Inyka Warner was absolutely thrilled on Saturday afternoon when she saw her parents during Coleville High School’s homecoming ceremony. Little did the 18-year-old senior know just moments later her dream of becoming homecoming queen would come true.
“Since 10th grade; ever since I first saw it, I was like, ‘Oh my God! I really want to try and do that,’” Inyka said, flashing a wide smile.
It’s the same dream any teenage girl has. What makes this coronation special is Inyka has Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a form of autism that has made her journey one of tireless work and effort.
“I’m incredibly proud of Inyka and of her classmates for making this happen,” Virginia Warner said after watching her daughter crowned at halftime of Coleville’s football game against Mineral County. “Inyka is incredibly special. She is an angel on this planet. You can ask anyone. There is definitely proof innocence still exists in this world, and that’s my daughter.”
Those sentiments were echoed by David Warner, who has lived 23 years in Topaz, Calif., with a family that now includes three children: Iris, 21, who is also autistic; Inyka and Lance, 15.
“It says a lot for the kids who go to this school,” he said.
This is an example of how close knit students and school staff are at a rural school — Coleville has 56 students enrolled, 22 of whom are girls.
Miranda Sturdivant, the school’s student body president, and Nicole Smith, the vice-president, expressed that fellowship for their classmate and volleyball teammate.
“We’ve gone to school together since kindergarten,” said Nicole, who was one of the queen candidates. “Everyone voted for her. I was so excited for her. I wanted her to win, not me.”
Added Miranda: “We really wanted to see her excitement when she won. She just deserved it. She’s as equal as all of us; she deserved to be a candidate as well.”
Inyka — whose name means “White Dove” when translated from Navajo, according to her mother — was totally surprised when she heard her name announced.
“Yeah, I was amazed,” she said. “I’m like, OK, I didn’t think anybody was going to vote for me because I’m different, because of autism and all that. I thought the boys were going to vote for Nicole or Alexis because they’ve been nominated so many times. (But) Remember, winning isn’t everything; this is our last homecoming … we should make it worth it.”
As it turned out, the day was a memorable one for the Coleville Wolves overall. The volleyball team won two matches over Mineral County to take a giant step toward winning its regular season league championship. Then, the undefeated football team clinched its league championship with a 52-34 win — with Inyka standing on the sideline cheering for her Wolves.
Even though Inyka has been a member of the JV team for three years, she was given the chance to move up for Senior Day in order to play the final home match with her fellow seniors.
Sharon O’Keefe, JV coach and Regional Occupational Program teacher at Coleville noted Inyka aspires to pursue singing or acting.
“She has worked hard with the support of the staff and students to make it to her senior year,” O’Keefe said.
Virginia Warner said her daughter has enjoyed benefits, playing volleyball for one, that might not have been available at a large high school. Among Inyka’s achievements so far her senior year has been enrollment in Spanish I — “That has been incredibly difficult for her,” Virginia observed. For another, Inyka and her brother are raising funds in hopes of joining a group of Coleville and Lee Vining students scheduled to visit Washington D.C. and New York City in April as part of the Close Up program.
“I’m just so thankful to be out here in a small community,” she said. “The schools have been so fabulous. It’s taken a lot of work — our work, their work and Inyka’s work — and she’s so spectacular.”
There was still one more moment in the limelight for the amber-haired Coleville senior.
“We had no idea this was happening,” Virginia said. “Sharon (O’Keefe) called me on Thursday … I was crying when she told me.”
There was only one problem. The Warner family had committed to attending the Sierra Nevada Anime Fans Unite Convention in Reno to support their oldest daughter, Iris.
“I didn’t know they were going to come,” Inyka said. “I was so surprised; I was like, ‘My parents are here … my family is here.’”