The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

February 23, 2014

Andra Bryan Stefanoni: Frontenac student a king for more than a day

FRONTENAC, Kan. — Brandy Huncovsky has found herself in tears a lot lately because of the way her son’s school and community are treating him.

Rhett Huncovsky, a special-needs student at Frontenac High School, is a king there in every sense of the word.

“Whenever you have a special-needs child, that’s always been my concern: How are they going to treat him? Are they going to pick on him? Be mean to him?” the Frontenac mother said as she choked back tears. “To see how much they absolutely care about him and would do anything for him — it brings tears to my eyes every time.”

Born with learning disabilities, Rhett knows he is mentally slower than the other students. He knows he is challenged.

“I’ve never candy-coated it with him,” Huncovsky said. “I’ve always been up front and honest.”

Rhett began attending school in Frontenac in fifth grade, and his mother noticed a complete turnaround in his personality, his attitude and how he was treated.

“Everyone just fell in love with him,” she said. “He gained so much confidence.”

Rhett is now a senior, and his final year at the school has been marked with milestones that far exceeded what either of them ever dreamed.

Rhett, like his grandmother, has long been a football fan, and he always wanted to play. Last fall, coach Mark Smith and the rest of the Raider football team ensured that Rhett got that chance.

He came home from school beaming to tell his mother.

“The coach came up with a plan for me,” his mother recalled him saying. “He’ll let me play whenever we get far enough ahead.”

The night of the game, the team huddled around Rhett on the sideline and went over what he was supposed to do. When he took the field with the ball, the whole crowd erupted in cheers and applause, Smith said.

His mother burst into tears.

“Everyone accepts him as one of the guys,” Smith said. “That’s the best part about this place. It shows the character of the teachers, the coaches and especially the students in accepting everyone.”

A few weeks later, coach Keith Aikin enlisted Rhett’s help as the manager of the school’s wrestling team.

“The kids love him,” Aikin said. “They treat him like a younger brother. It’s changed the mentality of our wrestlers; it’s changed him. They look out for him. It shows us that little things can make a big difference in someone’s life. It’s made all those kids on the team better people — every one of them.”

Rhett, known for his positive attitude, motivates the wrestlers, Aikin said, by shouting out his signature cheers.

On Feb. 14 — Valentine’s Day and Frontenac High School’s basketball homecoming — Rhett received the ultimate honor: The student body voted him homecoming king.

“When he came home and said he was nominated for homecoming king, I told him if it doesn’t happen, it will be OK. Just being nominated is a big deal,” his mother recalled. “I didn’t want him to be disappointed.”

When it was announced, the noise in the gym was deafening. Rhett politely gave queen Allie Moody a kiss on her cheek.

And Huncovsky was again overcome by tears.

Afterward, Rhett confessed to his mom that he, too, was so excited that he wanted to cry.

How does he feel now?

“Awesome,” Rhett said. “Just awesome.”

FOLLOW ANDRA BRYAN STEFANONI on Facebook at facebook.com/andrajournalist and on Twitter @AndraStefanoni.

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