Richmond Hill High School special education teacher and wrestling coach Bob Parker said Alexis Mercado could easily be Georgia’s governor if he wanted the job.
“He never meets a stranger,” Parker said. “Just never runs into a stranger. If he ran tomorrow he’d be elected.”
But then that would mean Alexis, who has cerebral palsy and for the last two years has spent much of his time in a wheelchair, might have to give up his elected position as 2014 homecoming king. And don’t count on that happening, not after Alexis was crowned at Friday’s pep rally.
After all, it is quite good to be king and it was quite awesome to be crowned king.
“I had a blast. It was exciting,” Alexis said. “I am happy.”
If it was a blast for Alexis, it became a moment Richmond Hill High School Principal Debi McNeal will likely carry with her for the rest of her career. Happily.
“This is the best reflection of our student body I have to date,” she said. “This young man got a standing ovation from the entire student body when he was announced as a member of the court. When the first runner up was announced, he asked me if he could be the one to crown Alexis. The first and second runners up crowned Alexis with me. So remarkable.”
And it’s a moment Coach Parker doesn’t seem likely to forget, either.
“Our kids do a lot of great things and deserve all the credit. We have got tremendous kids here at Richmond Hill High School,” he said. “It makes me proud to be a Wildcat.”
But there’s more, because this one was in the bag. Either Alexis got voted king, or Tommy Washington or Chaise Parker would take action. And initially neither knew the other was thinking the same thing:
“If I win, I’m going to give the crown to Alexis.”
There would be no need for an abdication. Alexis won the vote, which educators say shows the caliber of kids at RHHS, though Washington, who finished as first runner up, and Parker, the second runner up, are the stuff high school homecoming kings are usually made of – clean-cut sports standouts who get it done on the playing field and in the classroom and are liked and respected by teachers and peers.
Turns out, they’re also unselfish.
“I just felt like it was the best thing to do,” said Washington, a soft-spoken defensive back for the Wildcats who earned All Region honors last season. “I'm glad he won. He deserves it. I’m happy the two people who wanted to do this were runners up, to help give him his stuff.”
Parker, a first-team All-Region 3-AAAAA shortstop on the Wildcats’ baseball team, said the same.
“I just felt like (Alexis) deserved it more than any of us did,” Parker said.
The reason? Both seniors, who have known Alexis for years, said he’s never unfriendly to anyone, and that in itself is a powerful thing.
“It’s the way he treats people,” Parker said. “Anytime he sees you, he’s going to say something to you … if you’re having a bad day and you walk by Alexis, he’s always brightening things up.”
Washington said much the same.
“As a person, he’s just like one of us, but in a way, he’s above all of us because he’s an overall great person and he cares about everybody,” Washington said. “He’s not afraid to talk to anybody, or meet anybody new.”
That was evident Tuesday as the three talked to a reporter about Alexis’ ascension to the homecoming throne. Cerebral palsy is a disorder that makes movement and speech difficult, but it doesn’t affect Alexis’ love of basketball – he’s a Miami Heat fan – or cameras, or the Atlanta Falcons, or Richmond Hill High School.
“It’s the best. High school rocks,” he said.
And cerebral palsy also doesn’t affect his heart. Half a minute into the interview and Alexis stuck out his hand to the reporter with a one-word question: “Friends?”
And that, in a nutshell, is very probably why Alexis was a shoo-in to be Richmond Hill High School homecoming king. He never meets a stranger and as a result has a school full of friends.
Just ask Washington, or Chaise Parker, who said Alexis is what a homecoming king should be all about.
“He teaches me how to treat people fairly, not look at anybody differently just because of who they are,” Washington said.
Parker put this this way: “He deserves to be king because he has more of an impact on people’s lives here than we do.”