Selfless act makes Viera’s homecoming one to remember
Moments after being named Viera High's 2015 Homecoming Queen, Caia Gillett gave her crown and sash to classmate Jazzmin Samuel.
VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala
The homecoming crown and sash she never expected to win had just been placed on Caia Gillett when the Viera High senior had an idea.
“I want to give my crown to Jazzmin, is that OK?” Gillett asked.
The 17-year-old walked over to another member of the homecoming court, wheelchair-bound Jazzmin Samuel, and placed the crown on her head and draped the sash over her.
Samuel, who was born with cerebral palsy, smiled that smile that has captured the heart of anyone who has ever met her.
“I feel like she really deserved it, even more than I did,” Gillett said.
“I wanted to win, but I wanted her to win more than I wanted to win. So I just felt like it was the right thing to do.”
In a day and age where selfless acts seem more the exception than the norm, what Gillett did not only stood out, it created a swarm of emotion from all those who witnessed it at Hawk Stadium, including Jazzmin’s mother.
“Now that was the most amazing thing I’ve seen a young woman do,” Tegdra Samuel said. “It says a lot for this community. It really does. … This is like the top of the top right here.”
Samuel and her daughter moved from Hallandale to Viera two years ago. Tegdra said she has been amazed at the reception her daughter has gotten from the other students at Viera and from the community.
“Everybody welcomed her,” Tegdra said. “They just made us feel so comfortable when we came here. Everybody’s just so loveable. I really appreciate it. It makes our lives easier. It really does.”
Although the school has a Hawk Buddies program that pairs traditional students with those who have disabilities (among other things, they have lunch together once a week), Gillett had never met Samuel until Friday night, when Viera played Winter Springs in a game the Hawks would go on to win 56-6.
Gillett liked Samuel right away.
“I could just tell she was such a beautiful person, full of life,” Gillett said.
The duo were introduced to the crowd along with the rest of the 2015 homecoming court, which included: Olivia Mullon and Clay Collins; Kristen Clark and Carson Helton; Krista Rich and Jacob Wigley; Cami DiGiacomo and Hunter Ulrich; Abigail Leatherow and Cameron West-Johnson; Gillett and Tyler Ditman; Samuel and Patrick Davanzo.
Ditman was voted homecoming king.
As surprised as she was to be chosen homecoming queen – Gillett said she was in a daze, asking herself “Is this real life?” the Viera High senior was also surprised by the reaction her decision to put the crown and sash on Samuel created.
“That night, I just felt so much love from everybody,” Gillett said. “So many people came up to me, crying. I wasn’t expecting that reaction, that it would make such a big impact on other people.”
The reaction hasn’t stopped.
Gillett has received at least 100 text messages of support since Friday night. And in an email to his staff on Monday, Principal Mike Alba made note of “what wonderful students we have.”
“It’s a very selfless act,” Alba said. “I know it meant a great deal to Jazzmin and her entire family that were present to be recognized in that way.”
Jazzmin’s smile is her gift to the world, her mother said. And now she has something to smile about for a long, long time.
“I’m just so excited for her,” Tegdra Samuel said. “She said this is her dream senior year. She’s having a ball.
“I’m just glad to be a part of her life. She is a blessing to me.”