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January 18, 2013

Model students rally behind one nominee

RICHMOND — Senior Chris Chen, 18, stepped out into a crowded gymnasium and took a deep bow after being crowned Homecoming king at Model Laboratory High School on Jan. 11.

He was nervous when he walked out arm-in-arm with queen Miriam Cahill, who “was so pretty,” Chen said.

His teachers, mother and classmates were in tears during a moment “that was special for everyone,” said 17-year-old Raymond White, another senior nominee.

“He deserved it for everything he’s given to this school,” said Raymond, who has been classmates with him since elementary school.

Chen has Down Syndrome, but that is only one of the things that make him special.

He can sing the words to most any country song. He can re-create all the dance routines from “High School Musical.” He is a horseback rider and he often works out at the YMCA, he said while flexing his arm muscles.

He also is “a pretty good basketball player,” said his teacher Sarah Merlin. “He practices at home, too.”

He is a better basketball player than his brother, Alex, who is a freshman on Model’s basketball team, Chen said.  

He often can be seen wearing a big smile, cowboy boots (or a cowboy hat) paired with a T-shirt and basketball shorts “bumping knucks” and high-fiving with his classmates in the hallway.

“It can be 26 degrees outside and Chris is still wearing his shorts,” his teacher joked.

“So I can play basketball,” he told her.

During a senior class meeting, Raymond began talking with a group of friends about campaigning for Chen to win.

There were eight nominees for king, he said. “It would have been cool to me if I won, but I knew it would be a lot more special if Chris won.”

Although there were no guarantees that the votes would come through, Raymond talked to Chen’s teachers about arrangements for him to be at the crowning ceremony.

Raymond and his friends began vocally campaigning for him by saying “Chris Chen for Homecoming King 2013” in the hallways and in between classes.

“I felt that enough students would get behind him ― I’m so glad it happened,” Raymond said. “He’s just a good kid. He deserved it the most.”

Chris will graduate with his class this May, Merlin said. He will return to Model next year to work on his job skills.

Crystal Wylie can be reached at cwylie@richmondregister.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.

 

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