Last week, Kelsey Norris, a seventh-grader at Bonaire Middle School, was one of 12 students from across the country that accepted a Yes I Can award from the Council for Exceptional Children.
Kelsey received her award at the 2018 Council for Exceptional Children Convention, held in Tampa, Florida. According to information from the Council for Exceptional Children, the Yes I Can program recognizes the accomplishments of 12 students who have achieved great success in six categories: academics, arts, school and community activities, self-advocacy, technology, and transition. Kelsey won in the school and community category.
The award was extremely appropriate — because if anyone can, Kelsey can.
Born in Russia, Kelsey was given up at birth and living in an orphanage when Carol Norris first met her. Eleven months old, she weighed 14 pounds.
The orphanage informed Norris that the baby — called Anastasia at the time had “special needs” but didn’t know the extent of her disabilities.
But Norris had already fallen in love with the child that she would rename Kelsey.
Genetic testing back in the United States showed that Kelsey has a form of autism and Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome — which is characterized by short stature and developmental delays.
From the beginning of her life in the United States, Kelsey and her mother have not let her disabilities stop her from doing anything she wanted to do.
She participates in dance, gymnastics, cheer, swimming and pageants. She is an honor roll student at Bonaire Middle School. She has served as a princess at the Miss Georgia’s Outstanding Teen pageant and a national princess at the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen pageant.
Along with all her activities, Kelsey has always wanted to do for others.
She started off by telling her story at local elementary schools. From there, Kelsey expanded her horizons. She collects canned goods for the Backpack Buddies program, which provides nutritious snacks to low income children every weekend. She collects pet food, about 3,000 pounds so far, for the Humane Society. She serves Houston County as the coordinator for the Adventure Bags program, which provides prepared bags with everything from jackets to notebooks to children in crisis who have to be moved quickly by DFACS.
She has raised more than $30,000 for organizations that benefit children such as the Children’s Miracle Network and the Shriners Children’s Hospitals.
Along with the Yes, I Can award, Kelsey has received numerous awards and accolades for her charity work. But her main goal is to continue telling her story of how a child orphaned and with disabilities can accomplish tremendous things and make an incredible difference in the lives of many other people.
Now you can read her story, too. Kelsey has just published a book ,”I Want to Make a Difference,” that is available for purchase online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million websites.
Alline Kent can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.