No homecoming queen


Noah Younger and Jonathan Bashford win homecoming royalty for the class of 2022. Photo by Brady Roland.

Homecoming royalty looked a little different this year. Contrary to the traditional crowning of a king and a queen, the winners of the senior class were two boys; Noah Younger and Jonathan Bashford. While students were excited to cheer for their class representatives, there was still a varied response of whether or not this was the right way to cultivate a culture of LGBTQ+ inclusion at A-West. 

When the winners were announced at the homecoming football game, Younger, a player on the football team, was the first to be crowned king. After a roaring crowd settled down, Bashford, a member of the marching band and the theatre department, was announced as the second winner. With mixed reactions about the two boys winning, many thought one of the girls nominated, Daniz Vahid, as the girlfriend of Younger would claim the queen title.

Younger describes his initial reaction. “In that moment I was really excited to be chosen. I was really happy and felt honoured that everyone voted for me.” However he expresses, “I was sad that Daniz didn’t win because I wanted to win royalty as a couple, but I’m happy for Jonathan as he was nominated every year but never won.”

Bashford explains, “I didn’t realize I had won because I didn’t hear my name. So I assumed that Daniz had won,” he continues. “Then, Welsh came over and put a sash on me. I was a little bit confused, but I was like ‘Oh okay!’ I was worried it [two boys winning] would happen anyway.”

Regardless of the “awkward situation” Bashford describes being in by sharing the royalty with Younger, he was both excited and happy to be one of the homecoming kings. 

Student council was in charge of introducing the new voting system this year where students could nominate two people, regardless of their gender. With three girls and three boys making the final round, most of the senior class expected one of each gender to take the crown. Students were informed that it was possible for two of either gender to win, but based on the culture and traditions the class of 2022 was brought into as freshman, this was a big change with little preparation.  

Principal Geree Santarelli explains the new system for voting: “Whoever gets the most votes is your homecoming royalty. They’re not a couple… It’s just a popular vote”. 

77 students, parents and community members of A-West were surveyed.

In a survey of 77 students, parents and community members from A-West, there was a complete clash of opinions on how well they felt homecoming was handled. Nearly 46.8% of respondents agreed that holding an inclusive vote was the right way to go about the situation. On the other hand, 36.4% of respondents said they disagreed with the school’s decision, leaving 16.9% remaining neutral on the topic. This diverse opinion represents the progressive and traditional views that are clashing inside A-West’s domain.

Grace Wallace, a junior at A-West, expresses, “It was so sad to not have a homecoming queen for the class of 2022! It must have been so disappointing for those poor girls, especially the one whose boyfriend won. I think there should be a boy and girl from each class, because otherwise it could be overtaken by only boys or only girls and leave people out, or you could have people enter as a couple and people could vote that way. Either way, it was done poorly this year in my opinion.”

On the other hand, sophomore Rhiannon Danborn says, “I think that allowing homecoming royalty to be any two people regardless of gender creates an inclusive homecoming experience for all students at A-West. Not only does this change move away from the assumption that there are only two forms of gender identity or expression (those being the binary genders), but it also removes the heteronormative aspect of homecoming royalty. I was glad to see that as a school we abandoned an outdated tradition, and hope that in the future we continue to have homecoming royalty be reflective of the entire student body”.

Creating an inclusive royalty is not all that A-West is doing to cultivate an accepting culture. A-West has introduced a gender neutral bathroom where students, especially those in the LGBTQ+ community, can have less concern over harassment or trouble they may experience in a male or female designated bathroom. In addition to this, A-West got rid of the traditional white and purple gowns used to divide the graduating class into girls and boys for graduation. Now there will only be one color, purple with a white line and an AW on the corner, and students will be ordered alphabetically by last name only. 

Santarelli explains, “Last year there were several parents upset that their child had to choose which color they wanted to wear. Some weren’t ready to make a decision. When I became principal three years ago, the superintendent at the time said that defining this [gender division] would not last much longer. We said that we would get a neutral gown for everybody”.

These are the new normals that students, parents and the community alike are going to have to adjust to. While many students may not be happy with all of the changes, the culture will naturally evolve each year. When the class of 2022 and 2023 graduates, the new classes will see the new traditions as normal, specifically because the juniors and seniors are the only classes that have experienced the traditional king and queen at homecoming. 

Even though 53.3% of students, parents and community members surveyed would rather stick with the traditional king and queen voting system, it is clear that Jefferson County Public Schools and A-West administrations intend to progress its inclusive culture by altering the dynamic within the school. These new changes will set a precedent for the future classes of A-West. 

Santarelli admits, “Change is hard.”