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Draper Journal

Corner Canyon celebrates classmate with special needs as homecoming queen

Oct 26, 2020 03:02PM ● By Julie Slama

Corner Canyon homecoming king Brady Wallace and queen Calli Nice wave to their classmates at halftime of the Sept. 11 game. (Photo courtesy of Spencer Townsend/CCHS)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

At halftime of Corner Canyon High School’s homecoming game, there were cheers “Calli, Calli, Calli” as the senior high girl with pervasive developmental disorder walked out on the field in a new pale blue dress.

“I got to wear a crown and sash; I thanked them for voting me homecoming queen,” Calli Nice said. “(My crown is) silver with diamonds on it. And they gave me flowers.”

Then, she started to dance—something Calli doesn’t even remember—but her mother, Jody Nice, has it recorded.

“My favorite one was after it all was over, they started playing music and Calli loves to dance and she’s out there, all by herself on the football field dancing to the music,” her mother said. “She was just so excited. It’s just super, super cute.”

While Calli and homecoming king Brady Wallace did take off their face coverings for a photo or two, they quickly put them back on as Corner Canyon High, which went to a modified class schedule the following Tuesday after having 20 people at the school test positive for COVID-19, almost didn’t have a homecoming court. Later that month, all students began studying remotely as the number spiked to 67, according to Canyons School District’s COVID-19 dashboard.

The idea to still hold a homecoming court came from studentbody officer Emma Searle, who got permission to hold online nominations, and then voting for the top eight candidates was held on a Google form. 

“We probably had 550 or 600 nominations, but Calli had over half the votes,” Searle said. “Calli is super friendly and once people saw her, everybody got on board and chose her.”

Her neighbor, Luke Sampson, who plays left tackle for the Chargers, who are ranked No. 1 in the state, said he passed the word to vote for Calli.

“I talked and sent texts to everybody that Calli was on the ballot,” he said. “I talk and text her every day. She is super nice, always comes up to me and talks to me about anything. I was super happy when I heard she won and that Calli was treated like the royalty she is. I called her ‘queen’ and she blushed. It makes her feel special. I would totally take her to a dance if we had a homecoming or formal dance.”

However, the school did not hold a homecoming dance. However, after the football team’s halftime huddle, Sampson darted straight from the locker room to Calli’s side, wanting to take a photo with her, before he and his teammates beat Alta High, 56-6.

That is one of Calli’s mother’s favorite photos of that night on Sept. 11. It was a fun way to finish off the night with the extended family who gathered to celebrate Calli’s mother’s and grandmother’s birthdays on that day.

“I loved it. It was the best birthday present ever. I was super, super impressed about how these children had rallied around her to make her feel like a queen. She’s was super excited about it…but I don’t think she understands the magnitude,” Jody said. “I call her my princess all the time; she lives in that fantasy world.”

Jody said that Calli’s pervasive developmental disorder is in the autism spectrum and places her intellectually around age 8, where she still likes Barbie dolls, but also has some older interests as a 17-year-old, such as boys. She hangs out and texts with other teens, but also feels comfortable playing with pre-teens in the neighborhood, her mother said.

“She’s super, super outgoing; she almost doesn’t understand social cues,” Jody said. “She is so super different from the other kids in her class (as some are non-verbal); she’s just a very unique special needs person.”

In fact, before COVID-19, Calli worked at the local Chick-fil-a, where her mother said at times, Calli would get sidetracked from cleaning tables and washing trays and be found talking to patrons.

“She loves people,” her mother said. “That’s her personality.”

Assistant Principal Christian Cowart said he has seen Calli’s outgoing personality.

“She’s very kind, super friendly and wants to support all the teams,” he said about the school’s first homecoming queen who has special needs. “This shows the spirit we have at our school, our generosity we feel and our character—how we are here.”

Her mother credits her special needs teachers both at the high school and at Draper Park Middle School, where they encouraged students to become peer tutors to the special needs students and include them in activities and social life.

Classmate and studentbody officer Megan Petty has known Calli her whole life.

“She loves to chat,” Petty said. “I see Calli in the Commons and she will just talk to anyone; she doesn’t care who they are. She will ask them about their day. She’s just awesome. Calli’s special needs is a part of her, but it doesn’t define her. She makes you feel happy when you talk to her. When you know her, you can’t help but love her. And to see her on homecoming night, jumping all around, you can just tell she was smiling behind her mask.”

While in high school, Calli would see the same friends she made when she was younger and even attended some classes such as art and yoga with them. Some of her other classes, she studies alongside her peers in the special needs class.

Jody and the family knew ahead of time from her special needs teacher Kathy Cline that Calli was nominated. Then a studentbody officer called to let her know she had won. The whole family was on the sideline when her name was announced as the homecoming queen, which was kept as a secret from Calli.

“(When I received a call) to tell me ‘I just wanted to tell you that Calli won,’ I was like, ‘no way;’ I was so emotional. I was just crying and super, super touched by it,” her mother said. “(After halftime,) the main thing that she wanted to do was to stay at the football game and hang out with friends.”