Seventeen-year-old Kyle Summers said he was surprised to watch his name light up in fireworks, announcing that he had been elected homecoming king during Friday night’s football game.
After all, he was up against Noah Otto, one of the most popular kids at Tumwater High School.
“I actually thought before that Noah was going to win,” Summers said. “As soon as I looked back and saw my name, I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? Why me? … I need to give this up.’ ”
And so Summers will go down in history as having one of the shortest reigns — less than five seconds — as homecoming king. He took off the crown and sash, and put them on Otto, who will now be remembered as the school’s first Life Skills student to serve as homecoming royalty. Life Skills is a program that helps special education students prepare for life after high school, focusing on job readiness and independent living skills.
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“The crowd just goes crazy,” principal Jeff Broome recalled on Monday. “It was actually like an after-school special and a Disney movie. … Everyone was in tears.”
Otto was born about two months premature and suffered a brain bleed, according to his mother, Michele Otto. As a result, he has some physical and learning disabilities, particularly involving reading, vocabulary and speech.
Still, teachers and students say Otto has fully integrated into the school, and they weren’t surprised he was nominated for homecoming king.
The 18-year-old usually spends about half of his lunch time holding doors open for other students. He’s also on the school’s track team.
Broome said he’s proud that students at the school — and people throughout the community — turned out in support of Otto.
“For a special needs student, this is sometimes the best support they’re ever going to get,” Broome said.
He added that the emotional coronation was an example of the “heart of our community at Tumwater.”
Summers said he’s been friends with Otto since they were in first grade at Littlerock Elementary School. He said he has no regrets about the spur-of-the-moment decision to give his friend the honor.
“He’s just a genuine loving person,” Summers said. “Everyone is thanking me for the act. … It was pretty amazing to see that kind of recognition for my good friend Noah.”