By Keri Kirby Moore
Special to the Daily Sun
Corsicana — Editor's note: An album of photos from the 'Special Prom' is available on the Daily Sun's Facebook page.
Bright smiles and nervous excitement are standard at every prom, but there were more than a few reasons Friday’s “Special Prom” at Corsicana High School was extra special.
For three hours, the area that usually serves as the Calico dance rehearsal studio was transformed into a black and red masquerade-themed wonderland for the school’s first prom for about 40 of its special education students.
“I think this is one of the greatest things we’ve done at the school this year,” said Principal Herbert O’Neil. “This gives these students the outlet to really be who they are and come and enjoy themselves in an atmosphere where they feel comfortable and with the support group of their families.”
The event, which was funded through many generous donations from parents, local business and community organizations, was a family event spearheaded by special education teacher Kelsey Whiteley.
“To be honest, we have seniors who have been here almost eight years and they’ve never been to prom, so I decided we needed to have a prom for them,” she said, adding that the idea would never had been able to take flight without the tremendous support from the administration, parents, students and the community. “It’s important to give them the support they need and give them the experience of a real prom.”
From posing for pictures to the crowning of the king and queen, it couldn’t have been more real for the nearly 150 students and parents who attended.
Lonestar Western Wear offered deep discounts to help cover the costs for the tux rentals and CHS Peer Coaches – traditional students who are paired with special needs students — donated prom dresses, which were all altered by a local volunteer. Assistant Principal Elmer Avellaneda said students from the traditional classes helped with hair, make-up and those pesky tuxedo vests and ties to prepare them for their debut to family, friends and staff.
“This is exciting,” said Cindy Morick, who was waiting in anticipation of seeing her son, 18-year-old Joshua Raney decked out for the occasion for the first time. “He got to pick out his own tux. My first thought was, ‘Oh, Lord.’ I never know what he’ll pick out … he may come out in a blue tux.”
Her fears about his fashion choices were soon put to rest as he escorted his date for the event, Peer Coach Jennifer Garza through the heart-shaped entrance amid a sea of smiles and camera flashes.
“I picked this one because it’s colorful and pretty — and everybody likes orange,” he said of his dapper tuxedo vest and tie.
Raney was just one of the many sharply dressed attendees thanks in part to the CHS students who helped them get ready for the day’s festivities.
Senior Autumn Grounds helped two girls with their hair and make-up for the event. “They showed me a blue hair piece and (one girl’s) nails were gold and she told me she wanted gold, but I had free reign. They didn’t have a mirror until the end so it was exciting when we got to show them.”
While jam-packed with fun, the event did more than just raise spirits, it offered important learning opportunities for those involved, said special education teacher Janita Conger. “It helps everyone to try something new,” she said, adding just like traditional students, the State of Texas requires special needs students to test each year to measure their development and skill levels. “They want to know, can they go into a new situation and wear different clothes and enjoy an event? We had a CD we played for (students) of previous proms but nothing can prepare them for the actual event.”
It’s one that made a lasting impression on 16-year-old Cecil Melton and his mom, Connie.
“A month from now he’s still going to be talking about this. It is etched in his mind,” and hers too, she said. “Most of the time you don’t see special events for our kids. You see them for football and tennis. In 16 years I would have never thought he’d be going to prom. Things like this really help. It’s almost like he’s coming out of his shell. To see him smiling and interacting – it melts my heart.”
Keri Kirby Moore is a special contributor to the Daily Sun. Want to “Soundoff” on this story? Email: email@example.com