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October 16, 2013

How tweet it is — Twitter helps get pair nominated to homecoming court

By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

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Athens High School junior Sam Bright and sophomore Allie Hayes wave to the crowd as part of the Homecoming Court in the Homecoming Parade Oct. 11.
 

When students milling around the halls of Athens High School see sophomore Allie Hayes and her boyfriend, junior Sam Bright, holding hands, they smile.

“They’re so happy — their energy vibe,” said senior Nancy Kast. “Everyone knows Allie. They hold hands. Everybody thinks they’re adorable. I get goose bumps.”

Hayes and Bright are mainstream students who have Down syndrome. Bright is an assistant to Athens varsity football coach Josh Heppner.

Hayes’ mother, Dawn, a teacher at Athens, said the families have known each other since Hayes and Bright were 1 and 2 years old. Hayes’ father, Mark, teaches math at Larson Middle School.

“If we tried to make it happen, it wouldn’t have happened,” Dawn Hayes said of Hayes’ and Bright’s attraction.

Sparks didn’t fly for Hayes and Bright until this summer, Hayes said.

“Our first date was dinner at Coney Island and the movies, ‘The Way Way Back,’” Hayes said.

Junior Liz Gorjcaj snapped a photo of the couple and posted it online, and junior Dalia Ibrahim and Kast posted on Twitter, promoting the pair for homecoming court: “Sophomores, be sure to vote for Allie Hayes.”

“I always see her smiling,” Gorjcaj said of Hayes.

“I’ve never seen Allie in a bad mood,” said Kast, who is in a child care class with Hayes in sixth hour.

The promotion turned into a Twitter trend.

“My phone was blowing up,” Gorjcaj said.

Dawn Hayes said she got a message from a student that the Twitter post had gotten more than 100 retweets in an hour.

Voting for the Homecoming Court at Athens was completed in one day, Oct. 11. Traditionally, underclassmen elect a boy and a girl from each grade to represent the classes together at the pep rally, homecoming parade and football game, but the school made an exception for Hayes and Bright, and allowed them to walk and appear in the festivities together, though they are not in the same grade.

“I like it. I love it,” Allie said.

Athens Principal Lara Dixon noted that this year’s homecoming festivities were part of the school’s 40th birthday celebration.

Ibrahim, a member of the Athens Student Congress, which tallies the votes, said that seniors were crossing off the seniors’ names on the voting ballots and writing in Sam and Allie. She describes Hayes as a good friend.

Ibrahim, Kast and Gorjcaj said they were furious when they heard rumors that some people thought the students were doing it as a joke.

“Nobody thought it was a joke,” Ibrahim said. 

“They don’t look at Allie and Sam as students with special needs, but as a cute couple,” Dawn Hayes said.