This past weekend, there were two very different homecoming stories playing out across the country. One occurred in West Branch, Mich., and one here in our neck of the woods. First, let's look to the Michigan story, where high school sophomore Whitney Kropp was nominated for her school's homecoming court as a cruel prank by her fellow students.
Kropp was targeted for being different. She told media outlets she contemplated suicide after learning the truth behind her nomination. However, with the support of her community and others who learned of her plight, Kropp attended homecoming this past weekend with her head held high.
While she didn't win the title of homecoming queen, she did earn a standing ovation from many in the crowd. Kropp also showed great courage in the face of overwhelming adversity: a shining example for other youths facing a seemingly impossible challenge.
Now, let's look at the homecoming story that's closer to home. In Mill Creek this weekend, it also was homecoming. Tygarts Valley High School celebrated the annual tradition, and its student body also selected a young lady for its homecoming court because she is different.
In this case it was senior Kasondra Robinson, who happens to be autistic. Her mother, Nicka Robinson, in an interview with the Inter-Mountain said the following:
"Kasondra has a very happy disposition and has taught even myself to appreciate the smallest of things," she said. "Now, her spirit has touched a complete senior class and has motivated them to nominate her as their senior representative for homecoming queen.
"Even though I can understand their love for her, their actions are notable because they are completely unselfish and commendable.
"A lot could be said for a small-town school such as Tygarts Valley High School," Nicka continued.
"I have had my faith restored in our youth and extremely touched by their love and support. They all have my sincere gratitude."
These students have our gratitude as well. Not only was Kasondra nominated for homecoming court, she won the coveted title of queen. The senior class at Tygarts Valley chose to celebrate the unique and special individual Kasondra is by embracing her differences.
As a community, we have a lot about which to be proud when it comes to these future leaders. In fact, they are leading by example right now. It's an example that should receive the same type of national attention as the school in West Branch.
Unfortunately, too often no one cares when children do the right thing. That's why we wanted to ensure our Tygarts Valley kids know how very proud we are of them and their actions.