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Homecoming courts becoming more inclusive

Published: Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST • Updated: Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013 7:19 a.m. CST
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(Sandy Bressner – sbressner@shawmedia.com)
Thomas Broviak was crowned homecoming king for Geneva High School in 2012.

It’s been nearly a year since Thomas Broviak was crowned homecoming king, but he still talks about it often. A “Homecoming Royalty 2012” sign, complete with his name and a picture of a Geneva High School Vikings mascot, still hangs on his bedroom wall, and his crown sits nearby.

“To Tom, he’ll always be homecoming king,” said his mother, Pam Broviak.

Thomas Broviak and his girlfriend, Krissy Althersohn, who are both special-needs students, served as Geneva’s homecoming king and queen last year, and Geneva High School Principal Tom Rogers said their nominations received nothing but positive reception from the community.

“I never, ever thought he and Krissy would be named to homecoming court,” Pam Broviak said. “Finally, all the work we’ve done for inclusion paid off.”

Geneva High School was one example of a student population that elected a nontraditional homecoming court last year, but it wasn’t the only one in the area. Kaneland High School students elected Samantha Garcia as homecoming queen while she was recovering from a car crash in July 2012 that caused head injuries.

Garcia said being homecoming royalty was a positive experience overall, but said she hopes she didn’t win just because she was in an accident.

“I just don’t want to be labeled,” she said, adding that she felt the students expressed genuine support during her recovery, “especially by the way people acted when I was there finally back at school.”

Patrick Trapp, a social worker at Kaneland High School, said he has seen several examples of homecoming courts that aren’t necessarily made up of students from the stereotypical popular crowd.

He said when he started working at Kaneland in 2004, “one of the things that really stuck out to me that was very uncommon from my own experience in high school ... was that it was interesting how unconventional some of the kids who were considered popular, but didn’t fit conventional popularity.”

One thing many of them had in common, he said, was that those students seemed to fit in with just about every type of crowd and could always be seen interacting with different groups of students. He said in Garcia’s case, the student body wanted to recognize an already well-liked student for overcoming so many obstacles.

Pam Broviak said she thinks students are thinking more about those with special needs or who have risen above challenges, as examples throughout the country have shown in recent years. Today’s generation seems more tolerant and accepting of everyone, she said.

“It just must be a different attitude that the school cultivates, and probably the parents,” she said.

Rogers said a group of students who work with special-needs students in a PE class spearheaded the effort to elect Thomas Broviak and Althersohn. He said it’s a little too early to tell what’s on tap for this year’s homecoming nominations.

“It caught on and worked out really well,” he said. “It remains to be seen whether this will become a trend or whether something a group of students decided to do. ... I just think it’s one of those unique things that happens from time to time. Maybe having a yearly thing would not be appropriate.”

Garcia’s mother, Lisa Garcia-DeFranze, said she thinks a lot of students have changed their thoughts about what a homecoming crown means, and that it’s different for prom, which she said is a bigger deal.

Pam Broviak said she thinks people have become more comfortable with others’ differences, as evidenced by Thomas Broviak’s homecoming king nomination.

The distinction isn’t one her son will forget any time soon.

“We’re just very happy and proud of him,” she said. “We had people send cards and emails. I think people like it because it’s something that shows the good side of humanity.”

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