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‘Look Around and See the Smiles’

Special-ed students enjoy Day Prom at the Waterford.

Under crystal chandeliers, students have fun on the Waterford dance floor.

Under crystal chandeliers, students have fun on the Waterford dance floor. Photo by Bonnie Hobbs.

Last Thursday, May 8, some 400 students got all dressed up and went to their prom at the Waterford in Fair Oaks. Once there, they had professional photos taken, ate pizza, sang karaoke, laughed and hung out with their friends. And when the music played their favorite songs, they filled the dance floor and showed off their coolest moves.

The only difference between this prom and others is that it happened during the daytime and the participants were special-ed students and their teachers. In fact, it was the 13th annual Day Prom, and students from 11 different schools attended.

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Taking a break from the dance floor are (from left) Fairfax High senior Jose Tineo-Viruz and freshman Elanei Wanzer.

“It’s good because, not only do they get to socialize in an environment that’s open and friendly, but they get to experience one of the rights of passage that all high-school students should experience,” said Centreville High instructional assistant Kate Leimkuhler. “It’s great to be able to relate to them, not necessarily as an authority figure, but just as a friend who cares. And it’s really enjoyable watching them just cut loose and have a good time.”

“All you have to do is look around and see the smiles, and you can tell how much fun they’re having,” said special-ed teacher Vicki Hudson, head of Centreville’s Best Buddies program which pairs general-ed and special-ed students for friendship and shared activities.

“We added more schools to the Day Prom this year,” she said. “We couldn’t bring as many general-ed kids, as usual, because of it. But it’s great that so many schools want to do this. The staff here is really spectacular to work with, and the folks from LifeTouch are donating their time and services to take the photos. They’ll put the pictures on a disc and Target will print them for us.”

Eight students came from Fairfax High, along with special-ed teacher Margaret Daigle, who’s been at the school for 10 years. She helped organize the Day Prom and made the flower-and-rainbow centerpieces at each table. “The kids made the rainbows out of paper and markers,” she said. “And all the students cut up all the fruit for the fruit trays.”

“This prom gives them a chance to learn how to behave in large-group settings,” continued Daigle. “And many of these kids don’t go to any other prom, so it’s fun for them. They get to dress up and see their friends who go to other schools, and the general-ed kids help them dance and learn how to interact.”

“I think it’s good because of all the dancing and the fun,” said Fairfax sophomore Hamza Sheikh. “You get to enjoy everything and hang out with your friends.”