Homecoming Queen: Berryville students honor beloved classmate
Hali Braziel was born with mental disabilities, but that hasn't prevented the Berryville High School senior from having a positive outlook on life.
That attitude, according to several varsity football players, is why Braziel was voted Berryville's Homecoming Queen last Friday.
Senior football player Aiden Brummett described the voting process. Once Hali had received more than half the votes, he said, the captain of the team asked the rest of the players to vote for other girls to ensure there would be a first and second runner-up.
Brummett said he voted for Braziel because of the way she treats others. "I feel like she puts more effort into every day than anyone else. She makes everyone on campus happy with how hard she works," he said. "I feel like she earned it. She deserved what she got."
Tate Ferguson, also a senior football player, noted the way Braziel approaches others.
"She's one of those people that every time you see her, she'll smile and wave at you just like she did at Homecoming. You can't help but feel good when you see her," he said.
Senior Richard Webb echoed Ferguson, calling Braziel "one of those people you really want to be around."
"She's always really nice," Webb said. "She never has a bad attitude toward anyone and she's a hard worker. She has a lot to handle and she does well with it. That's why I voted for her."
Junior football player Jacob Brown believes Braziel deserves the honor because of her sweet nature.
"There's nothing mean about her," he said. "She's just a really sweet girl."
Christy Skelton, Braziel's special education teacher, praised the football team for its decision.
"The students have shown so much character and care and selflessness. I am very, very impressed with our young people on this campus," she said. "It shows we still have good kids out there in the world."
Skelton works with Braziel daily, and thus is well-acquainted with the girl's "happy-go-lucky" nature. She called Braziel "the most positive individual you can find," saying that her attitude is contagious.
"It makes you want to look at yourself and say, 'Hey, you know, I can be positive, too, and I can smile,'" she said.
Skelton said Braziel has an intuition for the way others are feeling. According to Skelton, Braziel often approaches others, pats them on the back and tells them "it's OK" if she detects negative emotion.
"That's what's so cool about her personality," Skelton said. "She loves everyone."
Skelton said she has learned quite a bit about herself from working so closely with Braziel, specifically by observing the way Braziel handles herself when confronted with a problem.
"She doesn't get frustrated or upset with it. She puts it aside and smiles about it," Skelton said. "I think a lot of times to myself how I wish I could do that. It's a learning experience."
Like Skelton, Braziel's mother, Donna Braziel, is grateful to Berryville students for recognizing her daughter. She explained that Braziel does not have any specific syndrome and that the family simply calls it "Hali Syndrome." She said Braziel's family and friends have been most affected by the honor, as Braziel "has no understanding" of what happened during Homecoming.
"As soon as we hung up the dress and put the crown up, there's not been another question about it," Donna Braziel explained. "It was more of a meaningful thing for those kids to honor a student they've been with for 12 years."
She thanked the student body for the honor.""They did not have to do that. She's not ever really a part of their special moments. She doesn't hang out with them," Braziel said. "She's not in any of these things they're all in, but they included her in this special event of theirs."
Braziel's father, Mack L. Braziel, said that being voted queen will be a highlight of his daughter's life. The other students, he explained, will leave high school, go to college, get married and have children of their own. "These things will supersede high school," he said. "But Hali won't do these things. This will be something she will remember. It will be a highlight of her life."
He described his daughter's "happy, loving" outlook on life, saying that she trusts and loves everyone equally. According to Donna Braziel, her daughter has touched many lives in the community.
"She is blessed with so many friends," Donna Braziel said. "Everywhere we go, someone knows her. And of course it's always a huge smile and hug for each one."
The Braziel family has been "humbled" by Hali's honor, an idea Mack L. Braziel reiterated.
"We are so humbled and grateful to those kids," he said. "It shows that they think of someone other than themselves. Their parents did a great job raising them for them to do this for Hali."
Berryville High School Principal Owen Powell, too, commended the student body for its support of Braziel.
"I'm very proud of our student body and our football team. We have a lot of great kids here at our high school and to me they really proved that at Homecoming," he said, calling the event "one of the best Homecomings we've ever had at Berryville."