Mark Pickett is a teacher at the school and works with students in the student leadership class. Holly, 17, is the class president and helped plan the dance, held on April 29. Mark said the theme was “Masquerade” and was accomplished with help from Holly’s grandmother in Texas and the student council who spent a month making decorations.
“We decided on a masquerade as a council because it was a simple but elegant theme,” Holly said. “We liked the color scheme we could have with a masquerade and the different decorations we could create.”
Local DJ Miner Music was hired to provide music for the 70 or so teens who attended the event.
“The best part of the dance was the DJ,” Holly said. “He had a great set list and was very open to suggestions. Having the good music got a lot of kids out on the dance floor.”
Students were served a meal of steak medallions and fish before the dance began.
“The food was also amazing,” Holly said. “The kitchen staff put a lot of hard work into making a delicious meal. Special thanks to Hayden and his staff!”
Boys sported tuxedos and girls were attired in prom dresses, most brought from home. A local tuxedo company was on hand to help provide tuxes if boys needed one.
“It is awesome to see the time that both the girls and the boys put into getting ready for the activity,” he said. “The girls made their own corsages and the boys also had boutonnieres. Some girls spent hours preparing for the dance and have been talking about it for months.”
Mark said there is therapeutic value for the students at Heritage to have their own prom.
“The benefit comes from the interaction and to dress up and feel good about themselves,” he said. “It’s awesome to watch. They see each other in a different way. It’s great for them to be normal and hang out. It doesn’t feel like a treatment center.”
He explained there are several things that make a prom unique to a treatment center. One is the nature of relationships. Although it is a coed campus, there are limited opportunities to spend time with peers of the opposite gender.
“We also discourage relationships between the boys and girls,” he said. “There is less of a ‘date’ atmosphere generally and more of groups of friends and an opportunity to get to know one another. The kids generally dance and talk with a wider range of peers in this fun environment. It also makes a safe environment for all social dynamics to enjoy.”
Mark said students in the Peers Academy, at their own high schools or schools, often don’t get the chance to go to a prom or feel socially unable to have a good time.
“Some never take these chances or don’t feel comfortable there,” he explained. “Here they have the chance to have these kind of experiences in an environment that is supportive and where they can learn social skills through experiences.”
Having girls and boys on the same campus is beneficial and allows for growth.
“As a young adult, this is a time where these young kids are learning how to socialize with one another,” he said. “These types of experiences give them a chance to learn how to socialize with one another in a normal but safe setting. The kids are able to learn about healthy relationships and how fun they can be.”
Holly reflected on what it meant to have Heritage sponsor this event.
“It was really meaningful to have a prom here at Heritage,” Holly said. “Living at a treatment center you sometimes feel as if you’re missing out on normal high school experiences. Prom is a pretty big milestone so it was nice to be able to not miss out on it.”