The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

April 29, 2014

Prom night magic with bigger meaning

ELDON — Prom is one of the most magical nights in the lives of teenagers all across the country, especially for the ones who are lucky enough to win king and queen. On Saturday at Cardinal High School’s prom night, the students voted unanimously for a very special young lady to become this year’s prom queen.

Haley Cassat is a senior at Cardinal with a developmental disability. She is legally blind and cannot communicate well with her peers because of the disability. Every day she works at new goals, like getting out of the wheelchair that confines her to learn how to walk.

A person with these disabilities can sometimes fall victim to harassment from teenagers, but the students at Cardinal could not be more opposite. Suzanne Minor, who is a special needs associate at the high school, said Haley’s classmates are always there with thoughtful gestures, like opening doors or carrying things for Haley.

“I’m so amazed at all the students who are ready to help,” Minor said. “So many students just come to say hello, day after day.”

The love that the Cardinal students show toward Haley every day was exemplified on Saturday when the junior and senior classes voted unanimously to name her this year’s prom queen.

“It was very overwhelming,” said Haley’s mother, Sally Cassat. “[The students] felt she deserved it, and several came to say how pretty she looked.”

When Haley was announced as queen, the student body erupted in a standing ovation that captured the hearts of everyone present, and videos of the moment have started swirling around YouTube.

“It was really a great moment for Haley and our school district,” Cardinal Superintendent Joel Pedersen said. “I was so proud of our kids. Their love for Haley was very evident that night.”

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