As Arthur McCormack walked the "runway" Wednesday evening at East Rockaway High School's pre-prom celebration, he received some of the biggest cheers from the crowd as his name was announced by village Mayor Bruno Romano.
The 16-year-old junior couldn't help but smile as he took in the sight. And as his parents, Pat and Bob McCormack, watched him enjoy the experience they also imagined how different his life could have been had they not adopted him and his twin sister, Kristina, from a Russian orphanage nine years ago.
"Right now, he would have been on the streets," Pat McCormack said. "At 16, they give them $10 and kick them out [of the orphanage]; It's very sad over there."
When Arthur, then 7, arrived in the United States and his parents enrolled him in the East Rockaway School District, they said he didn't know a word of English.
But he picked up the language very quickly, Pat McCormack said, and he's been receiving special education instruction both in school and at home because his mother is a certified special education teacher.
"We've had good years and bad years," she said of the challenges Arthur and Kristina have had to overcome.
Pat McCormack said although Arthur could stay in the school's special education program until he's 21, she expects he'll graduate when he's 19.
"He's a good worker, so we're going to try to find a job that he likes," she said. "He likes working with kids ... and he's very handy."
Arthur enjoys cycling, and can even change the tires on his bicycle, she said, and he likes to pump gas and mow the lawn. And just like any teenage boy, he's a fan of music, watching Netflix and girls, according to his parents.
Looking dapper in his suit and tie, which his mother said he picked out himself, Arthur said he was "excited" to be attending his first prom. It's something everyone should experience in their life, he added.
And although his parents say he can often be shy, Arthur said he planned to hit the dance floor that night to show off his moves, stating with confidence, "I can dance."