The festivities this time had to be moved indoors, but Frank Seale Middle School on Friday recognized special needs students with their own coronations right alongside the Cub Beau and Sweetheart.
Friday’s after-school presentation crowned the Cub Beau and Sweetheart inside a jam-packed FSMS gymnasium. This year’s Beau is Drew Wendel, while the Sweetheart is Addy Aday.
But then, attention turned to the nominees for the King and Queen of Hearts, who are part of the school’s community-based instruction program.
Payton White was voted King of Hearts and Zyria McCoy was voted Queen of Hearts, honors bestowed upon students with special needs.
“This is a Student Council-inspired award that is voted on by their eighth-grade peers,” FSMS principal Kristopher Vernon said. “Teachers nominate them, then they get the four finalists, boys and girls. The student body is the sole voters for this presentation.”
The coronation ceremony is normally held at MISD Multipurpose Stadium before the season-ending football game against crosstown rival Walnut Grove Middle School, but it had to be postponed from Tuesday night because of bad weather.
Student council sponsor Jennifer Barnes was unable to attend Friday’s pageantry, but last year Barnes told the Mirror about starting the King and Queen of Hearts honors.
“I have two children with autism,” she said. “One of the things you see on the news everywhere is these special needs kids who won homecoming king or queen. You see all these amazing things other schools do, and you’re like ‘Why aren’t we doing that?’ Then, especially with kids of my own that have special needs, I’m like ‘Why am I not doing that?’”
Barnes told the Mirror she brought the idea to the student council board for consideration.
“I sat down with them and said ‘Here’s the idea: this is what we have, this is what we’d like to do. What do you think?’ They ran with it, and they came up with ‘Why don’t we do a King and Queen of Hearts?’”
Barnes said parents were very supportive of the idea.
"They were completely on-board and so glad that we were including their kiddos,” she said. “For so long, they just have not been included in most of the things that we do. This was the first of many, I hope.”
At Friday’s ceremony, principal Vernon echoed those sentiments.
“Oftentimes it’s a misnomer that our special-needs kids are a separate group of our student body,” Vernon said. “But here at Frank Seale, they’re included in everything we do as anybody else. I’m glad that we take it a step further and include them in this as well.”