Mary on stage receiving her awardAlbertson, NY On March 15, 2024 Mary Ogbo, a junior at Henry Viscardi School at The Viscardi Center, received a Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) 2024 “Yes, I Can Award” in the School and Community category for her outstanding efforts in academics and leadership. The Award was presented to her in San Antonio, Texas, at the CEC’s annual conference. Mary was born with Arthrogryposis, a physical disability that limits flexibility and strength in her arms and legs.

Having begun as a kindergartener, Mary credits the Henry Viscardi School (HVS) with providing a platform to excel academically, socially, and independently. She also noted the valuable lessons of leadership and advocacy she has learned while attending Viscardi. A natural leader, Mary is Vice President of the HVS chapter of the National Honors Society, Vice President of the Student Council, and Student Editor of the school’s newspaper, The Cougar Chronicle.

With the assistance of occupational therapy, which she received during the school day, Mary has learned compensatory strategies to increase her independence and develop life skills which she uses both in school and at home. Mary’s occupational therapist at the Henry Viscardi School, Jennifer Noronha, PhD. OTR/L ATP explained why she is deserving of this Award in her letter of recommendation to the CEC, “I have never heard her complain about things she is unable to do. The words “I can’t” are not in her vocabulary. She is the epitome of compassion, selflessness, and humility.”

In addition to Mary’s educational achievements, she is also a staunch ambassador and advocate for Viscardi and the disability community as a whole. When she visits local schools with her classmates to speak to their non-disabled peers, they help raise disability awareness while breaking down stereotypes of people with disabilities. During her free time, she enjoys crocheting which she took an interest in at age 10. First learning the skill from a lunch aide, Mary has honed her craft and has learned to crochet many items. She put her ingenuity to good use by creating adaptive water bottle holders for her friends and classmates with disabilities who can hang them on their wheelchairs and maximize their independence.

Following her graduation from Viscardi next year, this intelligent young lady plans to attend college and pursue a career in special education. “Arthrogryposis may limit my joints, but I will not let it limit my life,” said Mary.

About the Henry Viscardi School
The Henry Viscardi School at The Viscardi Center is a New York State-supported school that offers parents of children with severe physical disabilities and who often require life-sustaining medical treatment throughout the day, a traditional educational setting option that provides rigorous academics and opportunities for personal growth and leadership development. Its specialized, accessible educational setting provides a fully enriched academic program, a variety of therapies, assistive technology, and medical support to students who may otherwise need to receive instruction in their homes or a hospital setting.

About Council for Exceptional Children
Council for Exceptional Children is the largest international professional organization dedicated to improving the success of children and youth with disabilities and/or gifts and talents. CEC advocates for appropriate governmental policies, sets professional standards, provides professional development, and helps professionals obtain conditions and resources necessary for effective professional practice. CEC is known as the source of information, resources, and professional development for special educators. CEC has local Units in all 50 states and Canada, as well as 18 optional Special Interest Divisions focused on a specific topic, specialty area, role, or exceptionality.