Royalty member makes homecoming history

Royalty member makes homecoming history
Makena Schultz claps while sitting on stage at coronation on Sept. 20. Photo by Janae Becher. 

As her sister proudly announced her name during the Viking Days coronation, Makena Schultz, a third-year Augie Access student, took the stage to thunderous cheers. One of 10 royalty candidates, Schultz is the first Augie Access student to have been nominated in 100 years of homecoming.

Schultz’s relentless positivity and her huge smile were on full display as she took the stage as a member of royalty. That smile never faltered as she took her place on the royalty float nor as she walked down center field at the Viking Days football game.

“Walking on the field was amazing for me,” Schultz said. “I was so excited when I got announced at the football game.”

Schultz has an infectious energy and a smile bright enough to put most stars to shame. Her curly brown hair, bright eyes and deep, resonant voice give her a magnetic presence. She’s the kind of person who is friends with everybody and who makes everybody want to smile and laugh with her.

To those who know Schultz now, it may be hard to believe that she was not always the talkative and friendly woman she is today.

“I talk right now obviously. It’s hard for me to be quiet all the time. But I couldn’t talk until I was five. I couldn’t walk by myself. I was born with sensory delays,” Schultz said.

Schultz has autism and grew up in Madison, South Dakota. As a part of the Augie Access program, Schultz has been a part of campus life, taking classes and getting involved in campus activities. She’s the team manager of the women’s basketball team and the president of the Augie Access Leadership Club.

“I just love to socialize,” Schultz said as she discussed her involvement at Augustana. “I love that.”

Being nominated for royalty was a dream fulfilled for Schultz.

“I’ve never been on royalty before, even in high school,” Schultz said. “I feel accomplished. I feel grateful. I just feel happy and excited.”

Makena Schultz waves to the crowd at the Viking Days football game on Sept. 23 while seniors Scott Shlanta and Luke Bacialli applaud. Photo by Janae Becher. 

Her sister shared her joy.

“I was very nervous to announce her at coronation,” Mallorie Schultz said. “In order to make sure I would be able to get through her script without crying, I read it over at least five or six times.”

To Mallorie Schultz, her older sister’s nomination showed that the Augustana community values Augie Access students, especially considering 2023 is the first year that Augie Access students were included on the ballot.

“This showed me that my sister is included on this campus and that there are a lot of people here who love her for who she is and do not separate her for her disabilities,” Mallorie Schultz said.

Makena Schultz took to royalty events with an unbridled enthusiasm that could only be matched by the energy of homecoming week.

“I got pied in the face! I love pie in the face. It was fun. I got it in my hair. Mallorie did that to me. I specifically asked her to be gentle but to bring it on,” Schultz laughed.

Reflecting on the week, Schultz felt honored to be included in royalty. Being the first Augie Access student to be nominated for royalty, she became a part of Viking Days history. However, Schultz’s strongest sentiments were those of being thankful for the Augustana community.

“I’m so grateful to be here at Augustana,” Schultz said. “It’s such a pleasure for me to be here.”