BOUNTIFUL -- Two of Viewmont High School's special-needs seniors were recently crowned as first attendants for the junior prom.
Seniors Rachel Graybill and Russell Taylor received enough anonymous nominations by the students to be put on the ballot, then received the most votes from their senior classmates.
"After tallying the popular vote by the students, it was clear that the Viewmont student body wanted Russell and Rachel to represent the senior class as attendants at prom," said Junior Adviser Scott Judy.
"I feel like, a lot of times, we as teachers, parents or community members are telling kids about the things they do wrong, but this time, they really got it right and we didn't have to tell the kids or pressure them, they just voted for them."
When the two students' names were announced at an assembly the day before the dance, the student body gave the two a standing ovation.
"It's got to be one of the top three loudest times I've heard the students cheer at an assembly or game, clapping for nearly three minutes straight before we could move onto the king and queen from the junior class," Judy said.
Juniors were crowned the king and queen, with the senior class receiving the first attendant honors and sophomores honored as second attendants.
Seeing the two students, who both have Down syndrome, receive such an honor is something special-education teacher Jana Crawford hasn't seen before in the 12 years she has worked at the school.
Knowing the student body did it all on its own without any encouragement from the teachers impresses her the most.
"I don't think there are any words to describe it, knowing these kids did it all on their own," said Crawford, who works with Rachel and Russell on a daily basis. "It's an extra opportunity these kids don't normally have."
For Rachel, being crowned was an experience that won't be easily forgotten.
"I was very surprised and wasn't sure what it would be like, but I knew it would be fun, and I liked it a lot," she said.
Her mom, Jeri Graybill, said it has been an inspiring moment. When Rachel was born, one of the first things that worried her was that people would be mean to her daughter.
"That has never happened as we've navigated through the years, as we've seen people reach out to her, such as this experience where she has gotten so much beautiful attention," said Jeri Graybill.
She recognizes that everybody struggles with certain things and that we all want to be accepted for how we are.
"For kids to let her know that it's OK to be just the way she is has brought tears to a lot of us."
Russell's mom had similar sentiments when she found out her son was receiving the honor.
"He's grown up with these kids all of his life, and this is a testimony of inclusion," said Rosalie Taylor. "They've just accepted him and been so kind."
For Russell, it was all about the dancing. He and Rachel, as the first attendants, were given the chance to enjoy a special dance on their own while their peers cheered them on.
"I had fun dancing, especially because my friends liked it, too," Russell said.