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Geneva embraces homecoming couple

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

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GENEVA – After a weekend of homecoming celebrations, Russell and Kathy Althersohn still were in awe Monday over Geneva High School students’ choice of king and queen.

The Althersohns were thrilled their daughter, Krissy, was a homecoming queen and Thomas Broviak was king. Both are special-needs students at the high school.

Kathy Althersohn described the scene at the pep rally as amazing. She said students were pumped up for the party, and it only got louder when the king and queen were introduced.

“They were all cheering,” she said. “A lot of kids came up. ... It wasn’t patronizing or pitying. They were talking to her like any other student. It was wonderful.”

Rarely has the selection of a homecoming royal couple, in Geneva or elsewhere, engendered such a reaction of goodwill from much of an entire school body and the community.

“Everyone has been very inspired by this,” said Tom Rogers, principal at Geneva High School. “It’s just great to see.”

The Althersohns said word spread to well beyond Geneva after a photo of the king and queen had been posted on Facebook. It received more than 6,300 “likes” and nearly 200 comments, most of them using words such as “awesome” or “love it.”

“It shows a lot about the country,” Kathy Althersohn said. “People from all over the country have been responding. It was really kind of cool.”

The Althersohns said they wanted the supporters to know the kind words were appreciated. They said the community has embraced Krissy, and their daughter was not subject to bullying or exclusion. And Russell Althersohn said it’s appropriate that October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Broviak and Krissy Althersohn have Down syndrome.

Last month, students at Geneva High School voted Althersohn and Broviak to be the queen and king at the homecoming celebration. The vote initially prompted a concerned reaction from Rogers and others in administration at the high school when the school’s activity directors brought it to the attention of the principal about two weeks ago.

Rogers began asking questions to make sure that the election was “on the up-and-up.”

“I wanted to make sure this was done in the right way,” he said.

What he discovered, he said, left him applauding many of his students.

Altersohn and Broviak participate in the PE Leadership program, a physical education program for students with special needs at the high school. A group of 12th-grade students at the high school, who have been specially trained, work alongside the students with special needs to provide assistance and supervision.

Rogers said this year, that group of P.E. Leadership peer leaders – about 15 to 20 students in all – decided to launch a campaign to elect Altersohn and Broviak, whom the peer leaders had befriended, to the homecoming court.

And their fellow students bought in, electing the couple as the school’s 2012 homecoming royalty.

Before allowing the crowning to go forward, Rogers said he and other school officials made “absolutely sure” Altersohn and Broviak and their families were aware of what was happening, and they had approved.

“Everyone couldn’t have been happier,” Rogers said.

The royal couple was crowned and rode together through downtown Geneva in the annual homecoming parade to loud applause and cheers.

“It’s a really nice story,” Rogers said. “They were very proactive in supporting their friends in this program.

“And I’m thrilled that this group of our students would go out of their way to make this happen for two such wonderful young people.”

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