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Posted on Fri, Oct 5, 2012 : 10:30 p.m.

Role-model senior with Down syndrome wins Pioneer homecoming king title

By Danielle Arndt

It was a special moment in Pioneer High School history when Nick Lupu’s name was announced during the 2012 homecoming assembly Friday afternoon.


Ann Arbor Pioneer High School senior Nick Lupu gives two thumbs up after being elected homecoming king Friday afternoon.

Courtesy photo

Lupu, who was named homecoming king Friday, is a gregarious senior who is loved by all, his teachers said.

He also has Down syndrome

“They called his name, and the place just erupted,” said special education teacher Ken Schuman. “He had just this huge smile. He threw his hands up, pumping the air and dancing. Everybody was just hugging him left and right…”

Schuman, who is in his first year teaching at Pioneer, in Ann Arbor said having Lupu in his class and getting to know the outgoing senior has been one of the greatest joys of his teaching career.

“(Nick) has such a positive energy.”

And to see Lupu be elected homecoming king? Well, that moved Schuman to near speechlessness.

“To witness such unconditional acceptance… (It was) phenomenal.”

Being elected homecoming king is typically a popularity contest, and Lupu definitely is very well known and well liked at PHS, Schuman said. But Schuman acknowledged that sometimes special education students are ostracized from the student body and rarely are recognized for their strengths.

“It really speaks to the super neat kid that Nick is,” Schuman said. “Nick just lights up everybody’s life.”


Pioneer's 2013 homecoming king, Nick Lupu, gets a hug from two of his peers after winning the title. The entire student body erupted into applause with Lupu's crowning at the homecoming assembly Friday afternoon.

Courtesy photo

Cassandra Brower, the special education teacher at Pioneer High School who nominated Nick for homecoming court, couldn't agree more.

“I may have put his name in that hat, but Nick did this on his own,” she said. “He's a very warm, friendly person. Very lovable. Always waves in the hallway.”

Lupu also loves sports and school spirit, his friends and teachers said. Since his freshman year, Lupu has volunteered as a student ambassador, which gets him out to all of the football and basketball games.

As a student ambassador, Lupu helps out the referees, bringing them drinks and supplies throughout the games.

“A lot of students got to know him that way,” Brower said.

Senior Tevis Robinson was one of them. Robinson met Lupu on the football field during his first football game as a freshman.

“He was always there cheering us on. He’d be carrying stuff and set it down to just yell and clap,” Robinson said. “He’s a real cool kid.”

Robinson said he was pleased when Lupu's name was announced for homecoming king.

“I was real excited cause even though I technically was supposed to vote for myself cause I was on court, I voted for Nick because I actually thought he deserved it,” Robinson said. “He’s a role model for the school. ... You never see him down in the dumps. He always has a smile on his face and is greeting everybody he meets.”

Brower is proud not only of Lupu, but of all of Pioneer’s students.

She said this recent group of kids is very receptive and energetic about doing things to include special education students. She said the high school launched a unified bowling team last year and students have been actively volunteering to help with the winter Special Olympics.

“I have an ongoing list usually of 40 to 50 students trying to do different activities with my special education class,” she said. “It’s heartwarming.”

Sam Zwolan was elected Pioneer’s 2013 homecoming queen. Zwolan plays on the girls lacrosse team.

The other representatives on homecoming court were:

Keaira Banks
Billy Gulley
Cameron Evans
Colin Darnton
Maddie Polovick
Cole Taylor
Abby Raver
Josh Kaplan
Sloane Supica
Tevis Robinson
Molly Thompson
Ethan Spencer

King runner-up: Chad Reed
Queen runner-up: Jassadi Moore

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at


Annie Zirkel

Mon, Oct 8, 2012 : 11:56 p.m.

Congratulations - Nick, the Pioneer student body, Cassandra Brower, and all the representatives of the Homecoming Court. And an amazing feat of an entire comment section with only positive things to say. A wonderful example of quality and class. Thanks for a nice story.


Sun, Oct 7, 2012 : 4:18 p.m.

Congratulations to Nick and to the Pioneer seniors for recognizing this wonderful young man!

music to my ear

Sun, Oct 7, 2012 : 2:18 p.m.

I worked with down syndrome kids, they are like nobody else all unique all they have is beside their intelligence is love for people, and they will tell you funny jokes because they love being happy,I feel a lot of them are role models and bam!!!! I was right.


Sun, Oct 7, 2012 : 12:51 a.m.

Nick is the best!!!


Sun, Oct 7, 2012 : 12:06 a.m.

Wear that crown proudly, King Nick! You've earned the respect of all your subjects (including me!)


Sat, Oct 6, 2012 : 11:22 p.m.

I was at the assembly and the student cheering after our homecoming king was announced was the loudest cheer of the day. It was really unbelievable. Seniors voted to pick the winners. Those kids are all winners. I felt lucky to witness this.

Kai Petainen

Sat, Oct 6, 2012 : 7:52 p.m.

great story and great students! what a contrast between this story and how some kids in west branch acted....

music to my ear

Sun, Oct 7, 2012 : 3:59 p.m.

I agree, but I cannot seem to find anywhere if that Whitney won any place on the court, does anyone know if she won, although I already consider her a winner .


Sat, Oct 6, 2012 : 12:50 p.m.

Second story I have read in 24 hours of teenagers doing something remarkable for Homecoming! Bravo! Wise beyond years!

Jack Campbell

Sat, Oct 6, 2012 : 6:03 a.m.

Great story, brightened my day.


Sat, Oct 6, 2012 : 5:20 a.m.

These students can be proud of what they do there. What is the inspiration behind this for them?


Sun, Oct 7, 2012 : 12:54 a.m.

I bet he was not segregated.....


Sat, Oct 6, 2012 : 4:44 a.m.

What a wonderful story. Thank you so much for sharing this. Pioneer is an amazing, nurturing environment with fantastic teachers, coaches and administrators. So proud. c/o 1997


Sat, Oct 6, 2012 : 4:17 a.m.

Kids today... Much better than kids in my day, actually. Pioneer students could teach the rest of us a lesson.

Laura Jones

Sat, Oct 6, 2012 : 3:49 a.m.

Simply awesome. Pioneer has some great young people. Gives one hope for the future.


Sat, Oct 6, 2012 : 3 a.m.

What an awesome story! Keep up the hard work Nick, and congratulations!