Special needs student crowned South Whidbey prom queen

Talia Petosa and Angus Jones dance after being announced prom queen and king.

Like many high school seniors, Talia Petosa had long dreamed of attending her high school prom, a traditional adolescent threshold revered as a hallmark moment of soon-to-be graduates’ academic careers, and an evening of memories to reflect upon for years to come.

As she donned her silky light pink and cream-colored gown, combed her hair and stepped into her shoes, Talia Petosa had no idea she would soon experience an extra special crowning moment.

A dedicated “Glee” fan, she had watched as numerous high school seniors — including her crush Noah Puckerman — waltzed their way across the television set during McKinley High School proms. She’s also watched as six seasons of “Glee” prom queens have graciously accepted their crowns.

On Saturday, May 16, the amicable high schooler joined their ranks as she was dubbed South Whidbey High School’s class of 2015 prom queen.

Though attending prom alone was an excellent opportunity for Talia Petosa, who loves to dance, she never expected to accept the royal title.

“I was happy and excited,” she said, her face lighting up as she recalled the evening.

“I don’t think she knew really until they called her name at the dance; she had no idea they’d even thought about her,” said father Jack Petosa, adding that he and her mother knew she was nominated, but didn’t know she’d be chosen.

Talia Petosa is a 20-year-old special education student, born with Down Syndrome, a disorder causing developmental and intellectual delays.

The school had originally intended to host a dance specifically for special needs students about two weeks prior to the all-senior prom, for which Talia Petosa was the first to sign up. But due to a lack of registrants, it was cancelled.

Though Talia Petosa was initially disheartened, she soon signed up to attend the all-senior prom along with her lifelong classmates.

She’s attended school in the district since childhood, her father said, and knows “pretty much everybody.”

“She knows more people than I do and I’ve been on this island for 50 years,” Jack Petosa said. “We go to a store and they all know Talia.”

As she donned her tiara and sash Saturday evening, it was clear she had made many friends throughout the years.

“It just warms my heart. I’m proud of her, she’s an awesome person, it makes me feel really honored by our community,” mother Kristin Petosa said.

Fellow senior Angus Jones, prom king, was “great,” her father said. Talia Petosa agreed with a grin, recalling their king and queen dance.

“We feel very blessed that all of the kids have accepted her and encouraged her and made her feel so special,” said Jack Petosa. “That feels really good.”

The family will celebrate a second milestone this year when Talia Petosa graduates.

It’s a proud moment for Talia Petosa, her parents and teacher Monique Mangin, who has known her for four years.

Mangin said she will be sad to see her student leave, but Talia Petosa will be returning next year as she is eligible to receive special education services until she is 21 years old.

“We will have another milestone to celebrate next year when she will be exiting the high school,” Mangin said.

Like many parents, Kristin Petosa is a bit apprehensive, unsure what life will bring her daughter post-graduation. But she is also incredibly proud, and said she is thankful for the support and affirmation her daughter has received throughout her journey.

“It’s really nice growing up in a community where everybody accepts everybody’s disabilities,” said Jack Petosa.