fall into it in the beginning of the year.”
The skills students learned in the program were put on display on Apr 21, when they threw their second annual Making a Difference Festival. The festival began at noon and was held on Canyon High’s grassy amphitheater.
Surrounding the amphitheater were carnival-style games such as ring toss and a balloon popping game, each manned by students from the Yes I Can program. There were also booths, where groups such as the Canyon Leadership Anti-Bullying Club and Project Linus sold their wares to help fund their programs. There was also a relay race on an inflatable obstacle course and a food truck selling shaved ice and ice cream.
At the front of the amphitheater was the stage, where numerous acts from mostly students were performed throughout the festival. Performances included the Canyon High Concert Choir, and a comedy routine by Alex Webber, the host of American Ninja Warrior: Crashing the Course.
“They’re practicing all the skills they learned in the program, and they’re providing an event for their community and their school,” said Lamedman.