SALEMBURG — Many girls grow up dreaming about wearing a sparkling crown, standing in the spotlight and being named a queen. During Lakewood High School’s homecoming, Deja King had that chance and she was happy to give it up.
Inside the stadium, Rachel Ashford stood by the gate, watching the homecoming court. She had no idea what was going to happen next.
“I was happy because I knew I was going to give Rachel the crown,” King said in a shy and modest manner.
After the crown was placed on the exceptional student’s head, people stood up and many cried. She walked around with a big smile on her face.
In a lot of schools, students like Ashford may not have a lot of popularity among their peers when it comes to such contests. And many might agree that athletes and cheerleaders usually stand a better chance of taking the crown. King said Ashford deserved the honor because of her personality and kindness.
“In middle school, she would always hold the door and say hey to people,” King said while describing Ashford.
The recent event was King’s first time running for homecoming queen. Looking back, she said it is something she’s going to be proud of.
Principal Kevin Hunter said the gesture showed King’s compassion and care for other students.
“You get a sense of pride,” Hunter said while talking about the Lakewood student. “Too often, we hear about all the bad things that teenagers do and it’s refreshing to see something that kind and considerate being done.”
Hunter said he had never seen a student give away his or her crown during his tenure at the school. In fact, Shelia Davidson, coordinator of the homecoming court and King’s volleyball coach, believes it was the first time in school history that it happened.
“This event that took place is something to talk about because it’s really unknown,” Davidson said.
Davidson questioned why it does not occur more often.
“It’s jaw-dropping that someone would actually do that in a selfless act,” Davidson said. “Then you ask yourself, why doesn’t that happen more frequently? It’s amazing.”
Davidson said Rachel is looking forward to participating in other local activities such as community parades.
“Maybe that act of kindness can spread to not just homecomings everywhere, but spread to other aspects in life when it comes to thinking of others first,” Davidson said.
When King is not busy in the classroom, the student-athlete plays volleyball and softball. She has also mentored freshmen and is involved with Lakewood’s student government group. Bobbie Alexander, a receptionist at Lakewood High School, attends church with King at St. Thomas AME Zion. King was honored for actions during a recent service at the church, where she received another standing ovation.
“She is a very faithful member there,” Alexander said. “She ushers and sings in the choir and helps with the youth.”
Alexander said she believes King is going to do well with whatever the future holds. After Lakewood High School, King said she would like to attend East Carolina University or Livingstone College to study criminal justice.
Dr. Eric Bracy, superintendent of Sampson County Schools, said her act stands as a great example of selflessness.
“Knowing Deja the way that I do, it’s another testament to her character and the way she always thinks of others before she thinks of herself,” Bracy said.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.