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In Tribute, Students Elect Dead Classmates Prom King And Queen


Bremen High in Midlothian, Ill., has a new king and queen this weekend. Last night, students at the suburban Chicago school elected the late Paola Zambrano prom queen and the late Mark Gorman prom king. Paola Zambrano died when she was a freshman in 2015. She was fighting colon cancer. Mark Gorman was killed by a car last year walking home from Boy Scouts. David Kibelkis is Bremen's principal, and he joins us now. Mr. Kibelkis, thanks so much for being with us.

DAVID KIBELKIS: Oh, you're welcome. Good morning.

SIMON: It must have been an emotional night for everybody. What was it like?

KIBELKIS: It was - it was great. The kids, you know, as always, they dress up. They look awesome at prom. Sometimes you can't even recognize that they're your students. But they act - you know, they have a great time. They're awesome. And they just act, you know, as appropriate as can be...

SIMON: Yeah.

KIBELKIS: ...They make you very proud.

SIMON: What can you tell us about Paola Zambrano and Mark Gorman?

KIBELKIS: Both of these kids were awesome young people. Paola - Paola, you know, died when she was going to be a junior, so she finished two years of high school. And, you know, during her freshman year, she was diagnosed with colon cancer. And we knew it was a serious situation. And we, you know, quite frankly didn't think that she'd be - you know, continue down that road of going to high school because we knew it was terminal.

And, you know, to her credit, she decided she was going to keep coming every day, had great attendance, went through her chemos and her therapies and was a model student for her family and for herself. She was very - a very proud young lady. And she had hopes and dreams beyond high school that unfortunately she was never...

SIMON: Yeah.

KIBELKIS: ...Able to meet as she died the start of her junior year.

SIMON: And Mark Gorman.

KIBELKIS: Mark Gorman, another very nice kid, unfortunately dying during the first semester of his senior year in - as he got hit by a car coming home. It was on a Friday night and - I should say a Thursday night. And our football team generally gets together every Thursday night. And Mark was a football player to start his career at Bremen and in band and lots of activities. But he decided managering (ph) the football team - being a manager of the football team would be more beneficial to everybody. And he did the manager job as best as he could and as thorough as he could. And the football team kind of elected him on his leadership ability to come speak to the team...


KIBELKIS: ...Actually the night he died. So he was a very well-respected young person by our staff, by our students and our community. And, you know, it was a very shame that that did happen.

SIMON: I'm so impressed. I gather the youngsters themselves in your school came up with the idea of electing them king and queen. I got to tell you...

KIBELKIS: Yeah, you know, you think about social media as something that's bad sometimes. Well, they - her friends and his friends kind of started a little social media thing and the adults weren't even totally aware. And they wanted to - they wanted to have them be king and queen. Now, it wasn't, you know, the whole school. It wasn't everybody. It was a very tight group of kids that really...

SIMON: Yeah.

KIBELKIS: ...Respected their spirit and vowed to keep their spirits alive. And they came up with the idea and they sold it and, you know, us as adults got it about a week and a half after they had started it. And, you know, we thought going with the honorary king and queen was definitely the way to go to support the kids' ideas.

SIMON: Well, Principal Kibelkis, you must be very proud of your students. Thank you very much.

KIBELKIS: You're welcome, and thanks for having us. And we have a great bunch of kids and a great community in Midlothian at Bremen High School.

SIMON: Oh, thanks so much, sir. David Kibelkis is the principal of Bremen High School in Midlothian, Ill.

(SOUNDBITE OF WIZ KHALIFA SONG, "SEE YOU AGAIN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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