An Award-Winning Attitude
Amy Kovach says her 17-year-old daughter, Jaclyn, lives by a definitive life motto: “Yes I can!”
It’s fitting, considering what happened to the Kovach family earlier this year.
A phone call came from the Council for Exceptional Children: Jaclyn was selected as a winner of the 2017 “Yes I Can” Award.
Each of the award winners will be recognized for contributing to his or her community in one the following categories: academics, arts, technology, self-advocacy, school and community activities, and transition.
Jaclyn, an accomplished ballet and jazz dancer from Jane Lew, West Virginia, has won an award in the arts category.
A Challenging Childhood
Jaclyn’s “Yes I Can” attitude was put to the test early in life.
When she was five, she was diagnosed with autism.
Amy says her daughter struggled with balance, and was particularly sensitive to large crowds and loud noises.
“We worked to acclimate her to noise and activity by taking her to a local gym. At first, it was for just a few minutes at a time,” Amy says.
“I was only eight, and it was a lot at first, but I pushed myself. Each time, I stayed at the gym a little bit longer,” Jaclyn says.
“I joined the cheerleading squad there.”
After a few months, Jaclyn had improved enough to make the All-Star cheerleading team.
“Because I never gave up,” she says.
New Hobby, Same Positive Attitude
After cheering for several years, Jaclyn says took up dancing in the eighth grade.
She still practices both ballet and jazz several days a week.
She says dancing is no longer scary for her.
“It gives me confidence,” Jaclyn says. “I love performing.”
From Student To Teacher
Jaclyn is now in the twelfth grade.
She says her dance skills have grown so much that she’s taken her hobby to a new level: teaching.
Jaclyn assists younger students within the company with music selection and choreography.
“If they’re shy or nervous,” Jaclyn says, “I tell them my story.”
“I say, ‘I used to be a nervous wreck. Look at me now. You just have to believe in yourself and never stop trying.”
Betterment Beyond Herself
Jaclyn has also put her passion for dance to work in her larger community.
Every year, she helps organize a team dance performance to raise awareness about various issues affecting their hometown.
Jaclyn says past themes have included autism awareness, cancer awareness, texting and driving, and missing children.
“Our goal is to bring attention to causes that affect people close to home, but also those far away, too,” Jaclyn says.
One More Stage
Jaclyn’s hard work and leadership, both in and outside of the gym, is a contributing factor to her “Yes I Can” win, according to the official announcement from the Council. The “Yes I Can” program is sponsored by Pearson.
Later this month, Jaclyn and eleven other recipients will travel to Boston to receive their awards.
Jaclyn says she’s looking forward to the trip.
“I’m excited to explore a new city and meet the other eleven award recipients,” she says.
One thing Jaclyn is not: nervous.
“As a cheerleader and a dancer, I’ve performed so much already,” she says.
“This is just another stage.”