Shane Thomas kept his fingers crossed. He hoped to hear his name.
Then, before anyone could announce this year's prom king at Celebration High School this past Saturday night, students erupted, chanting the senior's name.
Shane, who has autism, is the first person with special needs to be crowned at the school's prom.
"That's the most excited I've ever seen him," said Corey Green, the teen's school case manager. Shane repeatedly shouted, "I won," said Green, who crowned him.
It was the first time Shane, 18, had attended a "regular" prom, said his mother, Cheryl Thomas, of Kissimmee. "As a parent, you work so hard to get him a good education and have him accepted," she said. "What greater acceptance is there than getting your child voted by juniors and seniors as prom king?"
School paraprofessional Noemi Torres put on his sash at the prom — something she said she wouldn't miss for the world. She's worked with Shane for the past three years, helping him move into mainstream classrooms.
The students and teachers love him, Green said. "I don't think there are people on this campus that don't know him or his smile," he said.
"It's amazing how far he's come," Torres said.
Schools across the nation need to do more to promote inclusion, said Lauren Nelson, director for Best Buddies Central Florida, which Shane is involved in. The program provides support for people with disabilities and has 27 chapters at schools across the region.