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“Heroes of Troy”: High school homecoming court goes gender-neutral

No more homecoming king and queens, area high schools are doing away with the traditional homecoming court while starting new traditions.

West High School in Iowa City ditched tradition during its Saturday homecoming by opting for a gender-neutral homecoming court for the first time in order to be more inclusive.

Student Senate Vice-President, Jessica Moonjely was a part of introducing the new homecoming court format this year.

“I think a traditional homecoming court is very much based on popularity,” Moonjely said. She said that emphasis on popularity can disenfranchise and devalue other students.

As principal Gregg Shoultz describes, a traditional homecoming court at West had about 24 nominees. That would then dwindle down to a group of six to eight students. From there, a female and male student would be declared the king and queen by votes. Others would earn titles such as “most athletic” or “most talented”.

Under the new court, all of those titles are done away with, Shoultz said. Moonjely said that’s to make it inclusive for all students.

She said the student senate first started looking into how to make homecoming more inclusive during the previous school year after an idea was pitched by the LGBTQ Steering Committee. The idea was to eliminate gender categories.

A school climate report was recently done by the Iowa City Community School District which highlighted the experiences of LGBTQ students.

“LGBTQ students really came down to one of the lowest rates of having a good school experience. We really wanted to look into that. What are some of the reasons why?,” Shoultz said. “We noticed that students that were non-binary really were not included in any of these homecoming festivities.”

A non-binary person is someone who doesn’t believe they fit under the category of “male” or “female” or doesn’t identify with a gender.

Now, instead of titles, six students are selected as the “Heroes of Troy”.

“We ended up with such a diverse and really deserving six Heroes of Troy. I would say that the 24 nominees were all really deserving, as well. They represented a greater perspective of the school than maybe in that past, was more narrow,” Shoultz said.

Of the six students, one plans to attend Dartmouth and another is going to West Point. Students of color were not well-represented on the court but two special needs students were. Moonjely said she believes the court had students who previously may have not been there under traditional circumstances.

The top six, by votes, were Jaden Buckley, Hafiza El-Zein, Morgan Hawkins, Emma Koch, Cole Mabry and Lauren Zacharias.

“Heroes of Troy really tries to reach out to students who are making a difference at West High, whether it be through sports, theatre, however they’re making a difference, just being a good person at West High are the type of people we are trying to highlight,” she said.

This year, Moonjely said, the nomination process was also changed. Previously, students only submitted names of seniors as a nomination. Now, in order to nominate someone, a student had to write a paragraph as to why that person should represent the school.

Moonjely said she believes that makes more of an impact. Some of the nomination statements were then read at the homecoming about each of the six court members.

West wasn’t the only school to implement changes this year in the district. The newest high school, Liberty High School, in North Liberty, also did away with gender categories. Their court of seven was called the “Liberty Leaders”.

Jalyn Souchek


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