Most of us likely hold memories of our high school homecoming king and queen as a picture-perfect pair.
The standard for royalty often has been the captain of the football team side-by-side with a cheerleader. They are beaming 1,000-watt smiles.
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But this year, the roster of suburban high school homecoming courts looks a little different, and we couldn't be happier or prouder.
There's 18-year-old Casey Scott, who was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at age 5 and who has used a wheelchair since elementary school, wearing the king's crown at Lake Zurich High School.
Thomas Broviak and Krissy Altersohn, who each have Down syndrome, ruling over homecoming festivities as king and queen at Geneva High School.
And Bougest Sutton and Bryant Jenkins becoming the first same-sex pair to serve as homecoming royalty at Round Lake High School.
Each represents a heartwarming and truly inspirational story for these students, as they have faced plenty of challenges in their lives and now have an opportunity to bask in the respect and honor of their peers.
But even more important, each story also speaks volumes about acceptance and tolerance. It says much about misconceptions and misplaced stereotypes often associated with teenagers.
It also says a lot about behavior we hope can be emulated and embraced by others of any age. "The typical Geneva prototype for homecoming court is a football player or a cheerleader, and I think the students were just ready to see a different type of kid be represented and be recognized," teacher and student council adviser Emma Williams said in last week's story by staff writer Melissa Silverberg.
What makes these stories particularly compelling is the reaction from other students.
In one case, the coronation was a grass-roots effort sparked by a message and a photo of the students on Facebook. In others, students rallied around and chanted the name of the new king when the announcement was made.
There have been dances with the homecoming queen, high-fives in the hallway and a slew of new Facebook friend requests for kids who may previously have felt anonymous or out of place.
There have even been a few tears shed by teachers and parents.
It's called inclusion, and it has a way of multiplying those beaming smiles.
That's not to suggest that our high schools are suddenly free of intolerance, that some changes in a few homecoming courts have magically eliminated bullying. The truth is, being bullied is a reality for many students, no matter their appearance, lifestyle or abilities.
It's not that easy. But a willingness to deviate from the traditional model for homecoming royalty certainly can be a start.