By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer
Dora High School senior Sarah Walker has touched hearts with a lot of hugs and not a word.
Sarah was crowned Miss DHS at the school’s homecoming celebration Jan. 16. She has Angelman’s Syndrome, a chromosome disorder that causes developmental delays, particularly in speech.
Senior Renee Gantert, who competed with Sarah for Miss DHS, said some people might believe Sarah was chosen because she is different, but Gantert didn’t think so.
“I think she was elected because she was nice,” Gantert said, adding that of the queen candidates, Sarah is the nicest throughout the day.
Mr. DHS candidate Zac Teston, who has known Sarah since kindergarten, also said she is one of the nicest people at school and has always been happy and ready to give a hug.
Math teacher and senior class sponsor Myra Skinner said Dora seventh- through 12th-graders nominated three girls and three boys from the senior class as candidates for Mr. and Miss DHS. Then, the same grades and the faculty voted on who would receive the title.
Skinner said Sarah’s election shows the quality of students. In many districts, she said, Sarah wouldn’t be involved, but in Dora, she is a part of everything the senior class does.
Dora High School principal David Bass said Sarah and Mr. DHS Calvin Taylor received a standing ovation from the crowd after they were crowned.
“She and her classmates made it a special night for everybody,” he said.
Bass believed the students’ appreciation of Sarah came from growing up in the small community.
“They’ve basically seen her all her life; they’ve seen her struggles and successes, and she’s a really fun girl to be around,” he said.
Miss DHS candidate Kelsi King said if you someone just waves when Sarah wants a hug, “she’ll just chase you down until she gets one.”
Gantert said she moved to Dora in seventh grade and could see that Sarah and her classmates loved each other. She felt like part of the school when Sarah became comfortable enough with her to hug her.
Sarah’s mother, Lisa Walker, said her daughter often hugs people she recognizes but her parents don’t know. Other times, she thinks Sarah just finds someone who needs a hug.
Lisa said Sarah’s Angelman’s Syndrome hasn’t slowed down the family, which also includes Sarah’s father, Lewis, and siblings, Joshua Walker and Brandy Rains. Sarah participates in Little Wranglers rodeo club and school activities, and the family includes her in rodeos they attend.
“She’s just a gift from God,” Lisa said. “We never cease to be amazed at just how God uses her, whether it’s in our family or in the community.”
Skinner has a similar thought about Sarah.
“She’s a unique individual, and she’s touched all our hearts in a special way that will make us better for the rest of our lives,” Skinner said.