Rumor has it, inclusion is spreading through the halls

High school students are breaking the old stereotypes of Homecoming King and Queen

Each fall, high school students across the country focus their attentions on one thing: homecoming. Hallways buzz with talk about who will be on homecoming court and who will be king and queen. Pop culture and many personal experiences tell us that the students who best fit the stereotype of football team quarterback and cheerleading captain will take the crown. But some schools are showing everyone that stereotypes are meant to be broken.In a trend of inclusion that continues to rise each year, students with Down syndrome or other disabilities are being elected to their school’s homecoming court and coming out as king or queen. In the metro area, both Francis Howell North and Freeburg High School supported classmates and friends with Down syndrome as homecoming royalty.

“I knew all along that these were some very special kids who will truly make a difference in the world someday,” Diane Fingers, mom to FHN Homecoming King Cody Fingers, said. “but this homecoming season, they’ve proven just how incredible they are.”

Cody was put on the ballot by his classmates and was one of the top 7 write-in nominees, making him a contender for king. He was announced as king in front of the crowd who had gathered for the school’s homecoming football on Friday September 14, and again during the dance the following night. Diane, who is also a teacher at FHN, had the opportunity to talk to some of Cody’s classmates after the announcement. She found they didn’t vote for him to be nice, but, rather, because they see Cody for who he is and not just a classmate with Down syndrome.

“They see Cody first, not the Down syndrome,” Diane said. “but they understand that it’s a part of who he is. They like him for all that he is and isn’t; for all that he can do, and can’t.”

In Freeburg, IL, classmates of Shelby Wegrzyn have the same sentiment. Shelby is a cheerleader and was nominated by her teammates who see her as an inspiration. She and her parents welcomed the crown with open arms, and so did the students at Freeburg High School who cheered her on as she was awarded the title of Homecoming Queen the night of the dance.

Teenagers have the ability to teach us all life-lessons; this time of year the message of inclusion is loud and clear from stories such as these. However, stories that don’t make headlines are happening each day among these and many other students, teachers, parents, friends and family and each one counts. Inclusion isn’t just for homecoming season, so take notes and pass it on all year long.

Diane Fingers, mom of Cody Fingers and English teacher at Francis Howell North H.S.
Fox 2 News, fox2now.com
The Kansas City Star, kansascity.com
Photos courtesy of FHN journalism students