Wilson earns Yes I Can! award for dedication and hard work

Mikaela Koski
Thursday, March 14, 2019

Courtesy photo

Abigail Wilson is a typical freshman at Columbus High School. She is an integral member of an award-winning dance team, and she also loves music, volunteers, and is on the cheerleading squad.

All of her accomplishments are impressive, but what makes Wilson extraordinary, and why she received the “Yes I Can!” award recently at the Montana Council for Exceptional Children annual conference in Helena, is that she has accomplished everything under a unique set of circumstances – Abby is hearing impaired.

Letters written by those who know Wilson best included in the Yes I Can! application paint the picture of a tenacious girl who will work hard to reach her goals and never give up on her passions.


Kelsi and Eric, Wilson’s parents, explained her diagnosis in their letter.

In 2009, after identifying hearing loss in their youngest daughter following a newborn hearing screening, the Wilsons decided to have their older daughters screened as well. At the age of five, Abby, the oldest, was diagnosed with moderate hearing loss.

It was discovered that all three Wilson girls had some form of hearing loss, and each was fitted with hearing aids within months of each other.

Since that time, Abby’s hearing loss has been identified as a form of genetic, progressive hearing loss.

“Abby’s hearing has declined over the years to a moderate to severe loss, making her rely even more on her hearing aids and technology in school,” the Wilsons explained in their letter.

Wilson’s hearing loss has not slowed her down a bit, and she is still very involved with her two early passions: dance and horses.


Wilson started dancing at age three, and has participated in a number of styles over the years, including jazz, tap, and ballet.

“At the age of seven, Abby tried out for, and was chosen to participate on, her studio’s competition dance team,” Kelsi and Eric wrote. “Since that time, she has competed in multiple dance competitions both with her team and individually, performing solos.”

Wilson’s dance team has earned first place and high honors finishes each year at different competitions, and at the age of 8, Wilson won first place for a solo she performed at a multi-state competition.

“Not only has Abby had to work harder than others to learn how to dance with her hearing loss, but she has done it exceptionally well, pushing herself to continue to do better each year,” the Wilsons explained. “She has taught herself how to ‘hear’ the music and her teacher at the same time and developed strategies to follow along in class when hearing was a challenge.”

Wilson earned the opportunity to dance with the San Diego Ballet at the Alberta Bair last year, performing in the professional ballet company’s rendition of The Nutcracker.

Assistant Director of Heights Elite Dance Studio Angelica Johnson wrote that Wilson “takes pride in her studio and her teammates. She often is found leading others with enthusiasm and willingness to work hard in and out of class to model her passion and discipline for dance.”

Johnson noted that Wilson “is breathtaking to watch.”

In addition to dancing on the team, Wilson has volunteered as a teaching assistant for the beginning and intermediate-level classes at her studio.


Wilson’s interest in music goes farther than just dancing to it – she knows how to play three instruments: trumpet, piano, and guitar.

A member of the school band since fifth grade, Wilson has also performed several solos at her church.

Wilson also sings, and has belonged to several school and church choirs throughout the years.

“Music is a challenge, particularly when you have hearing loss, and she has found a way to truly express herself through music,” Wilson’s parents wrote. “Abby has music in her heart, and it truly shows each time she performs.”


This year, Wilson earned a place on the Columbus High School cheerleading team.

CHS Cheer Coach Kiley Frank wrote, “Abby has demonstrated great rhythm, and is very musically inclined.”

Frank noted that Wilson is a talented dancer, and she learns the cheers and dances very well and even gives “great suggestions and ideas for new cheers and dances.”

“(Wilson) can do anything she puts her

mind to, and does everything with a positive, can-do attitude!” Frank added.


Since the summer of 2017, Wilson has volunteered with a local speech therapist who practices hippotherapy.

Hippotherapy is a form of therapy that utilizes “… the purposeful manipulation of equine movement as a therapy tool to engage sensory, neuromotor and cognitive systems to promote functional outcomes,” according to the American Hippotherapy Association.

Through her volunteer work, Wilson helps take care of the horses and aids the therapist with pediatric clients.

Lynn Conner, who works in speech-language pathology with the Stillwater Sweetgrass Special Services Cooperative, nominated Wilson for the Yes I Can! award.

Conner describes Wilson’s therapy volunteer work in this way: “When a position as an equine handler for a local speech therapist opened up, this young lady welcomed the opportunity to help others with communication challenges. Soon, they too will say, ‘Yes I can!’”

While Wilson still has three years of high school to complete, helping others say, “Yes I can!” is work she is hoping to continue.

According to Kelsi, Abby is currently interested in pursuing a career in hippotherapy, particularly in the use of horses for occupational therapy purposes.

It seems to be a fitting choice for a girl who inspires all she encounters to overcome obstacles through hard work and dedication.