It’s a beautiful sight to see when those who are in a position to bestow happiness unto others, with a simple appearance, go out and create that happiness. Washington Redskins’ quarterback Robert Griffin III had a chance to do just that at the request of a 17 year-old girl named Morgan Assel. Thanks to the help of a loving classmate, a U.S. Olympian, and an NFL superstar, Juwaan Espinal, a junior at Centreville High, had a day to remember this past Thursday.
Growing up and going to school for Espinal hasn’t been easy for him, as he’s been battling Cerebral Palsy for his entire life. The disorder has robbed Juwaan of his ability to walk and communicate, but not his ability to inspire those around him. One of those who he has inspired is fellow classmate and prom asker, Morgan Assel, who first met Juwaan in gym class. “I met him in gym class my freshman year, but we didn’t become best friends until earlier this year,” she said. “My friendship with Juwaan is one of the most significant relationships in my life.” She wanted to make the proposal as unique and special as possible, but she was going to need help if she wanted to contact the fellow she had in mind. She did some recon on RGIII’s Instagram and found someone she could possibly reach out to for help. That someone was U.S. Olympic Fencer, Assel claims that none of this would have been made possible if it wasn’t for the kindness and trust that Prescod showed for her request. Assel recounted, “RGII only followed 15 people on Instagram at the time, so I looked through his followers looking for someone approachable. I found Nzingha and commented on her picture telling her who I am and what I wanted to do. Then I said if she followed me, I had pictures with Juawaan and myself so she could see I was being truthful. When she followed me back, I tagged her in the pictures and she asked for my email!”
From there, Prescod reached out to Griffin and told him what Assel was planning and if he could lend a hand. So, on Thursday May 29, Griffin aided Juwaan’s close friend, Morgan Assel, in asking him to prom. It was during a lacrosse game at Centreville High, that students paraded toward Juwaan, sitting on the sidelines, with a large banner. A banner that read, “I know I’m not as cool as RGIII, but will you go to….” Following right behind those students were Morgan and Griffin holding a banner of their own which finished the question with, “prom with me?” The excitement on Juwaan’s face conveyed more than a yes but a sense of overwhelming joy from meeting one of his heroes.
Of course, Griffin didn’t come empty handed as he brought Juwaan a pair of flashy socks as well as a hat from his clothing line. He even took the shirt off his back, signed it, and laid it on Juwaan’s lap. Griffin also had to snap a few selfies of he and his new friend before leaving. It had been a moment of awe-inspiring elation for someone who Assel certainly believed was deserving of it. “He inspires me to be a better person, and to do more with what I am given,” she said. “He’s such a happy and positive person regardless of his circumstances. He’s the living definition of resilience.”
Griffin told reporters, “We make time in our schedules for stuff like this because it’s so worth it.” But it wasn’t what Griffin told the media that was so significant, but rather what he told Assel away from the cameras. “One of my favorite things he said was about education, and it will stick with me for the rest of my life,” she said. “He talked about the importance of putting your mind first, because it is the last thing to go. It’s awesome to see an athlete advocating for education and helping other people. He’s such an admirable, down-to-earth person. Both he and his wife were awesome.”
After recently following up with Morgan, she made it a point to emphasize how none of this could have ever happened if it weren’t for the kind actions of Nzingha Prescod. She had noticed Assel’s comment on her Instagram photo, followed up with her, and kindly reached out to RGIII with a goal to make Juwaan’s day one to not soon be forgotten. But only because of Prescod’s initial trust in Assel’s story, did this wonderful act among tremendous people have the chance to take place.
Morgan and Juwaan will be accompanying one another to prom Saturday June 7, as Morgan told me she’s already had the dress picked out well in advance. Although Juwaan won’t be going to prom with one of his NFL heroes, he’ll be going with somebody certainly just as nice, a loyal friend.
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