Hickman Leads the Way with New Homecoming Tradition


The oldest high school in Columbia and one of the largest in the state, Hickman High School, has long been represented by the iconic, gender-neutral naked baby. Finally, it’s time for us to match our beloved Kewpie (in certain aspects, that is). Homecoming is a time-honored tradition in high schools across the country – one of the most important aspects of which is the election of one homecoming queen, a senior who “rules” the dance, topping off her high school career. This year, however, a major shift is occurring at Hickman. Opportunity to earn a position of royalty at homecoming this year will not be restricted to just girls – likewise, the later Courtwarming dance will not limit candidates to just boys, or kings. Instead, competition will be open to candidates on all sides of the gender spectrum, a decision long awaited by many, and controversial to some.


Hannah Snodgrass, secretary of the student steering committee, (a student run and elected government organization at Hickman), says the decision was long in the making. “It’s one of the things stu-gov has been thinking about for awhile, making this switch to have it be gender neutral just so it’s more inclusive, and everyone feels like they can participate in homecoming and courtwarming.” Steering committee’s sponsor Jeffrey Devero, a history teacher at Hickman, agrees. “Two years ago, it was something that was floated around as a student government wanted to do. But it was a matter of making sure that we had everything organized so that when we implemented it, we felt comfortable with the package that we had put together.” The challenges of Covid-19 last year made this shift difficult, but this year the time was finally right.


When asked about reactions among the student body, the steering committee say they have not received much backlash. Devero says “There seems to just be an acceptance. I don’t want to frame that word in a positive or negative light – I think there’s just an understanding of, and an empathy with the decision being made.” This shift is seen by many as a reflection of the changing times. More and more, today’s youth are able to express their identity outside of the normalized gender binary, and Hickman is trying it’s best to make sure all students feel comfortable and seen.


While Hickman students seem to have largely accepted the shift in the name of inclusivity, some parents have been confused about the change – members of a parent watch facebook group questioned whether it was a decision imposed on the student body by adults, as a way to enforce their own beliefs. President of the steering committee Stephen You and secretary Hannah Snodgrass want to dispel this idea. Hannah Snodgrass says, “Obviously we did get approved by the administration, but this was a decision completely made by students and it’s something that we’ve been thinking about doing for a long time.” 


In fact, the only adult involved, Devero, was a bit trepidatious at first: “I’ll be very honest, when they first floated this out here, my traditional mindset was apprehensive about it – this is a pretty significant shift. It wasn’t necessarily direct opposition, it was more of, I want to have a full understanding of what this is going to look like and how we can make sure that that message is clear to not just our students but faculty and community members. If any questions arise, I want to be able to say this was implemented effectively; that we are creating a truly inclusive opportunity.” It appears, so far, that this goal has been achieved.


The Royals themselves are wholeheartedly in support. Royal candidate Isaac Lewis, who is running on a platform of LGBTQ+ rights, is also a member of the steering committee and pushed for the change. Isaac says, “It was one of the first decisions we made during our first meeting.” Isaac decided to run as one of the three people who identify as male this year. As such a nontraditional candidate running for homecoming, the feedback he’s received has been positive, “I don’t think I’ve faced any discrimination, the only hardships I’ve faced have come from my own self-doubt.”


Another candidate, Nancy Lewandowski, is on the same page. “I think it’s really really important that we made this shift, and I’m very surprised that we haven’t done it before.” She continues,  “I think it just makes it a more open space for anyone to run. Not that it was necessarily non-binary exclusionary – somebody could have run for queens or kings, but they wouldn’t have felt necessarily comfortable doing that. I don’t want to speak for non-binary individuals, but one of my dearest friends is non-binary and I think this was a really awesome change and super important for our school. I’m very excited about this year and I feel honored to be a part of the first group of Hickman Royals.”


Overall, the student decision to make homecoming open to individuals of all genders demonstrates the Hickman spirit of democracy and inclusiveness. As the first high school in Columbia to make this shift, Hickman will inspire others to open up their traditions and expand their ways of thinking, so that everyone has an equal opportunity to participate. Go Kewpies!