Iowa Teen With Cerebral Palsy Crowned Homecoming Queen

Katy Resop/Waverly Newspapers

One very special young woman was crowned homecoming queen at Waverly-Shell Rock Senior High School in Waverly, Iowa, on Sept. 23.

"The student body enjoys Courtney being around," Jeremy Langner, the school's associate principal, told "She really embodies the community as well, with her love for learning and the passion for being a Go-Hawk. On a daily basis she brings the right attitude."

Those are typical characteristics for someone you'd expect to earn the coveted homecoming queen title, but for Courtney Tharp, 17, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was only nine months old, this shining moment meant more to her than the other members of the homecoming court.

"She was really excited," said Langner. "At first she was reluctant to respond, but she started giving everybody high fives. Her face was priceless. It was a really neat moment."

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When Courtney's nomination was first announced, her mother, Amy Tharp, 43, was admittedly a little apprehensive.

"When you have a child with special needs you never know what their future will hold," Tharp explained. "And you know, not all people will be friendly, that's why we were apprehensive."

However, within a student body of about 700 students, Courtney has truly held her own and is a favorite among her peers. Nonetheless, to help ease Courtney's parents' minds, Langner called them to ensure them that the fellow students were genuine in their actions choosing her as part of the homecoming court.

"He reassured us it was the real thing and they were all being genuine," said Tharp, nearly in tears discussing her daughter's recent win. "We were definitely taken aback. Even that she was nominated, that was a thrill. Just to be nominated was so special."

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As the emcee announced Courtney's name over the loudspeaker in the school's performing arts center, Tharp said her jaw dropped and the tears started flowing. But despite the spotlight being all about Courtney and her newly-fitted crown, her mom says it's important to remember one thing: "Just how proud I am of the students. It's really about them and what they did."

A few of the other girls on the court even admitted to Tharp, "I voted for Courtney."

And as far as Courtney's reigning King counterpart, Kaleb Staack, Tharp says, "He's one of a kind."

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