JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - An Englewood High School student with Prader Willi Syndrome in the running for Homecoming King won the crown Friday night.
Austen John, is an Englewood High School senior who attends the Special Education program. The 20-year-old is in the Transition Academy at the school, which is for students between 18-22 years of age.
After nominating Austen a week ago, his fellow students were full of support, even decorating the school with signs encouraging students to “Vote for Austen.”
Students nominated Austen and according to his family, it is the first time a special needs student has been allowed to be on the Homecoming Court at Englewood.
“I’ve been smiling for two weeks since they said he could do it,” said Austen’s father, Jason John.
Austen has Prader Willi Syndrome, which is a rare disorder that affects growth, metabolism, appetite, behavior and overall development, according to Prader Willi Syndrome Association. Jason John is a local advocate for Prader Willi Syndrome families. He wants to raise more awareness for the syndrome and be there for families who need support.
"As a parent of a special needs child, you never think it's going to happen," Jason John said.
Jason John works at Englewood with a variety of special needs students. He says many don't feel comfortable running for a chance to make homecoming court, but Austen did.
"So they were all estatic to see one of their peers and classmate's names on somehting that is usuvally never seen," John said.
John said it's refreshing to know the students at Englewood care.
"So much is about bullying and being mean, so when you see people and especailly kids being nice, it's a great thing," he said.
John said when Austen first learned he was nominated for homecoming court he asked for two things: a bow tie and shiny shoes and there was no need to ask for the rest.
"Everybody wants to do what everyone else does, so tonight is about that," John said.