In the news

Down Syndrome Association member Betty Given sent us this article published in the Hibbing Daily Tribune about her son Paul and his friend Ashley Campbell, the only two students at Hibbing High School who have Down syndrome, being crowned Prom King and Queen.

Link: http://www.hibbingmn.com/news/article_fb9beae2-8dc5-11e1-a9a5-001a4bcf887a.html

HIBBING — When they announced her name, her eyes got big with surprise.

Senior Ashley Campbell started to cry before the crown even reached her head.

Her prom date, freshman Paul Given, raised his hands in victory after receiving his crown.

The motion is a familiar one for students at Hibbing High School, who are used to seeing Paul raise his hands after finishing his events at swim and track meets.

Both Ashley and Paul have Down’s Syndrome and neither had any idea they were in the running for king and queen, according to Betty Given, Paul’s mom.

The students just wanted to dance. They are best friends who dance together after lunch every day at school.

When the teacher told Betty about the habit, she called up Ashley’s mom, Kay Campbell, and suggested the friends go to a dance together.

Kay said why not prom, Betty said.

Ashley picked out her pink gown, and Paul bought a matching tie to wear with his tux.

Before the dance, Ashley was so excited about prom that she told all the girls at school about her dress, said senior Justine Lee and prom committee member.

A group of seniors working on the prom committee decided to make the dance even more special by nominating Ashley and Paul for king and queen, and started spreading the word, she said.

“We knew that prom meant a lot to her, and we wanted to make it even more special,” Lee said.

Other students joined in the secret.

When the pair walked into the auditorium for the grand march, the whole auditorium just erupted with applause and cheers, Betty said.

“This was just a very special thing for Ashley to be able to go to prom with her best friend,” she said. “It was a big day.”

The vote for Paul and Ashley was unanimous by the juniors and seniors at the prom, Kay said.

They counted 50 votes for Ashley and Paul and then just stopped counting — there was no way anyone else could catch up, she said.

Lee said watching their faces light up when they were crowned was worth all the effort by the juniors and seniors.

“It was so touching it was definitely one of the most memorable moments of my senior prom and (for) many of the others as well,” she said.

She added that she’s proud of her fellow junior and senior classmates who voted for Ashley and Paul

“We came together as a school and did that,” she said.

Betty agreed that the students showed rare spirit Saturday night.

Usually the vote for royalty is close and goes to popular students who are star athletes. The king and queen are usually crowned by a very thin margin, Betty said.

“But this was unanimous,” she said. “All the kids decided that they wanted to honor Ashley and Paul, and it was just so sweet.”

Paul’s sister, Rachel, said via email from Littleton, Colo., that the deeds of Hibbing students on Saturday night rivals those of the school’s famous graduates.

“What happened Saturday night at the 2012 Hibbing High Prom not only adds to that legacy but raises the bar for those to come,” she wrote. “Kudos to you parents for raising such exceptional children , and my hats off to you amazing kids who chose to do the right thing at the right time to the right people — making it the perfect night for everyone.”

Paul’s sister, Bethany, volunteered to chaperone the dance, and she received the honor of crowning Ashley, Betty said.

Ashley cried as she shared the news with her mom afterward.

“She’s still excited. She can’t believe it,” Kay said.

Both Ashley and Paul wore their crowns to school on Monday.

Betty said she was moved by the students’ choice for king and queen.

“What a tribute to the kids of Hibbing — that their hearts are truly in the right place,” she said. “It was just very, very moving to me.”

Anna Kurth can be reached at akurth@hibbingdailytribune.net. To read this story and comment on it online go towww.hibbingmn.com.