Senatobia High School elects first homecoming queen with special needs

By Shelby Louwerens

It’s been an  exciting week for KayLeigh Pearce, who rode in the Senatobia Homecoming Parade Sept. 17, was crowned homecoming queen Sept. 19, and celebrated her 18th birthday Saturday, Sept. 20.

It’s a day her mother, Brandie Henson, never thought would come. Doctors told her that Pearce, who has Down syndrome and was born with three holes in her heart, might not make it after a surgery to correct the heart defect. They even encouraged her to hold her child until she passed away, according to Action News 5.

But Pearce is a fighter, and now at 18, she’s a queen.

Henson said she was thrilled that Pearce won, and is glad to see that society is changing its views about people with special needs.

“Years ago, these beautiful children were hidden in the schools and refused access to being main-streamed, as they were considered “defected” or “not normal,” Henson said. “To us, just being on the court was just another example of how times and peoples hearts are changing to accept these beautiful souls.

“We always try to push Kayleigh and avoid limiting her potential dreams,” said Henson, who is focused on changing the lives and opening new doors for other special needs children. “We want their travels to be easier and not have to fight to be accepted in this world.”

The homecoming parade was Disney-themed and included a full float of Frozen characters, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel. Pearce celebrated her birthday as Elsa from Frozen.

“This is just so her personality, as her life revolves around Barbies, princesses and fairy tales,” said Henson. “She has a huge imagination.”

Pearce is the first special needs person to make the homecoming court at Senatobia High School, according to Action News 5.

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