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Homecoming queen makes history at MVHS
Christina Ruiz (left) was crowned Magna Vista High School’s homecoming queen. Julia Lampkins (right) is a para-professional who works with Ruiz, who is a special education student at the high school. (Contributed photo)
Thursday, October 31, 2013
By VICKY MORRISON - Bulletin Staff Writer
When Magna Vista High School senior Christina Ruiz was voted homecoming queen, she became the first special education student to receive the honor in more than a decade, according to Magna Vista officials.
“I never thought this would happen, never in a million years,” said Christina’s mother, Trenda Ruiz. “It was just a dream come true” to see Christina walk across the football field Friday night and be crowned queen, she said. Trenda and her husband, Emilio, live in Axton.
When Christina was born, her parents were told she “wouldn’t walk or talk, never crawl (and) there was the possibility she would be blind, pretty much a vegetable,” Trenda Ruiz recalled. Christina was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and classified as developmentally delayed.
However, the Ruiz family had different ideas and raised their daughter with high expectations. “You get out what you put in,” Trenda Ruiz said.
Christina’s mother said the 21-year-old operates at the level of a kindergartner to a second-grader. “Some of her functioning is a little higher,” she said, “but not at the level of a normal 21-year-old.” Christina requires assistance with daily tasks such as bathing, dressing and eating.
Christina’s freshman year at Magna Vista was challenging because she was “pretty much confined” to a special education classroom, said Julia Lampkins, Christina’s para-professional.
Para-professionals like Lampkins act as teachers and counselors to special education students, tutoring them throughout school.
By Christina’s sophomore year, she was assigned to work with Lampkins, who transformed her daily routine at school. Christina, who Lampkins said was at first “difficult (and) didn’t obey rules,” transformed into a sociable, well-mannered, active student.
Lampkins connected with her individually, considering her personality, which hadn’t happened before, Trenda Ruiz said. With Lampkins, Christina’s family “found the piece to the puzzle,” Ruiz added.
Lampkins taught Christina good manners, how to do chores and how to socialize appropriately. Lampkins said she eventually saw that Christina began walking with her head up, developed a sense of pride in herself and engaged others. Christina’s development was “a beautiful change,” Lampkins said.
Now, Christina “likes to be around the public because the public acknowledges her,” Lampkins said. She is “active and out and about” on campus. She frequents school games, in particular those of her sisters, 17-year-old senior Emily and 16-year-old junior Amber. Both play on the school’s soccer team.
Christina’s friendliness with Magna Vista students and staff “gave students a whole different understanding,” Lampkins said. “Students started opening up and understanding” special education students.
Lampkins nominated Christina for homecoming queen, and she was voted onto the homecoming court. Five senior boys, four senior girls and six underclassmen also were voted onto the court. Only seniors can be voted homecoming king or queen, and the whole student body votes for the winners.
When she made the court, Trenda and Emily Ruiz said Christina was thrilled, cheerfully repeating, “I made court!”
Lampkins taught Christina how to ask for votes, and it became a “chain reaction, one student to the next” offering to support her bid, Lampkins said.
During a pep rally before Friday’s homecoming game, support for Christina was apparent. “Everybody was happy and said they were ready for a change,” Emily said. Christina got a standing ovation when she was presented at the rally.
“People would tell her, ‘I voted for you,’” Lampkins said. According to Lampkins, even Christina’s competition remarked that they voted for her and believed she deserved to be queen.
Lampkins skipped grandson DeSaun Taylor’s homecoming in North Carolina to support Christina. She was able to escort Christina onto the field during the homecoming game Friday night, as well.
“Normally she walks out of order,” Lampkins said. However, with Lampkins by her side, Christina made it smoothly across the field, Ruiz said.
As the court waited to hear the announcement of the king and queen, Christina was flooded with compliments. Many students said, “‘I hope you win,’” recounted Lampkins.
“It was a lot of their (students on the homecoming court) dreams (to be named queen or king), but they wanted to vote for Chris,” Trenda Ruiz said. Christina was named queen with a landslide victory, Lampkins said. Fellow senior Keon Broadnax was voted homecoming king.
Christina wore a pink sweater, tights and gloves in honor of breast cancer awareness month and curled her hair, even though she dislikes being touched on her head. Despite that usual sensitivity, Christina excitedly accepted her crown, Lampkins said. She wore the crown until 11:20 that night, Trenda Ruiz said, chuckling.
Upon graduation, Christina plans to participate in the Stepping Stones program, a daily support center.
For Lampkins, Christina embodies the idea of “No child left behind.”
“It doesn’t matter what kind of child you are, you can succeed,” Lampkins said. Working with Christina was a learning process for Lampkins, too, she added.
“She taught me just as much as I taught her.”