On a night of glitz and glamor in downtown Columbus, one young man stood tall above the others.
Albert Cyliax, the landslide winner for Columbus East prom king Saturday, smiled as fellow students began to clap and chant “Al-bert, Al-bert, Al-bert” after his name was called.
He then jumped into the air and crossed the stage as the chanting from his classmates continued.
The selection of Cyliax, who has Down syndrome, signified the respect his friends and East classmates have for him.
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The special-education student received 169 of 200 votes cast.
“He was already the king of the school — even before this,” Columbus East senior and fellow prom court member Joe Krause said.
Cyliax said he was excited to be chosen but said his favorite part was getting his picture in The Republic.
He posed for photos with East prom queen Courtney Williams, also a senior, and with his prom date, junior Taylor Clark.
As he walked off the stage, several well-wishers — including his mother, Lisa Huffman — greeted him.
Huffman was blown away by the attention and adoration that her son received that night.
It was great to realize that Cyliax’s classmates have as much love for him as he has for Columbus East, she said.
Huffman said her son is eager to get up for school each and every day. He just eats it all up, and no one could have enjoyed that moment more, she said.
Krause and Sam Claycamp, also an East senior and prom court member, said everyone loves Cyliax for himself and the happiness that he brings to East every day.
Cyliax can’t walk more than a few feet down a Columbus East hallway without some form of acknowledgement from fellow students. He is most known for a video posted on YouTube showcasing his dance moves with fellow classmates and teachers.
While he has always been popular among East classmates, the prom court opportunity came as a result of a special friendship with Clark, whom he met a year ago through the Best Buddies program.
The nonprofit organization offers participants socialization and leadership opportunities, as well as job coaching, by providing the necessary tools for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to become more independent and increase their interaction in the community.
Cyliax and Clark forged a bond almost immediately after they met.
In early March, Clark approached Columbus East prom sponsor DeAnna Stott about getting Cyliax put on the prom court.
Clark made posters to put up all over the school to get the word out about Cyliax, and his enduring popularity did the rest.
“Albert is included in all activities just like any other student, and that is awesome to me, because Albert is just as special as anybody else,” Clark said. “He’s a nice guy, and I think people notice that. Even though things happen, he deserves to be treated just like everybody else.”
His Down syndrome doesn’t allow Cyliax to read or write, but a larger-than-life personality makes up for those limitations, Huffman said.
Cyliax, 18, will attend Columbus East until he is 21 but will still go to graduation on June 6.
Before Saturday night’s prom, Clark and Cyliax were driven by Huffman to Cheeseburger in Paradise in Greenwood for dinner.
Cheeseburgers are one of his menu favorites, so Clark and Huffman thought it would be the perfect place.
Even though Huffman was driving the couple, Albert told her he wanted to have a table alone with Clark, a request that Huffman happily obliged.
As prom night neared its end, Clark hugged Cyliax and told him, “I’m so proud of you.”
Nearly 1,500 East classmates were likely thinking the same thing.
Name: Albert Cyliax
School: Columbus East
Activities: Member of the Columbus East Unified Track team
Employment: The Courtyard Restaurant at Columbus North
One in every 691 children born in the United States has Down syndrome, making it the most common genetic condition.
About 400,000 Americans have Down syndrome, and about 6,000 babies with Down syndrome are born in the United States each year.
A few of the common physical traits of Down syndrome are low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes and a single deep crease across the center of the palm.
People who have Down syndrome exhibit learning difficulties.
Individuals with Down syndrome have an increased risk for heart defects, digestive problems and hearing loss.