A+ senior year: Student wins hearts of peers through positive outlook, dedication

Friday night: bright lights, the crack of helmets as the Vikings score another touchdown, the crowds cheers pulsate like the beating heart of our school, the clock ticks down to the end of the first half, each second raising the excitement in the stadium. Then like an army leaving the field, the football players disappear and are replaced by a new group of students. These are the homecoming king and queen nominees, each chosen for their dedication and service to the school, but only two are chosen to embody the Viking spirit.

The tension builds as each name is called, and then a moment of silence before the announcement, “And your 2014-2015 homecoming king is… Joseph McCarty!” The quiet of the night is shattered as the crowd erupts, possibly alerting everyone in a two mile radius. Like an emperor before his empire, Joseph accepts his crown. The moment he bows to receive his sash and crown is the realization of all of his hard work and dedication to the school.

“Everybody was so excited about me and they cheered for my name,” Joseph said. “I was so happy for winning homecoming king.”

Joseph’s wasn’t the only person who was happy for his achievement. Those close to him remember the moment clearly.

“He is always happy,” special education teacher Teresa Hopkins said. “He is truly an example of the Viking spirit, and to see him earn that among his peers and hear the crowd chanting his name makes me almost cry just remembering it, I will never forget that feeling.”

Joseph’s desire to serve the school and his devotion to Bryan High have lead him to become active throughout campus.

“He has been in theater arts for three years and is now in ROTC,” Hopkins said. “This is his first year in ROTC and he is doing wonderfully. He also takes part in helping the school. We do all the shredding of confidential documents for the school. He delivers coffee throughout the day and runs any other errands. Any time there is a need, he is the first to volunteer and happy to do anything he can to help.”

As involved as he is, Joseph uses the skills he has learned in these clubs and activities to grow as a person.

“Being involved with so many activities gives him the opportunity to interact with other students,” Hopkins said. “I think in a lot of cases life skills classes are more confined and he has had the opportunity to get out and be an example for others and learn from others. It has just been a perfect opportunity school wide.”

Because of his involvement throughout campus, as well as his outgoing personality, Joseph has become a representative for many of his fellow students.

“One of my favorite things to see over the past three years has been how the students look at Joseph and my other students and see their abilities and what amazing things they are able to do,” Hopkins said. “It’s been a positive change for my students, and I’ve seen a positive change with the student body and the staff.”

Joseph is not only involved in several activities as a member, he also takes an important leadership role in Bryan High’s A+ Coffee Shop as the acting manager.

“He takes orders from the customers, he makes change, he will come in and make sure it is set up the next day,” Hopkins said, “Joseph is involved in making the deposit. He and another student take the money, I don’t have anything to do with it. They count it, we fill the paperwork out, and they deliver it.”

Through the leadership of Joseph and other students, the coffee shop provides a real world opportunity for special education students to learn practical skills.

“A+ Coffee is run by students, so it is important that more people come and take part,” Hopkins said. “The more customers we have, the more opportunity there is for my students to take part. In a lot of cases, life skills programs have to pretend with things. This gives my students an opportunity to actually learn a real life skill.”

While Joseph brings joy to the students and staff on campus, his family has also had the opportunity to watch him grow, while growing a little themselves.

“Things used to be very difficult before he came, and now there’s more conversation,” Joseph’s cousin Callie Simpson said. “There’s more overall happiness in the house because there is somebody extra who enjoys other people being around.”

Despite this, there have been times when Joseph and his family have had to overcome several challenges and obstacles, but Joseph’s positive attitude continually inspires those around him.

“He sometimes struggles more than others and I feel like if someone who struggles so much doesn’t complain then neither should I,” Callie said. “Joey is great and I’m proud to have him in my family.”

As we have come closer to the end of the school year, Joseph is beginning to reflect on his time here as well as the lifelong friends he has made.

My senior year is pretty cool,” Joseph said. “I’m a senior right now, and it’s happy to me. It’s just a miracle. I have memories from my friends. I kind of hang out with them at lunchtime. They’re pretty cool and they’re pretty good best friends.”

With graduation approaching quickly, Joseph took a bitter-sweet moment to take leave of his royal subjects and coffee patrons at Bryan High.

“I’m so excited about graduation. It’s going to be so cool,” Joseph said. “I’m going to miss [my fellow students] because I won’t be here next year.”