Kimberly McKenzie, Madilyn McKenzie's mother, said her daughter who has Down syndrome, has battled other medical issues, including having open heart surgery when she was 3 months old.
Madilyn encountered more complications after the surgery. She remained hospitalized for seven months, including being on a ventilator and having a feeding tube.
"She does still have a feeding tube but that is insignificant compared to what we've dealt with," her mother said.
Madilyn knows her alphabet, can count to 30 and recognizes her numbers.
Stephens Elementary special education teacher Susan Pastor-Richard has started teaching Madilyn to read.
"For a kid that we weren't sure if she would ever be off the vent and be able to run and play, she has met and exceeded our expectations," her mother said. "The sky is the limit with Maddy. This is just the beginning."
The award is given to students who have overcome challenges in school to better their grades and overall behaviors.