MURRAY — When he was in the third grade, Dustin Johnson's favorite story was "Cinderella."
"In recess he would take my shoe and throw it really far," classmate Kenadie Anderson recalled. "He would get it and kneel on one knee and put it back on."
Dustin's adoration for the fairy tale continues today as a junior at Murray High, according to Jenni Matthews, who teaches the severe special needs class at the school.
"He works as hard as he can to get computer time to watch Cinderella, to read Cinderella books, to look at Cinderella pictures," she said. "He loves Cinderella."
Jebbah Kamara, also a junior, sat in the Murray High School auditorium Friday dressed in an intricate yellow and aqua lace gown.
While some of her peers performed during the school assembly, a woman sitting behind her leaned forward and brushed some blush on her cheeks. An educator next to her pointed to some lip gloss, which she applied to her lips.
She looked at her reflection in a small mirror and smiled.
Dustin and Jebbah, who each have special physical and mental needs, were escorted backstage where their own fairy tales were about to begin.
The couple made their way onstage with three other prom king and queen nominees. It was time to select the royalty.
"For our junior prom queen we have Jebbah Kamara," the announcer said. "And our king is Dustin Johnson."
The students jumped out of their seats and erupted in applause, both traditional and in American Sign Language for Dustin, who is deaf.
Dustin adjusted his crown, smiled, then waved to the students and blew kisses. Jebbah hugged her bouquet of roses and smiled at the crowd.
Tears fell freely from the eyes of family members, teachers, aides and close friends who lingered with the newly crowned royalty.
"It's beautiful. The outpouring of love that the students, faculty and the staff have for all of our special needs students is so amazing," said Cathy Johnson, Dustin's mother.
The 2015 prom royalty was nominated by Murray High students who also voted for the winners.
"They told me that they wanted him to feel special," Johnson said. "He does."
Matthews said she was blown away with Friday's assembly.
"I didn't suggest it. The aide didn't suggest it," she said. "The students stood up and said, 'Let's nominate Dustin.'"
But it's not the first time this has happened at Murray High School. Other students with special needs have twice been crowned royalty for a dance. And Matthews said one of her students was nominated last year.
"I was very nervous teaching the severe special ed class, thinking they may get made fun of, teased or bullied," Matthews said. "But all of these kids are friends with my students. They just treat them so well."
Jebbah is from Africa and lives with her grandparents. Matthews said she has gone through many difficult situations in her life, but that doesn't diminish her sass or her humor.
"I'm a little worried about Jebbah being queen now," quipped Chris Conver, a paraeducator. "She's been bossing us around all week already. Now it's official. She's queen, so we're in trouble."
Jebbah is going to prom with the captain of the football team who was recently voted Murray's Prince Charming.
"Cinderella right here," Matthews said.
Dustin quickly signed that he's used to being famous, and said he had always wanted to become a king.
Johnson said she doesn't think the title will change her son. "He's just going to wear a crown a lot around the house, and maybe even to school," she said.
But many students and others in attendance at Friday's assembly were changed. Junior Gabby Jaramillo said the school loves Dustin and Jebbah.
"Everyone should be treated the same way and we shouldn't be looked at differently," she said. "They're nice people. They're just so kind. Even with their disability they can show how much they love the world."
For Johnson, it was a lesson of hope.
"Never give up. Your dreams are possible," she said. "(Dustin has) always believed in Cinderella. The dream comes true. He's going to dance."
Email: [email protected]