When sophomore Jack Melvin walks through the halls, his smile beams as he gives a quick ‘hi’ or wave to nearly everyone he comes in contact with.
“[If] he doesn’t know someone, he just says ‘hi’ to random people,” senior Kendall Dunbar said.
Dunbar, who met Melvin as a Special Olympics co-chair, watches Jack morph into the embodiment of school spirit at each pep rally, football and basketball game. As he dances alongside the cheerleaders and drumline, the student section follows his lead.
Melvin’s positivity radiates. Art teacher Jodie Schnakenberg met him when he took her class, where they began a daily routine of telling jokes to entertain the class.
“He has really good leadership qualities,” Schnakenberg said. “He’s got the kind of energy, when he’s in a good mood, that you want to be around.”
That’s how he influences Dunbar, as well.
“[Everyone’s] like, ‘Jack Melvin is having such a good time, why can’t I be having that much fun?’” Dunbar said. “He just raises everyone’s mood. [But] when he’s having a really great day or a really good moment, I would say his happiness [level] is unreachable.”
Melvin is there to help others attain this elusive level by nurturing a smile, at the least. Dunbar seeks him out when she’s having a rough morning or exhausting day.
He’s there — always — in the hallway, with a word of encouragement and a smile. He gives Dunbar a hug and reassures her that she’ll have a good day.
That’s what he does for East, too.
“The kid loves Shawnee Mission East high school like there’s no tomorrow,” said his father, John Melvin. “His personality and his spirit combined, I think, have raised awareness on how kids with special needs can interact and be a part of the normal school setting.”