Homecoming, a traditional rite of passage for American teenagers everywhere, is a time when school spirit is lauded and popularity is recognized. And Allyssa Brubeck, this year's Park Hill South homecoming queen, is certainly popular.
A cheerleader on the Panthers' varsity squad, she is a beloved member of the Kansas City, Mo., school's student body. But Brubeck, 19, also has Down syndrome, and as the crowd roared their approval during the crowning ceremony last week, more than one person in the stands was teary-eyed.
“Everyone in the stands was crying,” her 18-year-old classmate Leah Smith told the Kansas City Star. “Everyone loves her.”
Brubeck's win was foreshadowed by her raucous reception at the Friday pep rally. As the homecoming court stood on the football field, awaiting the official announcement, the crowd began chanting her name.
"It was incredible just to see the students and faculty so excited for Allyssa,” Brubeck's mom, Cindy Small, told KSHB. "We were all pretty surprised."
Her mother may have been surprised, but her peers certainly weren't. Runner-up Sam Boling told the Star, “She deserved to be homecoming queen."
Brubeck and her fellow students are proof that with a little acceptance, anything is possible, Small said.
"This school gives the opportunity to have differences and accept you for who you are. I think Allyssa just fits in and the kids are accepting,” she said in an interview with Fox 4 News.
Since the homecoming rally, Brubeck and her family have been getting a lot of attention and support from their community, according to the KSHB.
The Kansas City Star's Facebook post for the article has more than 11,000 likes.
The Down Syndrome Guild of Greater Kansas City, a non-profit organization that works to provide support and resources to individuals with the syndrome, has also been posting stories about Brubeck's achievement to its own Facebook page, even changing its cover photo to a picture of the student surrounded by her cheer squad.
"Allyssa was an intern at the DSG office last year. We are SO PROUD of her and excited that her peers at Park Hill South High School elected her Homecoming Queen last Friday night," reads one post on the Guild's page, while another post notes, "Inclusion works."
According to the National Down Syndrome Society, one in every 691 babies in the the U.S. is born with Down syndrome. Individuals with Down syndrome have a "full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21."
A few years ago another student with Down syndrome, Zach Wincent, became prom king at his own high school, CNN reported in 2008. Wincent went on to enroll for classes at a community college, and he even climbed the Great Wall of China.