A Historic Homecoming: After 22 Years, A New Set of Victors Take the Stage

Daniel Morrison, Copy Editor


   The line, stretching from the breezeway entrance all the way to the gate between the D and U building, sparkled like a string of city lights from a faraway mountain in Greece. As one trekked their way to a friend (they were certainly not hard to miss), whispers of “Looking fly” or “You look so great!” gracefully entered the ears and exited the toes via a prideful prance. Once inside, a blinding combination of blue, purple, and pink stage lights revealed the pillars of an ancient colosseum, decorated with emerald-green vines, producing a thorny shadow that extended across the stage and dance floor. To top it off, two giant projectors illuminated the words “A Night in Greece” and “PPCHS Homecoming 2022” on the face of the River of Grass, and theatrical stage smoke covered the stage with a mysterious energy. Whether nominated or not, every student felt like royalty. 

   The night started at medium pace. Students set down their purses by elegant round tables, gathered a mocktail mixture of what tasted like soda and Gatorade, and found their dancing partners. “At first I thought HOCO was going to be lifeless and that it wasn’t going to be as good as last year’s,” expresses junior Bryan Kandic. “But in a few minutes, it became really exciting and lively.” Indeed it did. With the guys wearing three-piece suits that fit so flawlessly one would think it’s tailored, and girls with their flickering, glittery dresses—some flowy and others tight—more students made dazzling appearances. 

   A short time after, the DJ roused the crowd with popular favorites from Drake and the Black Eyed Peas, creating mini mosh pits and dance-offs near the center of the stage. “My favorite part of the night was the dancing. We jumped a lot,” says senior Steven Fitz-Henley. “Yeah, we jumped a lot and got pushed around like ragdolls,” senior Alexander Champagne agrees. “But it’s okay. It was fun.” Additionally, a 360° camera was installed directly opposite the stage with a line matching the entrance length, but so worth it. “I really enjoyed that,” Champagne says. As the camera spun from one side to the other, funny, serious expressions and faces of everything in between were lit up by the bright white ring lights. 

   A cycle of intense dancing, stopping for food and drinks, resting on S-shaped couches, taking pictures, and then reuniting with the dance floor once again persisted until around 9:30 pm. New delectables such as croquettas, bundt cupcakes, pineapple juice, and A Night in Greece cookies were added and enjoyed throughout the night. “The chocolate bundt cakes were so good. Paid good money for those!” Steven says. At exactly 9:30, students crowded the dance floor, squeezed tightly shoulder to shoulder and heads tilted upwards to catch a look: Homecoming results were about to be announced. 

   The crowd cheered in waves as each grade level was crowned their Lord and Lady, Duke and Duchess, and Prince and Princess. Each couple walked through the theatrical fog on stage with elation and prideful satisfaction and had their pictures taken. “I was in a complete state of disbelief,” recalls junior Princess Anaya Andre. “When Mr. Jablonka was announcing the winners, my heart stopped for a second, and when I heard my name it felt like a dream come true.” Though every victor displayed surprise and astonishment, nothing beat that of the senior Queen and Monarch. That’s right—for the first time in Pembroke Pines Charter High School history, a queer couple has been crowned together: Hailey Cajigas (Monarch) and Meghan Golightly (Queen). 

   Hailey recounts the inspiring victory. “First we heard the crowd. They were cheering other people’s names so we were kind of nervous. That’s when we looked at each other and [grimaced] as if we weren’t going to win. And then they called our names and we just got surprised, but really happy.” And she comments on the momentous shift in Charter culture. “[Winning] means a lot, especially since we are the first queer couple. I hope this brings further inclusivity, and we hope that it encourages everyone else to feel safe to run and that it becomes more normal.”

   This moment is what separates Saturday’s Homecoming from previous years. “It’s a huge step forward for us,” says SGA advisor Mr. Jablonka. “This is the first time we’ve had LGBTQ+ representation in our Homecoming Court. You know, we started the high school back in 1999, 2000, so we’ve gone 22 years not having a singular LGBTQ+ winner to represent. I thought it was great and very well needed. It was very nice to see a change, and a difference in representation that goes a long way for our student body.”

   However, Jablonka acknowledged that this wouldn’t be possible without the help of his students and. “It was definitely a daunting task at first, having to arrive very early. I arrived at 8:00 AM and left at 5:45 PM, and returned after showering and changing into my suit. After the trucks left, I was able to leave around 1:00 AM, so it was a very long day for me. But the SGA team that helped was extremely efficient with what we had to do in order to get the job done. I felt that half-way through the day I was like, ‘We’re moving a lot faster than I’d actually anticipated!’” he says. 

   To him, the night proved to be a massive success. “Homecoming is not an easy thing to set up, and I’m beyond grateful for all the people who took the time to be there for about 6 hours before the actual event. It proved to me how much these kids really care and they really wanted to do a good job, and they did.” Live, in front of our eyes, seen through the thick smoke and the blinding lights that focused themselves on the five-minute-“famers” is the creation of history truly in the making.