Shortly before sixth period at Eastern High School on Thursday, senior basketball star and Ball State recruit Trey Moses was nervous.
Trey, 17, was about to execute a carefully crafted plan to ask freshman classmate Ellie Meredith, who has Down syndrome, to prom.
“A guy who’s been hitting game-winning shots throughout the season and … playing in front of large crowds, and he’s sitting here saying how nervous he is before this promposal,” said Jason Wheatley, adviser of Eastern’s Best Buddies program, which partners students with disabilities with volunteer buddies.
“He looked at me and said, ‘Mr. Wheatley, do you think she’ll say yes?’ “
And after Trey interrupted Ellie’s gym class with a hot pink sign that said, “Let’s party like it’s 1989” and “Prom?” and a bouquet of roses, Ellie — who knows Trey through the school’s Best Buddies and peer tutoring programs — did say “yes.”
“She was kind of speechless,” said Trey, who is slated to play for Ball State next year. “She turned red a little bit.”
Ellie had dropped hints to Trey about going to prom, but Trey said he had already asked his girlfriend, Hayley McPherson, to go.
But McPherson, a college freshman, supported Trey’s idea for Ellie to join them for the May 16 dance, and she helped Trey — who admits he doesn’t listen to much Taylor Swift — come up with a way to incorporate some of the singer’s lyrics on the promposal sign.
Swift is Ellie’s favorite singer, and Trey and McPherson opted for a reference to the pop star’s latest album, “1989.”
Ellie’s mother, Darla Meredith, was not available by phone Friday to comment.
Trey said he has worked with students with special needs since his sophomore year and plans to study special education in college. He’s a member of Eastern’s Best Buddies program and facilitates basketball games for the schools’ unified league, a partnership between Jefferson County Public Schools and Special Olympics.
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“They really made me happy,” Trey said of the students with special needs he has worked with over the past couple of years, adding he is excited to pursue a career as a special-education teacher.
Wheatley, who is also the peer tutoring teacher at Eastern, said while he was excited about the promposal, he wasn’t necessarily surprised. Trey develops genuine friendships with the school’s students with special needs, he said, and will stay after school with them to shoot hoops.
Promoting inclusion is becoming “the cool thing to do” at Eastern, Wheatley said, and Trey is partially to thank for that.
News of the promposal went viral Thursday afternoon and caught national attention when CNN picked up the story.
Emily Cleveland, state director of Best Buddies Kentucky, said Ellie and Trey show on a national level that “inclusion is something that we are moving towards and that people are providing opportunities to make new friends and break down those barriers.”
Reporter Kirsten Clark can be reached at (502) 582-4144 or on Twitter at @kirstenlmclark.