Their smiles say it all: York students give special ed peers prom night to remember

Students at York Comprehensive High School voted their classmates Josh Brown and Jessica Poole Prom King and Prom Queen on Saturday.
Students at York Comprehensive High School voted their classmates Josh Brown and Jessica Poole Prom King and Prom Queen on Saturday. York school district

Saturday was truly a night to remember for York Comprehensive High School students Josh Brown and Jessica Poole.

Their classmates voted them prom king and queen. Brown and Poole, both 21, are special education students.

Brown and Poole have trouble communicating verbally, but showed their emotions clearly at school on Monday as they proudly wore their sashes and crowns, said special education teacher Shannon Clayton.

“Their smiles were still on their faces,” Clayton said.

She said the school’s students congratulated Brown and Poole on Monday with high fives. It’s not out of the norm for York Comprehensive, where students come into the special education classes to read with their peers and often eat lunch with them.

“This is the most rewarding district I’ve ever worked with,” Clayton said. “The focus is on love here. It’s amazing.”

The students’ actions are an argument for inclusion, said Poole’s mom Mary Poole, who is also the executive director for the York County Board of Disabilities. She said the fact that seniors voted Poole and Brown queen and king of prom says something of their character.

“In my mind, it shows they cared enough to give up that opportunity and give it to somebody who might not normally get that opportunity,” Poole said. “It just proves that when kids with disabilities are present, it makes everybody better.”

Poole said her daughter loves dressing up and partying with her friends. Prom night was no exception.

“She loves being a princess, she loves to dance and party,” Poole said.

The York community congratulated the students on Facebook.

“That is so Awesome! Way to go class of 2018!! So proud,” wrote Facebook user Jennifer McCarter Petty. Her profile says she graduated from York.

York school district bus drivers Kelly Belk and Trenia Good escorted Brown, who uses a wheelchair, to the prom in an equipped school bus.

Clayton said the van Brown normally rides in at home was not working, so the transportation team stepped in to help. York bus driver Avery Neely cleaned and decorated the bus that would take Brown to his memorable night.

“They went above and beyond what they were asked to do,” Clayton said.

Kelly Belk, who has been driving Brown to school on and off for almost 15 years, said he brings her joy every day.

“That’s who he is. He is just this big, smiling happy person,” Belk said. “He taught me more than I ever could have taught him about life and living and being happy.”

Residents describe Brown as “sweet,” “always smiling” and an “amazing young man” on a district Facebook post.

On Saturday, Brown’s smiles and laughter didn’t stop the whole night, Belk said.

“It was wonderful just getting to take him and share that with him,” she said.

“Thank you all for your support and love toward our students! You have made this night a night that he will never forget! Such a wonderful group of people to make this night possible. I can’t thank you all enough,” Clayton wrote on Facebook.

York Comprehensive’s Alma Mater says: “We are are one, we are many. Different people, yet the same.”

“That holds very true for our school here,” Clayton said.

Amanda Harris: 803-329-4082