(CNN) - A senior with a big smile is wearing an even bigger smile after this weekend’s Homecoming at St. Lucie West Centennial High School in Port St.Lucie, Florida.
Hakam Daley has not had it easy. He has cerebral palsy and has been in and out of foster homes most of his life. But he has many friends at school who nominated him for homecoming king.
“When I heard the message, I had no words to describe,” Daley said. “I was so happy.”
Kayla Donohue, a cheerleader and friend of Daley’s, secretly got the other seniors to nominate him for the court. Donohue said it was important to give Daley this “special experience that he’d remember the rest of his life.”
On Friday night, Daley lined up with other kids on the court, football stars and other popular students to hear who would be chosen king.
As they called his name, Daley did something he had never done before: With the help of caregivers, he walked in public.
When they announced that he was chosen king, Daley’s smile beamed brighter than ever.
Surrounded by teary-eyed students and flashing cameras, the kid with the big smile became the most popular guy in school. (WPBF video)
By Donna McClintock, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Donna McClintock is the chief operating officer of Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc. She has served in a leadership role in early childhood education for more than 29 years and has been in a senior executive leadership role for more than a decade. She has authored several books on the topic of early childhood education, including “The Heart Connector Series.”
I often read materials that approach a subject as if there were only one solution. Such is the case of “redshirting” children for kindergarten, which is the practice of holding a child back from school until he turns six. There is certainly a best answer for each child, and parents and educators must determine what that answer is by considering his individual needs and development and not by blindly following a trend.
No matter WHAT you decide to do, we know for sure that parents must understand that a child’s brain cannot be redshirted or held back. The child’s experiences during the fifth and sixth year of life are extremely important because the brain continues to develop and form synapses, and learning is at an all-time high.
It is the responsibility of parents and educators to challenge, nurture, inspire and ignite in our children a love of learning and exploration during this critical time. How do you do this when formal education in a school system begins as an individual choice for each child? There are several key factors to consider, but the child’s individual needs are the trump card in this decision.
Most research clearly shows that any gaps in levels of success between younger and older children are usually bridged by the third grade. This leaves parents to wonder if there is an advantage to holding their child back. I offer the position that the type of program your child is in during the first year of formal school is really the key to success.
Each child deserves a developmentally appropriate setting that understands how children 5 to 6 years of age learn, whether that is a formalized kindergarten program, the home environment provided by parents, or another alternative.