Barely more than a month after racist graffiti was found in a girl’s bathroom at Riverside Brookfield High School for the second time in less than a year RBHS students made history by selecting its first African-American as homecoming queen.
On Sept. 22 at the annual homecoming pep rally, last year’s queen, Lyndsey Hoyd, placed the crown on the head of senior Coretta Dishmon, a resident of North Riverside.
Students roared their approval.
“It feels great,” Dishmon told the Landmark. “It meant more to me that my peers voted for me. And it was also, like, super cool to see the people who usually aren’t as involved in school really care and show up and show out. That was like the coolest part.”
Dishmon was especially proud to be the school’s first black homecoming queen.
“It means a lot to me,” Dishmon said. “It makes me feel like I’m making an impact in some type of way to RB and that students and teachers will remember me in the future, and that’s really important.”
In 2002, Brandon Davis was selected as the first, and only black homecoming king at RBHS. Black students make up about 5.7 percent of the student body at RBHS.
Dishmon is a popular girl who has a wide and diverse circle of friends at RBHS.
“To be honest RB is kind of segregated, and then there are the few people who kind of talk to everyone, so I’m one of those people,” Dishmon said. “I have a lot of white friends, a lot of black friends, a lot of Hispanic friends. I don’t really stick with one group.”
Dishmon, who went to L.J. Hauser Junior High School like four of the five queen nominees, is friends with the other queen candidates. Seniors nominate five girls to be homecoming queen and five boys to king.
The other queen nominees this year were Kaitlin Gaynor, Josephine “Joey” Jacobs, Vasara Kulbis and Radka Pribyl Pierdinock. Matt Dwyer of Riverside was selected homecoming king from a field that included Jake Garvey, Jason Kenny, John Kosner and Erik Roedel.
All students then select a homecoming queen and king from the nominees. Dishmon even had the vocal support of one of the other queen candidates.
“I actually voted for Coretta myself,” Jacobs said. “I felt like she deserved it. She’s like one of the nicest people I know. Everyone who said they would vote for me, I told them to vote for her instead.”
Jacobs estimated that she asked about 50 students to vote for Dishmon.
“Obviously everybody wants to win, and how she was just so willing to be like ‘I’m voting for you and I’m telling people to vote for you,'” Dishmon said of Jacobs’ support. “It meant a lot.”
Dishmon said that her road to becoming homecoming queen started with an offhand comment when seniors were getting ready to nominate members of the homecoming court.
“It kind of started as a joke,” Dishmon said. “I was kind of sitting with my friends and I was like, ‘Oh, my, vote me for homecoming court.’ And they were like, ‘Actually yes we will really will vote for you.’ And then it … kind of spread throughout the whole school.”
Once started, the movement to select Dishmon as queen became unstoppable. None of the other queen candidates really campaigned for the position. But Dishmon encouraged her friends and acquaintances to vote for her, and she reached out to younger students.
Dishmon serves as a senior leader for a freshman physical education class and she asked the freshmen in that class to vote for her, a personal pitch that no doubt helped.
Dishmon’s younger brother, Corey, a sophomore football player, also got involved. He encouraged his friends to vote for his sister and estimated, perhaps exaggerating a little, that about 90 percent of the sophomores voted for Dishmon.
RBHS officials declined to reveal exact vote totals.
Dishmon is involved with a host of activities at RBHS including the Student Association, the Student Advisory Board, Spanish Club, Spanish Honor Society, Association of Students for Tolerance, and last week was invited to join the National Honor Society.
In the past she has participated in tennis, gymnastics, track and poms. She fits the profile of most homecoming queens as someone who is popular, a good student and participates in many activities.
But it seems that some RBHS students were also making a statement by voting for her.
“I don’t think we elected her to be homecoming queen specifically because she was black, but I think it’s because she’s an amazing influence on the school and she is really involved,” said senior Casey Whisler.
“She definitely deserved it no matter what and there’s also another part of it that’s like, it’s about time RB had a black homecoming queen, because every student deserves to be represented,” she added.
Kashawn Mitchell, senior who transferred to RBHS this year from Bloom High School and is black, said that he was heartened by Dishmon’s selection as homecoming queen.
“I love it,” Mitchell said. “It shows that everyone is equal.”
Dishmon said that her selection, especially after the instances of racist graffiti, is significant.
“I think that it’s a major statement,” Dishmon said. “I think it proves that the racist graffiti doesn’t represent RB as a whole, and that a good amount of students believe in tolerance and inclusiveness. Those events don’t represent what RB is about.”
She said that race relations and school climate has improved this year at RBHS.
“I have seen a major improvement from last year, especially like toward the end of last year with all of the tension between races,” Dishmon said.