The whole point of a high school prom or a similar event should be to have fun and make memories before the gang moves on to future pursuits. Making that opportunity available to everyone in the classroom community is the goal of two prom-related events recently featured in Record-Journal stories.
Cheshire High School juniors Molly Fletcher and Ella Paul wanted to make the prom experience available to all their classmates, especially those with learning or developmental disabilities. R-J reporter Peter Prohaska spoke with them about their plans for an Inclusion Cotillion. “Everyone deserves love for who they are,” said Fletcher, explaining that she and Paul have put together a different kind of “prom,” one that gives everyone a chance to celebrate the friendships and experiences they’ve had together over the years.
Fletcher and Paul serve as Friendship Coordinators with the Best Buddies organization, a program that facilitates friendships and social activity that can help support those important aspects of life for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The local branch of this national club has about 175 participants between CHS and Dodd Middle School.
Putting together the basics, such as a venue, chaperones, music, food and all the rest, took a lot of work and planning, but with the help of school staff and parents, the cotillion is now set for March 4 at the high school. Organizers say they hope to see as many as 200 participants show up.
Another initiative, this one based in Meriden, aims to make prom night more accessible to those who might not have the financial means to go to the prom — or when choosing to go may not be an easy choice.
This year, Prom Angels is expanding its annual prom giveaway into a three-day event, starting April 4, according to R-J reporter Crystal Elescano. The program lets participants select a free prom dress and also provides “swag” from area business, such as grooming and cosmetic items and gift certificates for salon services. Prom Angels collects new and gently used prom dresses and accessories through February. Students who want to participate in the giveaway event must register by March 31 at promangeltct.com. Representatives from the program visit schools to promote the event.
Melissa Kasperzyk, organizer of Prom Angels, recalled her own experience in an interview with Elescano. A 2005 graduate in hairdressing from H.C. Wilcox Technical High School, she remembers prom being expensive. “I’m pretty sure my mother had to choose between paying a bill and buying my prom dress… I don’t want parents to have to choose between those two things and I want students to have the opportunity to get a dress and their hair and makeup done.”
In 2015, Kasperzyk and her friends decided to give away their prom dresses and announced this on Facebook. The post was a big hit and Kasperzyk received many offers of donations from others in the community. The idea continued to grow and now Prom Angels receives significant support from individuals and businesses. For instance, the Dressing Room and Dynamite Designs, both in Wallingford, donated dozens of dresses recently. Target kicks in with major donations of cosmetics and related products.
These re-imaginings of what “going to prom” means focus on all the right aspects of an event that signals the end of the school year is coming — and sometimes the end of an era, all together. The unspoken message behind the fancy garb and other razzle-dazzle should say, we have all shared an experience and grown up together, and whatever lies ahead, let’s celebrate those ties. The idea of the Inclusion Cotillion and Prom Angels — that everyone who desires to can be part of this rite of passage — makes prom night better than ever.