Everyone knows about the typical high school prom. Students dress up, go to dinner, rent a limo, take pictures and dance for hours well into the night. But the standard high school prom isn’t the only prom dance in the area.
In recent years, two different events, the Best Buddies Capital Region Prom and Day Prom, have become increasingly popular and widely known. These two dances were created for students with learning challenges. Chantilly’s Best Buddies and students with intellectual disabilities (ID) partake in these social events, which allow them to have an opportunity to enjoy an inclusive high school prom experience.
“At school proms, it can be hard to make everyone feel included, so [the Best Buddies Prom] takes extra time to recognize all of the extremely gifted and wonderful people who participate in the club, disabled or not,” senior and Best Buddies president Elise Mazzone said. “All schools in the Capital region are invited, including parents and club sponsors.”
Sometimes, the traditional school prom can be sensory overload and may be overwhelming to some. The alternative Best Buddies Prom offers a safe and contained environment.
“[The buddies can] just have their own prom; they can feel special and just have fun dancing and enjoying a normal high school experience,” junior and Best Buddies vice president-elect Mary Connell said. “It’s prom, but on a bigger level.”
This year’s Best Buddies event will be held on Friday, May 13 at the Carnegie Library in Washington, D.C.
“Best Buddies Prom is a night to celebrate all of the intellectually and physically disabled members of the Best Buddies organization and even more importantly, the bonds that students in schools have made with all of them,” Mazzone said.
Just as the school prom celebrates student relationships and the accomplishments of upperclassmen, the Best Buddies Prom does the same.
“The event is important and meaningful because it focuses less on separating individuals with disabilities and more on celebrating the relationships and bonds formed in the club throughout the year,” Mazzone said.
Although the Best Buddies Prom and Day Prom are very similar and share the same purpose, they are two different dances. The Day Prom this year was held on Thursday, May 12 at the Waterford. This social event has been around for 14 years, and only 12 FCPS schools participate in it.
“It is formally called the Day Prom, but some schools have the Best Buddies general education ‘buddies’ participate in it also,” speech pathologist Linda Lee said. “At Chantilly, this will be the second year that [students] will be participating in the Day Prom.”
Both Day Prom and the Best Buddies Prom help students celebrate the high school experience in unique and fun ways.
“[The dances gives] the buddies [and students with physical or intellectual challenges] opportunities that they might not have,” junior and Best Buddies president-elect Diana Roe said.
Along with having a great time, all students can learn a lot from attending either or both of the two dances.
“It is just a great opportunity for anyone to learn about respect, inclusion and friendship for kids who are considered ‘disabled,’” Mazzone said. “Students can benefit from this event because they will see how awesome the kids are in our school, even if we don’t sit next to them in class or see them often.”