KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – Sophie Dean, a senior at Dobyns-Bennett High School, was escorted by her long-time friend Michael McClellan in the homecoming court on Friday.

Dean has been Michael’s friend and helper since the sixth grade, as part of a program that Kingsport City Schools offers called the BUDS Program. The program allows students to pair up with a special needs student, in order to provide personal connection, inclusion and encouragement.

Michael McClellan escorting Sophie Dean during Dobyns-Bennett’s Football Homecoming 2023 (Photo: WJHL)

Sophie said it’s an honor getting to work with Michael.

“It’s definitely been an honor and a blessing,” Dean said. “He has taught me so much, and I love working with him. I also have a sister who has Downs, so I know kind of what it takes to work with him and I enjoy it so much.”

Dean said she wants people to know that Michael’s favorite show is “Sesame Street” and he loves the character Grover; he also loves hugs and would do anything for sour patch kid candy.

Dean said she’s committed to playing softball for Lincoln Memorial University after she graduates from D-B in the spring. She said she plans to stay in touch with Michael after graduation, as they already have summer trips planned.

She said she looks forward to returning to walk Michael across the stage when he graduates.