When Amanda Janda didn’t make this year’s cheerleading team at Patriot High School in Nokesville, her friends took to Twitter and started a campaign to get her elected to the homecoming court.
“We decided this would make her happy,” said sophomore Erika Picard, one of the students responsible for the campaign. “We tried it, and it worked.”
Last week, Janda, a 20-year-old junior who has Down syndrome, was elected to the court along with nine other princesses and princes, representing each class.
Janda had the princess wave perfected. Her long, blond hair was curled down her back, and her royal blue dress had a dash of sparkle.
Despite the pouring rain Friday night, Janda and the junior class prince who accompanied her, varsity football player Max Ortiz, walked across the football field during the halftime presentation to cheers and applause.
“She understands that she’s a princess because she’s going around saying, ‘I’m a princess,’ ” Erika said. “I don’t think she realizes how amazing it is that she won.”
Janda was befriended by fellow student Samantha Alexander during an art class last year. Janda’s mother, Lynita, had asked that her daughter be allowed to take a mainstream class.
When Janda joined the junior varsity cheerleading team, she met Erin Gwynn and Erika, who were on the varsity team.
“I was used to being with Amanda 24-7,” Lynita Janda said. “Now there are all these teenagers. They were all so friendly and would introduce Amanda to their friends. And their friends would be friendly. It didn’t escalate until she got into cheer, and then it went viral. I couldn’t get near her.”
Outside of school, the girls have taken Amanda Janda to Young Life meetings and the county fair.
“It’s hard to let go,” said Lynita Janda, who has never left her daughter with a babysitter. “They are so amazing with her, though. For the first time in my life, I felt like I didn’t have to worry.”
After the homecoming court was presented, Amanda Janda was greeted on the sidelines with hugs from her parents and friends.
“I can’t stop crying,” Samantha said as tears and raindrops streamed down her cheeks.