By: Melissa Duckett
Southern Boone High School is celebrating homecoming by keeping things in the Southern Boone family. This year’s senior homecoming court has unanimously decided to raise money for Ashland’s own Crystal Branch to help with her cancer treatments. Crystal Branch was also voted by the high school student council to be this year’s grand marshal of the homecoming parade.

The eight seniors on homecoming court, running for this year’s homecoming king and queen, are Chloe Bukowsky and Austin Evans, Hailey Woodward and Cooper O’Riley, Evan Mauney and Blaine Hargis, and Megan Riggs and Bradyn Speed. As is court tradition, these seniors have once again banded together to raise money for charity as an act of service for being nominated.

Crystal Branch is a long standing member of the Southern Boone family. A 1981 graduate of Southern Boone, she also taught PE for 24 years and coached for a total of 25 years for sports including track, cross country, and softball. She also is a current member of the school board. “After retirement I wanted to give back to the district that supported me my entire career so I ran for the board of education,” says Branch.

The senior royalty is fundraising for Branch to help with costs of care for cancer treatments. “I am still battling lymphoma and have about 8 months left on this treatment cycle,” Branch explains. “I feel like every day I hang on may be the day my miracle happens. I was extremely touched by the fundraising effort and it is greatly appreciated. It just goes to show what amazing kids we have at Southern Boone.”

Hailey Woodward, a senior royalty member, says this of Branch. “Mrs. Branch has been such an amazing community member and school member. She is so kind and generous. Crystal has been battling cancer while continuing to show so much love and support to the school and community. We want to help give back that love and support in any way we can!”
Evan Mauney, also a senior royalty member, echoed Woodward’s sentiments about Mrs. Branch, but also realizes charity is an important part of being nominated for court. “Senior royalty should raise money for charity because homecoming is not just about us, it is about the whole community coming together. Local charities are a great way for community members to support one another.”

Homecoming festivities are something students look forward to every year, especially seniors who are celebrating their last homecoming. Chloe Bukowsky, senior royalty, says “I am looking forward to making new memories and leaving a legacy for the class of 2024. I am happy to be nominated with many of my peers and friends and I’m so glad we get to raise money for a good cause.”

Megan Riggs is also looking forward to making memories with her friends during homecoming, but understands the importance of her nomination. “We are given a platform to give back to our community, so we should use it.”
It means a lot to Riggs to raise money for Branch. “It means I can help make a difference and shine God’s light. She has given so much to the community while teaching and coaching, now she needs us to help her fight.”

The Southern Boone homecoming court also includes six underclassmen representing their grade level: Payton Darr and Zach DeHaas for the class of 2027, Gracie Britton and Chase Rackers for the class of 2026, and Julianne Long and Jace Wren for the class of 2025. They will be honored alongside the senior royalty at the coronation during halftime at the 7:00 pm homecoming football game vs Hallsville on October 6th.

The week of activities for Miami Past Midnight, Southern Boone Homecoming 2023 also include an assembly on Friday, October 6th and the Homecoming Parade at 2:15 that will go across town from the elementary and primary buildings and end at the high school, and the dance on Saturday evening from 7:00-10:00 pm at the high school.

To help support Crystal Branch and also your favorite senior homecoming royals, each couple has a GoFundMe set up and you can find more information and donate. The couple with the most money raised as of game time on Friday will be honored during halftime. Links are also available on the high school website in the live feed section and on the high school Facebook page.