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'Ready for Anything': Prom Night At Greeley West High School

 Students dance in their sectioned-off pods at Greeley West High School's prom.
Alana Schreiber
Students dance in their sectioned off pods at Greeley West High School Prom.

Prom. To some, it's a big, flashy culmination of their high school experience. For others, it's an antiquated dating ritual. Prom is often the final chapter of a teen book or movie. It's when the shy girl is crowned the queen or when the dorky guy finally gets up the courage to ask his crush to dance. But for all its dramatization, for most people, prom is just kind of a rite of passage, a sense of something normal in an otherwise highly abnormal year.

Last year, the five public high schools in Greeley, Colorado, like most schools around the country, canceled their annual proms. But this year, teachers and administrators were determined to host these celebrations for their students.

KUNC's Alana Schreiber spent an evening on the sparkling field of District Six Stadium, where a football pitch was transformed into a venue for a COVID-safe prom.

Interview Highlights:
These interview highlights have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Alana Schreiber: Teresa Myers is the chief of communication for the Greeley Urban School System, and she's also one of the masterminds behind this year's proms.

Theresa Myers: We have a COVID emergency response team that meets twice a week. About in January, we started talking about graduations and proms and would we be able to have those? And we put a plan together, submitted it to the County Department of Public Health. They made a few suggestions and said okay, go ahead, you can have prom.

There will be masks, but there's a dance floor and there's a DJ and there's beautiful lights. And I think the kids are going to have a great time.

At 7 p.m., students start to line up at the stadium parking lot. Including Joe, a Greeley West High School student with dark, shaggy hair and a bright red tie. This is his first prom.

Joe: It was my first time doing so, so I figured, why not? My first two years I was too shy and antisocial of everything and everybody. So this year I decided to have a sense of empathy. I thought about the seniors the previous year, they didn't get a prom. And I'm like, and I'm getting one. I should take advantage of the opportunities I have that others couldn't have and wanted. So I figured I'd just go have fun with my friends and see how it is, enjoy the experience.

I'm ready for anything, really. I'm excited, but also thinking about like certain situations. But overall, I think it's going to be fun.

As the sun starts to set, more students enter the dance floor. And one of the most excited among them is Jake. Jake's a senior and he's blind. Although he entered the stadium with a walking stick, he's entering the dance floor led by the hand of his date.

 Jake, a senior, poses with his date Selena.
Alana Schreiber / KUNC
Jake, a senior, poses with his date Selena.

Jake: I wanted to dance right when I came here. But Selena wants to dance when everyone gets here. And not just with me.

And dancing close by to Jake is Ms. Tanya, the district Braillist. She works with blind and visually impaired students.

Ms. Tanya: I've been with Jake since kindergarten or first grade. And now this year he's graduating, so big celebratory night. After graduation, I’ll move on with him to transition. It'll be a very emotional moment, just as tonight is now. But then we get to we get to hang out more after he's out of school. I’ll get to take him to dinner and go to a movie with him.

So Jake, is it nice to have Ms. Tanya at prom?

Jake: Kinda. I just don't want her to make me do any math here.

By now, it's 8 p.m., the sun is down and students are crowding the dance floor. But over in the tent, Joe the junior with the shaggy hair and red tie is taking a break.

Joe: I don't really know what to do out there. So I kind of like being here with my friends, but they're all doing their own thing, you know what I mean? And I don't mind. You know, I'm here for them and I'm rooting for them, you know, good luck with everything. And I don't know how to dance.

But while most of the students are getting their groove on, the COVID protocols aren't exactly working as planned. While the principal forces students back into their pods and designated dancing areas, there's one familiar face reentering the stadium floor, looking to try dancing one more time.

It’s Joe, and reluctantly he starts to dance. Yeah, it's a little embarrassing, but he said it himself, it's prom night, and after a year of so much nothing, he's ready for anything,

This conversation is part of KUNC’s Colorado Edition for May 6. You can find the full episode here.

KUNC's Colorado Edition is a daily look at the stories, news, people and issues important to you. It's a window to the communities along the Colorado Rocky Mountains.
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