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Quaker Valley adds king crowning to homecoming tradition

| Friday, Sept. 29, 2017, 10:48 a.m.

A king and a queen will be crowned at Quaker Valley High School's homecoming festivities this year for the first time in school history, as students pushed for changes to tradition to allow for more inclusion.

In the past, Quaker Valley crowned only a homecoming queen and girls, at times, felt pressure to find a date to walk them across the football field for the big day, said senior Rachel Rock, 17. Girls — from freshman through seniors — were part of the tradition at the small school with an enrollment of 650, students said.

Students wanted to change that.

“We said, ‘What can we do to change the way this is and make everyone feel more included?' ” Rock said.

Students approached Principal Deborah Riccobelli, who worked with athletic director Mike Mastroianni, to form a committee of students who sought to address the issue.

“They didn't feel like our previous process honored who the students were,” Riccobelli said. “They wanted to honor the tradition of homecoming, yet something that was more inclusive… that a wider variety of students were represented in — not just the popular kids.”

They created a process where teachers would nominate high school senior boys and girls for the school's homecoming court. They can select students based on character, respect shown to others and activities they're involved in — ranging from the drama club to sports.

“It's going to give some kids that might not have had the chance before the opportunity,” said senior Jake Giotto, 18. “We wanted to get rid of the stereotypical traditional ideas of what homecoming was.”

The seven boys and seven girls who are nominated will walk together across the field and be paired in alphabetical order. The winner will be announced at halftime of the football game on Oct. 6.

The changes at homecoming follow adjustments made to Quaker Valley's prom two years ago, when a male-centric Mr. QV pageant was changed to a prom royalty court that included both boys and girls.

“Having the girls be voted on, but boys be judged based on talent was very archaic,” Rock said.

Giotto said he hopes other high school's take notice of what Quaker Valley is doing in modernizing its traditions and becoming inclusive to all students.

“I feel it's paving the path for all other high schools,” he said.

For Riccobelli, it's important that students are the ones making the decision and have a voice in their school.

“It's empowering students,” she said. “The more the students step up and have a say, I think their experience in high school becomes more meaningful.”

Riccobelli pointed to other student-led initiatives across the school that have been successful in the past few years, including the re-launch of a drama club and the start of a cultural alliance, where students have a place to talk about anything going on in the world.

“I'm proud of them,” she said.

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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