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Manchester Valley junior honored with international Yes I Can award

Manchester Valley junior Atti Miller, who played as a kicker on the Mavericks varsity football team this fall, won the Yes I Can Award from the Council for Exceptional Children. Miller will travel to the council's national conference in San Diego in April to receive his award.
Manchester Valley junior Atti Miller, who played as a kicker on the Mavericks varsity football team this fall, won the Yes I Can Award from the Council for Exceptional Children. Miller will travel to the council's national conference in San Diego in April to receive his award. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO)

In elementary school, Atti Miller developed an interest in football when Baltimore Ravens running back Tony Vinson visited his school. Atti, who lives with fetal alcohol syndrome, was told he couldn't risk a head injury when playing contact sports.

"I really wanted to play football, and the doctor said it was too risky," said Atti, 17 and a junior at Manchester Valley High School.

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According to the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, FAS is a disorder resulting from prenatal exposure to alcohol. It can cause growth deficiency, central nervous system dysfunction and facial abnormalities.

Atti's interest in football continued though, and when cousins visited the family, they taught him how to kick, according to Atti's mother, Mary Ann.

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"He spends hours practicing his kick," Mary Ann said.

Now Atti is the kicker on the Manchester Valley varsity football team. Being a kicker allows him to participate with little risk of contact.

Atti recently won the Yes I Can award presented by the Council for Exceptional Children, an international organization dedicated to improving the educational success of those with disabilities and talents.

"Anybody with a disability can still do anything," Atti said.

Atti is known for his team spirit on and off the football field. Dean Mann, Manchester Valley High School's special education department chair, said he relies on Atti to be a leader is his class.

"The award is for individuals with disabilities who are going outside the box," Mann said. "That's Atti."

Mann said Atti continually displays kindness and compassion toward his fellow students.

"Atti is also our go-to guy when we need more help with our vocational jobs," Mann said. Atti said some of the vocational jobs have included helping with the school's food bank and tending to plants in the greenhouse.

"Atti is a high-character young man with a bright future," Mann said.

Atti, whose full name is Attila, was adopted from Romania. In addition to the football team, he participates in bocce, corollary track and field and bowling. He is also a 4-H member and attends the Church of the Open Door in Westminster.

"He's got such a positive attitude," said John Piper, a Manchester Valley High School special education teacher and freshman football coach. "He doesn't let anyone stop him."

Atti will receive his award at the Council for Exceptional Children's national conference in San Diego in April, just in time for his 18th birthday.

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Reach staff writer Michel Elben at 410-857-7873 or michel.elben@carrollcountytimes.com.

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