By Kevin Kelley
Holly Thomas and Jacob Cox have been boyfriend and girlfriend since the fifth grade.
That fact alone would have given significant meaning to the couple’s selection by their classmates as homecoming king and queen at Westlake High School.
But each has Down Syndrome and are special needs students at the high school.
Lori Thomas, Holly’s mother, said Friday afternoon that her daughter was overwhelmed by being nominated.
“She has been so excited for days,” she said.
Pointing out that Holly and Jacob have been a couple since fifth grade, Lori Thomas said their nomination isn’t contrived.
“They genuinely care for each other,” she said of her daughter and Jacob.
Katie McGlynn, an intervention specialist and special education teacher at Westlake High School, also said the nomination of Holly and Jacob was not staged.
The seniors received a list of names of class of 2014 members and nominated homecoming court members from that list, she explained. Later, the entire student body voted for the king and queen.
The school has a peer program in which mainstream students can earn half an academic credit by assisting special needs students in the classroom, McGlynn said.
“They both gain from the experience,” McGlynn told West Life. In fact, McGlynn said, many former peer program students have gone on to major in special education in college.
The friendship between the peer program participants and Holly and Jacob was plainly evident when they all met with reporters at the high school Friday afternoon.
McGlynn said the nomination of Holly and Jacob for homecoming court shows another side of today’s teens that opposite of the often reported cases of bullying across the nation.
Also in the homecoming court this year were Lauren Hurst, Kent Axcell, Morgan Jenkins and Peter Eyre.