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Greensburg Salem students elect special girl as homecoming royalty

Jacob Tierney
| Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015, 8:55 p.m.
Emma Slezak is overjoyed as she receives warm cheers and hearty applause from fellow court members and students, after being crowned Greensburg Salem's Homecoming Queen on Friday, Sept, 25, 2015, during halftime at Offutt Field in Greensburg, Pa.
Rebecca Emanuele | TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
Emma Slezak is overjoyed as she receives warm cheers and hearty applause from fellow court members and students, after being crowned Greensburg Salem's Homecoming Queen on Friday, Sept, 25, 2015, during halftime at Offutt Field in Greensburg, Pa.
Emma Slezak is overjoyed as she receives warm cheers and hearty applause from fellow court members and students, after being crowned Greensburg Salem's Homecoming Queen on Friday, Sept, 25, 2015, during halftime at Offutt Field in Greensburg, Pa.
Rebecca Emanuele | TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
Emma Slezak is overjoyed as she receives warm cheers and hearty applause from fellow court members and students, after being crowned Greensburg Salem's Homecoming Queen on Friday, Sept, 25, 2015, during halftime at Offutt Field in Greensburg, Pa.

Emma Slezak said she is all smiles after being elected by her fellow students as Greensburg Salem's homecoming queen last week.

The senior, who has Down syndrome, said she was honored by victory.

“It feels pretty good, I was so surprised,” she said. “I'm just happy.”

Greensburg Salem High School seniors nominated Slezak as one of the seven girls in the homecoming court. Then the sophomores, juniors and seniors voted which member of the court would be queen.

“It was a pretty special evening,” said Rosemarie O'Neill, student activities adviser for the high school.

Slezak's victory was driven entirely by her fellow students, O'Neill said.

Though she is a Greensburg Salem student, Slezak is not actually taking classes at the high school this year. She's part of St. Vincent College's Bearcat B.E.S.T. (Building Excellence Through Skills Training) program, which helps prepare special-needs students for adult life.

Slezak is still a regular presence at the high school, O'Neill said. She is an active participant and volunteers in many school activities.

“She does whatever she can for us,” O'Neill said.

This is Slezak's second major honor of the year. This spring she was named the 2015 YWCA Sportswoman of the Year with Special Needs for her participation in the Special Olympics, Miracle League Baseball and Steel City All Stars competitive cheerleading. “It's been a great year for Emma,” said her mom, Peggy Slezak. “It was very overwhelming to feel that support. She's grown up with these kids, so it's very touching.”

Once she graduates from Greensburg Salem, Emma plans to attend St. Vincent College. She hopes to eventually find a job in education so she can help other students like her.

Jacob Tierney is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6646.

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