By Rachel Apostolico
Shenandoah University crowned seniors Armani Cheilchani and Joseph Cooper II as homecoming royalty on Friday, Oct. 1, during the gambling-free casino night in the HLSB basement. Students voted during a two-day time period from Sept. 28-29 where they could select up to two nominees in each year-level category.
Students could be nominated for homecoming royalty through a Google form where they could either self-nominate or nominate someone else. Nominees were then notified through their email, after which they had to accept the nomination and the policies for running for homecoming royalty.
“When I first heard about the nomination, I was a little shocked,” said Cooper, senior homecoming royalty winner. “It’s not really something that I’ve done before.”
Cooper is studying for a Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in sports management. He is a head RA and president of both the Sport Business Association and Men United for Excellence.
“Initially I didn’t want to do it,” said Cooper. “And then I talked to Jen Spataro-Wilson from Career and Professional Development and she talked me into it.”
Cooper said he felt honored that his friends nominated him. He was one of two men in the senior class running for homecoming royalty. When Cooper committed to his nomination, he began prepping for his campaign. He made a flier on Canva and posted it on his social media accounts. The flier said, “Vote for Joseph Cooper II for Homecoming Senior Royalty 2021.” It also included the voting dates and location.
During the night of his crowning, Cooper played table games to shake off his nerves. He also attended Bingo Night hosted by Alumni Affairs. Cooper struck luck that night winning a $50 gift card to a restaurant of his choice, the first of his two victories in one night. He said he had never won bingo before, and he didn’t quit while he was ahead.
Cooper was hit with nerves again when they announced it was time to call out homecoming royalty. Everyone was gathered in the HLSB basement when the nominated students were called to the stage. Winners were called out in order starting with freshmen and ending with seniors. Cooper stood alongside the nine other candidates when finally they called his name. He was crowned by Dr. Yolanda Gibson, Shenandoah University’s Vice President for Student Affairs with a blue sash and a matching blue crown.
Cooper said that he never thought he could do something like this, and was proud to have not given up before it even began.
“I’ll keep it forever,” said Cooper about the crown.
Cooper was crowned alongside Armani Cheilchani. Cheilchani is an exercise science major and Student Government Association president. She was nominated by some of her peers, and she said she had never run for homecoming royalty in years past.
“I knew that I was a great representation of what a homecoming leader would look like because I’m all about the students and I’m all about Shenandoah University,” said Cheilchani.
Cheilchani said she was honored that her peers nominated her. She set up a table in the Brandt Student Center for both days of campaigning, where she explained to new students what homecoming was and encouraged them to vote. Cheilchani also had chips, water bottles, candy bars, and hand sanitizer with her face on them as part of her campaign.
“I felt like I was a good candidate,” Cheilchani said. “I was well liked by my fellow peers, and I felt like I had a great campaign.”
When it came time for crowning, Cheilchani was excited. She said she enjoyed the experience with her fellow students and classmates, and was happy just to be nominated. Then, she heard her name.
“I freaked in that moment, because you know, you’re homecoming queen,” Cheilchani said. “And I never thought I would receive a title like that.”
Cheilchani was excited to also be crowned by Dr. Yolanda Gibson, and she thanks her for her guidance and mentorship through the years. Cheilchani said she was glad she didn’t have to give a speech because she was “lost for words.”
“It’s not about me,” said Cheilchani. “I know I’m a student, but being SGA president and a senior, it’s not about me anymore. It’s about what I can do for students.”
Cheilchani hopes to go to graduate school for physical therapy, and her top choice is Shenandoah.
“Once a hornet, always a hornet,” said Cheilchani, Shenandoah’s very own daughter of the stars.