A night to remember

The+students+pose+for+the+camera+to+commemorate+the+joyous+occasion.

Jessica Nguyen

The students pose for the camera to commemorate the joyous occasion.

 

On April 5, senior Cecilia Berna, along with many other Bear Creek students and staff members, spent her Saturday night at the Clarion Inn and Suites while having the time of her life.

Berna hosted a free prom for students with special needs from Bear Creek, Lincoln, Tokay and Plaza Robles. For her senior project, she wanted to throw a prom after taking a Regional Occupational Program class where she worked with Bear Creek’s special needs students.

“Working with them last year really touched my heart and I got really attached to them,” Berna said. “I would read to them, go over worksheets, answer questions, do math problems or play bingo with them.

“I think society really overlooks them, and they don’t get what we get and experience the things we do,” Berna added. “They’re really smart.”

The prom featured everything a typical prom would have: decorations, food, beverages, a photograph booth, dance floor, DJ and even a prom court.

Raffle tickets were also randomly drawn for prizes.

“I felt that if the kids were seeing that the [prom court] was receiving crowns and roses, they would think they’re not getting anything,” Berna said. “So I thought about doing raffle prizes so no one would feel left out.”

In order to fund the prom event, Berna had a car wash fundraiser in December and raised about $600 dollars. An anonymous donor also donated $1,500 toward Berna’s senior project.

Berna had to meticulously plan and search for a proper dance hall for the prom to take place.

“My mom really helped me,” Berna said. “[She] helped me get all my prom decorations and fundraise.”

Overall, about 80 people attended. Senior Kionna Gray attended the prom along with 20 other Bear Creek students.

“I [felt] very happy,” Gray said. “I [was] in a good mood. I enjoyed dancing with my sister. I [also] got three gift cards.”

Senior classmate Edward Paez also enjoyed the experience.

“I danced to the music,” Paez said. “I was having a good time. I danced with my date. It was good.”

Berna hopes to pass the tradition on of hosting a prom for kids with special needs each year. Her brother has already agreed to take on the challenge for his senior project.

“The kids who attended had a blast,” special needs teacher Jeff Pepper said. “They enjoyed hanging out and dancing with the other students who came. It was really impressive to see them all dressed up and enjoying themselves.”

Attendees this year also hope to attend prom next year.

“I felt like it was great [and] happy,” sophomore Treonnie Bragg said. “It was a great event for us to have our own prom and stuff. I danced and I took my brother [with me].”

Although planning the prom was stressful for Berna, she says it was “the highlight” of her high school years.

“The person [Tyler] who asked me to be his prom date is usually in a wheelchair,” Berna said. “His mom told me ‘I’ve never seen Tyler get up from his wheelchair to dance. I love it.’”

Berna is grateful for all the enthusiasm and efforts of those who helped make the event a success.

“All the positive feedback made me feel good,” Berna added. “Seeing their faces and how much fun they were having—that’s as memorable as it gets.”