Ontario High School student Melissa Andrade’s cerebral palsy has confined her to a wheelchair, but she didn’t let that stop her from running for homecoming queen.
“This is something Melissa’s dreamt about since she was yay high,” her mother, Michelle O’Hanian, told KABC News. “She wants to motivate other children and we love that.”
And Thursday night, Melissa’s dream of becoming homecoming queen came true.
The newly crowned queen’s mother says that things haven’t always been easy for her.
“She’s gone through a lot and she’s a terrific kid. No matter what, from little kids staring at her, I’ve always told her, a smile is contagious.”
Melissa took her mother’s advice, smiling through her entire campaign to become the first student with special needs to be crowned homecoming queen at her Montclair, California, high school.
Andrade wanted to inspire other special needs kids everywhere with her campaign, even if she didn’t win.
“Always keep their head up,” she said, “no matter what.”
“If I win, I would be like the happiest girl in the world,” Melissa told reporters while she was waiting for the announcement.
Her smiles and aggressive campaign paid off. According to the school’s principal, Larry Rock, Melissa took the homecoming queen crown by a landslide.
“It wasn’t even close. The kids came out and voted very much for Melissa.”
An Ontario High football player’s cousin, Jason Lara, who is also confined to a wheelchair, offered to help Melissa with her campaign. He asked her to “roll with him to homecoming.”
“That was crazy,” Melissa said. “I loved it.”
Lara was also touched by Andrade’s reaction to his invitation. “When I saw her smile, I actually felt like crying because it felt good to me,” he said.
Andrade was visibly nervous, but still smiling, as she waited for the results of the vote with fellow members of the homecoming court — who were cheering her on.
When the news was announced, she could hardly contain her joy.
As the football team applauded their new queen she said, “I’m so happy! I can’t thank everyone enough.”
You can see her excited reaction to being crowned homecoming queen in this ABC News video.
“She kept saying, ‘I can’t believe it. This actually happened,'” her mother told ABC News. “And I said, ‘Yes, your dream came true. You’re going to make a difference. And she said, ‘Yes mom, I am going to make a difference.'”
Melissa’s goal after graduation is to teach other children with disabilities, but for now, she is just enjoying the fact that she accomplished her life-long dream of becoming homecoming queen.
Andrade isn’t the only kid with a disability who wants to help and inspire others. Check out this 11-year-old girl who The Inquisitr reports is raising money to help other’s see, even though she is facing blindness herself.
[Image via GMA]