Murray High Special Needs Students Named Prom Royalty
Mar 13, 2015 12:31PM
● By Julie Slama
At the top of the inside capitol stairs on Feb. 21, juniors Dustin Johnson and Jebbeh Kamara and their dates were honored as Murray High’s junior prom king and queen.
“This was huge for them and for our students,” Murray High Severe Special Education teacher Jenni Matthews said. “When I first knew they were nominated, it touched me that they care about these kids and are friends with them. When they won, it tells the story of students at our school who don’t care what students look like, what they can do, what they stand for, but rather how they are inside.”
Dustin and Jebbeh both are students with special needs. Matthews said Dustin is deaf, is visually impaired and has some physical disabilities, and Jebbeh has seizures and mental and physical disorders, but is quite social and very animated as she speaks.
“Most of their classes they have with all the rest of the students, so they know each other and interact. Dustin took dancing last semester and loved the chance to dance at prom. He knows he got a crown and what it is, but probably not what all it means,” Matthews said.
Jebbeh came from Liberia and is living with her non-English speaking grandparents. Many community members and businesses helped donate or discount formal wear for her and the royalty’s dates so they could go to prom in style.
“It’s so touching that the community is supporting them. They were named king and queen on Friday and the prom was Saturday, so there was a big push to help them. It’s been incredible,” Matthews said.
That also included their last-minute student dates, one who is active in school activities and another who is the football team captain, who not only had to be ready for the prom themselves, but learn how to support their dates.
“They had to learn how to help them walk down the stairs, what to do in a seizure, learn some sign language and be ready to help them with any of their disabilities. These students stepped right up and luckily, there weren’t any issues,” Matthews said.
All royalty contenders were nominated by the students in their homeroom or advisory class period. From there, the top students were named to the court and the top vote recipients were named king and queen.
“I heard they won by a landslide, hundreds of votes. It’s really awesome that they won, but it speaks volumes about all our students at the high school … This is giving them a typical high school experience, right down to the friendships they make,” Matthews said.