Abbeville High student Shalanda Plowden, 16, showcased her national championship performance in front of school board members, as well as members of the audience. When it was over, board members and others began wiping away tears in their eyes. She moved everyone in the meeting room that night, along with the judges in Maryland in the Grand National Tournament a week earlier.
One of the reasons Plowden won is because when she performs her character, she becomes the character.
The character she turns into is a special needs student who is born with handicaps such as not having any fingers on her right hand, her jaw and teeth are not normal, and her feet are pointed inward. If that was not enough, Plowden bends forward to show that her character can not stand up straight. She also has a speech problem.
The performance is about her character explaining that in her life she wants to be considered normal and not laughed at or looked at strange.
She finally got her wish when she became a high school student where she was accepted by her classmates. She was selected to the homecoming court and on the night of the football game, she learns her father is in the hospital sick and diagnosed with leukemia. She has a choice of going to the game or the hospital. She tells the crowd she went to the hospital and stayed with her father.
The doctors also explained to her that her father needs a new lung to stay alive. She wants to donate one of hers, which is when she learns she was adopted, and she can’t help keep him alive. The character realizes her parents selected her to adopt despite her physical and mental challenges, which makes her appreciate them even more.
In the audience of the school board meeting were her parents Yolanda and Marc Plowden, and her special needs sister, Asia, who is 13 years old. Way back in November, when Shalanda first decided to do the skit, she told her mother.
“I asked her about doing it and if she was going to be alright,” said Yolanda. “I wanted to know if she would not be troubled by her how she had to perform, and she said no, she would not be ashamed to do it.”
She would be not be ashamed because she is performing this way to deliver a message to the rest of world about special needs students. “They have ability and are people, too,” said Yolanda. “They are like everyone else.”
Yolanda said the first time she saw her daughter perform the skit, she laughed and cried. “I always comfort her after every time she performs it because she is moved by it.”
Shalanda said the performance was inspired by her sister, Asia. She said she became more inspired when she attended the Special Olympics track and field meet in May. “I started seeing them (special needs students) and I started seeing me in their shoes,” said Shalanda. “A lot of those kids can not speak their minds, so when I perform, now I can show what these children are thinking. How they are a part of the world also.
“They have potential, and talent, just like us. When I perform that piece, I try to convey that message to people.”
Everyone at the school board meeting got the message.