IDER, ALABAMA (WRCB)- Homecoming was extra special at Ider High School in DeKalb County, Alabama when this year's Queen was announced. Amid a sea of black and gold at the home of the Hornets, the crowd was poised to cheer two special-needs students who had been selected for the homecoming court: sophomore Paloma Vazquez and senior Taylor Mitchell.
The cheers rang out long and loud when Taylor was crowned the 2013 Homecoming Queen. The lone survivor of three infant triplets, Taylor was adopted by the Mitchell family when she was three months old. Her mother Rita said doctors warned her that Taylor would not live to see her first birthday. Even today, the high school senior, who has cerebral palsy faces health challenges. But she has persevered, cheerfully overcoming life's obstacles while gaining the admiration of her fellow students.
Brooklyn Phillips, a senior who was also in the homecoming court, was among the happiest spectators as she watched the tiara and sash being presented to Taylor. "That was a moment in time I'll never forget," she said. "I remember thinking, I'll never be around so many people in one place again that were so caring, so loving."
Principal Jeff Watkins said that while some were surprised to hear a special-needs student's name announced as winner, he was not. "We have so many compassionate students here. They don't look away from her when she is in the hallway, they hug her, they help her. There is a lot of love at Ider High School."
Taylor's mother said the response since Homecoming night has been overwhelming. "I'm so glad people are finding out about this. It's not just about Taylor, it's about these kids. They have no idea what it means to Taylor, and our family. We have watched her grow up and set an example. We know she'll never walk down the wedding aisle, we know she will never have children. To see her on that field, with her dad walking beside her, and all those people cheering for her, calling her name, all I could say was thank you God for that moment. These are good kids at this school."
The Mitchell family moved to Ider from Georgia last year, and Taylor's homecoming dress was "Georgia Bulldog red," according to her mother. "This community has accepted us so well," she said. "Taylor comes home from school each day and tells me that she's had a good day, that she can't wait for tomorrow. That's what you want your child to say."
One of Taylor's best friends is Macy Bell, a fellow senior who helps the new homecoming queen with her coordination. As the school's drum major, Macy had some halftime duties of her own, and was facing the opposing school's fans when the announcement was made. "I was crying tears of joy, and I looked up and the Cherokee County fans were cheering for several minutes too. I had never seen anything like it."
Although Taylor doesn't say a lot, it's clear she's enjoying her newfound fame and adoration at Ider High. She's greeted and cheered at every corner, and her mother said this reinforces her belief that whatever her future holds, it will be around people. "She loves her friends, she just comes alive around people. These past few days have given me such faith about the goodness of people, especially our kids. I want them to know we can never repay them for they gave Taylor, and what they gave our family that night."
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