Lydia Dawley. (Submitted photo)
Lydia Dawley. (Submitted photo)
Lydia Dawley, a performing arts student at Decorah High School, has been selected as the 2014 Section 4 recipient of the “National High School Heart of the Arts Award” by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

The National High School Heart of the Arts Award was created by the NFHS to recognize those individuals who exemplify the ideals of the positive heart of the arts that represent the core mission of education-based activities. 

This is the first year that the National High School Heart of the Arts Award has been offered.

Due to her umbilical cord wrapping twice around her neck at birth and cutting off the supply of oxygen to her brain, Dawley was born with cerebral palsy. Although not progressive, it is incurable.

Dawley is confined to a wheelchair and speaks through an augmentive communication device that is attached to her wheelchair. A camera attached to the screen zones in on the pupil of her eye, which she can then use to point to letters on a keyboard. Without that, she would not be able to communicate with others.

Despite those disabilities, Dawley is an outstanding student and takes advanced classes, such as a college-level speech course. She earned an Excellence in Academics Award for her involvement in co-curricular activities, and is a leader in her large-group and individual speech categories. Dawley is a two-time All-State speech participant, and also earned all-state honors in television news and expository address.
Perhaps her greatest accomplishment, however, is she has been an outspoken advocate for people with disabilities since a young age. She makes presentations at presents at college classes, at political forums, symposiums and conventions.

Her career goal is to become a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., to advocate for people with disabilities.
About the Award
The NFHS divides the nation into eight geographical sections. The states in Section 4 are Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan.
Nominations for this award were generated through NFHS member state associations and reviewed by the NFHS Heart of the Arts Award Selection Committee composed of state association staff members.

While the national winner will be recognized June 29 at the NFHS Summer Meeting in Boston, Mass., the section winners will be recognized within their respective states and will receive awards before the end of the current school year.