Thursday, September 29, 2016

FEATURE STORY >> Heartfelt nod to the queen

Special to The Leader

“I’m the queen!” says Savanna Grier, waving her arms.

She’s at lunch with a slice of pizza in front of her, friends and teachers around her and a huge smile on her face. Savanna is the life of the party. Which is why it isn’t surprising that on Oct. 7 Savanna will be crowned Beebe High School’s homecoming queen.

“Everybody knows Savan-na,” Kelly Landers, one of Savanna’s teachers, said. “She talks to everybody. I think she’ll make a good queen. And she already thinks she’s a princess anyway.”

Savanna is a senior at Beebe High School, and like every other teenage girl would be, she is ecstatic about buying her dress, riding in the parade, and being crowned queen. But unlike every other teenage girl, Savanna was born with Down syndrome.

In addition to her disability, Savanna is no stranger to hardship, as she endured the loss of her mother after a fatal car accident in 2012.

But that doesn’t stop her from being the most loved and popular girl in school.

“She is popular. In a good way. The very best way,” Landers said.

No one is quite sure who was the first to nominate Savanna for homecoming queen, but the idea first came up during a senior mentoring meeting.

Beebe High School Principal Scott  Jennings isn’t at all surprised about this. He said the senior mentoring class has completely changed attitudes on campus.

“It’s a strong group of leaders. They are doing things to make things happen. They’re not just wishing things would happen,” Principal Jennings said.

Regardless of where exactly the idea started, the school was quickly on board.

Garrett Grier, Savanna’s twin brother, is a tight end and linebacker for the Beebe High School football team.

He said that he was working at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes table at Club Rush when he first heard the idea.

“One of (the senior mentoring students) came up to me and they were like, ‘Have you heard about it yet?’ and I said, ‘What are you talking about?”

Grier quickly learned that students were campaigning for Savanna to be elected homecoming queen. The students also wanted Grier to escort Savanna when she was crowned at the school’s pep rally.

“That would be really awesome. Because obviously she’s my twin sister and I love her, and that would just be awesome if I got to walk with her my senior year,” Grier said.

After he heard about the campaign, he went right to his dad and stepmom, Brian and Teresa Grier, to ask for their approval.

“And they were fine with it, as long as it wasn’t going to be rigged. That was people’s biggest concern, that the voting would be set up,” Grier said.

Savanna’s family wanted her to win, but they wanted students to actually vote for Savanna.

“And they did,” Grier said.

Savanna was easily voted into the Top 12, with a lead of about 100 votes. From the Top 12, students voted for three senior maids and one queen. The results came back and Savanna had been elected Beebe High School’s homecoming queen.

Not only that, but she had won by more than 300 votes.

When the homecoming results were announced over the intercom, teachers said there was screaming in the classrooms and a general sense of excitement throughout the school.

“Everyone was stopping her in the hallway congratulating her. Students were late to classes,” one of her teachers said.

The campaign itself is a testament to how much Savanna is loved. Students didn’t have to make posters or convince students to vote for Savanna, they just had to simply mention the idea.

People on campus thought it was about time they gave Savanna a crown.

Grier said he and others posted a few pictures on Instagram and mentioned their idea on Twitter, and from there the campaign just took off.

“You know, when I post a normal picture on Instagram, I get maybe 60 or 70 likes. But if Savanna’s in the picture with me, I’ll get like 290,” Grier said.

“Twitter, Snapchat, Insta-gram. It was everywhere. It’s nice to hear of social media being used for good in a high school,” Landers said.

If one thing can be said about this homecoming election at Beebe High, it’s that hardly anyone was surprised Savanna won  or surprised the senior class would be so selfless in their endeavor.

“I was a little surprised, but not really. Savanna represents the school well. She competes in Special Olympics, and she’s at all the football games. She knows everybody, and she talks to everybody. She likes to socialize. Don’t you, Vanna?” said Landers, one of her teachers, as she smiled at Savanna.

Another one of Savanna’s teachers, Susan Edwards, mentioned some of her initial concern about the election.

“I asked someone, ‘Are any of these girls going to be upset if they don’t win?’ and I was told that every girl on that ballot was selfless enough to not be offended if Savanna won,” Edwards said.

“This class has major character,” she said.

“The girls who made it to the Top 12 felt that it was an honor just to be in the Top 12. And when the Top 4 came out, I was like, yes, they deserve it, out of everyone that I know,” Grier said.
Senior Homecoming Maid Ashton Warner couldn’t be happier about Savanna being elected queen.

“I thought it was really sweet. I thought it was a really good representation of how our school is, because the people at our school are really all friends. Even though there are different groups or cliques, I feel like we’re really supportive of each other,” Warner said.

“It was easy for all of us to come together and support it,” Warner added.

The three senior maids elected are Abby Moore, Delaney Daniel and Ashton Warner. Moore and Warner are both co-captains of the cheerleading team, and Daniel plays soccer and is a member of student council. All three girls have been elected to the homecoming court once before.

As for being elected to homecoming, Savannah says she is excited. She already has a white suit picked out to wear to the pep rally, and she plans to go shopping with her stepmom Teresa and her Aunt Kelly to pick out a dress to wear when she’s crowned at the game.

“We’re going to make a day of it,” Teresa said.

Everyone seems to think that Savanna will make a great queen. “She’s very authoritative,” one of her teachers said. “That’s what happens when you have six brothers.”

And her brothers, especially her twin, love her.

“Savanna’s always been the center of attention. Everyone loves her. Like we’ll be walking in a store and someone will be like, ‘Hey Savanna!’ and I won’t even know who that person is,” Grier said.

As expected, Principal Jennings is very proud of his students. “They put the needs of Savanna over something that normally happens, and it just speaks highly of our school,” Jennings said.

“She’s absolutely the sweetest and most wonderful thing and we’ll miss her when she’s gone,” Jennings said.

Out of everything said about Savanna, her teacher Susan Edwards said it best: “She’s always been our Queen.”