Passing the crown

UL student gives up spot on homecoming court

T-L Photo/SETH STASKEY/ UNION LOCAL senior Haley Porter, right, was voted to the school's Homecoming Court, but opted to give up her spot to classmate and friend Cortney Bugala, who has cerebral palsey. Union Localás Homecoming festivities begin this evening with a parade. The queen will be crowned Friday at halftime of the Jets' football game against Weir.

MORRISTOWN — Oftentimes doing something nice for others is much more gratifying than any individual accolade or gain.

Union Local senior Haley Porter subscribes to that theory.

Porter was voted onto the Union Local Homecoming Court by her classmates, but decided to give up her spot to long-time friend Cortney Bugala, who is a special needs student with cerebral palsey.

“It’s really cool and an honor to be chosen, but being on Homecoming Court is something that I knew would make Cortney happier than it would make me,” Porter said. “It’s going to be something that will bring her a lot of joy and be something she can remember for the rest of her life.”

Bugala’s mother, Becky, found herself in a state of disbelief when Porter first approached her with her plan.

“I couldn’t believe that someone would do this,” Becky said. “I didn’t want Haley to regret it and she told me, ‘I would regret it if I didn’t do it.'”

Bugala and the rest of the Homecoming Court will be featured in a parade this evening and then the queen will be crowned — by virtue of who selects the odd colored rose — at halftime of Friday’s football game against Weir. The annual Homecoming dance will be held Saturday evening.

“We are so honored to be able to see Cortney with the other court members and to see her with her peers on the football field,” Becky said. “Our entire family and all of our friends just love that she gets to shine in the spotlight.”

Porter had been thinking about this for a long time. She actually approached her parents — Ben and Melissa — before she even knew the results of the vote.

“I talked to my parents and they were perfectly OK with it,” Porter said. “My parents tell us to always treat people how you want to be treated. I had thought about it before we even voted. It was something I wanted to do.”

Porter actually admitted that she voted for herself in the process just to give her at least one more vote toward her hope of being able to make a dream come true for Bugala.

“I voted for Cortney for top 12, but she didn’t make the top six, so once it got to that point, I voted for myself,” Porter smiled.

On the morning of Sept. 15, Porter approached Elyse Swallie, who oversees the Homecoming festivities at UL, with her idea and didn’t even know — at the time — if she had been voted onto the court.

“I told Mrs. Swallie, ‘I don’t know if I made Homecoming Court or not, but if I did, I want to give my spot to Cortney,'” Porter recalled.

Like the few others who knew, Swallie made sure Porter was sure of her decision.

“Just because of the person Cortney is, I think she deserves this opportunity,” Porter said. “There’s never a time when she’s not smiling or putting a smile on someone else’s face.”

Since Porter had made Swallie aware of her decision earlier in the day, Bugala was recognized at the pep rally with the rest of the court.

Porter and Cortney are more than just friends who may see each other at school. According to Becky, the two have spent quality time together outside of school. They’ve gone fishing and eaten lunch together many times.

“A lot of people may not really know who Cortney is, so she didn’t get voted on, but I know who she is and she deserves this,” Porter said. “I think she’s going to really enjoy this and hopefully she has some luck and picks the white rose.”