D’Andre Chapman, a student in Huntley Community School District 158’s 18-22 transition program, LIGHT, has been awarded the 2022 YES I CAN! Award in the Arts on behalf of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). Chapman was honored at the annual CEC Convention & Expo on January 20, 2022. Each year, the YES I CAN! Awards recognize 12 outstanding students with exceptionalities who are celebrated for their achievement in the Arts, Academics, School & Community Activities, Self-Advocacy, Technology, and Transition. 

Chapman was selected for his work through the “Dance with D’Andre” initiative in Huntley 158, a class created and taught by Chapman for fellow Huntley 158 students and staff to learn dance and spread positivity. He was nominated for the award by Huntley 158’s director of elementary special services, Jackie Allen. 

“Earning the YES I CAN! Award was such an honor,” said Chapman. “Earning it meant to me that children with disabilities can succeed in life.” 

The “Dance with D’Andre” initiative was first crafted as part of Chapman’s post-secondary LIGHT curriculum which works to prepare special education students with tools for career-readiness, independent living, and more. Chapman’s passion for dance and aspirations to become a choreographer led him to pursue this avenue for teaching in the arts.

“D’Andre’s aspirations to become a dance choreographer first began as an inquiry, and soon evolved into the spark of our school year,” said Allen.

Through collaboration with LIGHT program staff, special services administrators, Huntley 158 coaches, and local dance studios, Chapman was able to gain experience job shadowing and conduct interviews with other dance instructors and coaches. 

“To see our students thrive in our schools and community and then be recognized on the world stage is a testament to the amazing students, staff, and families we work with every day”, said Dr. Rocio del Castillo, assistant superintendent of special services in Huntley 158. “D’Andre embodies the enthusiasm for lifelong learning and sense of community that the LIGHT program seeks to emphasize for our students.”

Chapman, who is currently in his second year in the LIGHT program, will continue to explore his passion for dance and spreading joy to others.