Special Needs prom: A night of fun, music and special memories
Saturday, May 9, will be a very special evening for some very special students. It’s the date of the third annual Special Needs Prom in Avoyelles Parish.
Jonathan Landry, assistant football coach and JAG teacher at Marskville High School, thought a SN prom would be a good thing.
His JAG classroom is next door to the SN room and in the comings and goings of his daily routine discovered something.
“I would see them throughout the day,” he began. “They were always in a good mood and gracious. They caught my attention. We do a lot for SN students, but I learned from them they had anxiety about going to the prom.”
When Jonathan asked the SN students if they were going to the big dance, he learned “they just didn’t feel comfortable going.”
That’s when an idea began to form, which was reinforced when he read about a SN prom in Rapides Parish.
“It was funded through the Tim Tebow Foundation, but I thought there were so many good people in Avoyelles Parish we could raise the funds here.”
In his own words Jonathan was “blown away” by the generosity of Avoyelles Parish.
The budget he created for that first prom was abundantly reached with some left over to sponsor a chess tournament.
The dances are held at St. Joseph Church hall in Marksville and the first one had about 55-60 SN students attending.
“It’s grown to 100,” Jonathan pointed out, “and this year we’re hoping for a record attendance.”
The SN prom is open to all the parish high schools -- Marksville, Avoyelles, Bunkie, LaSAS and Charter -- for students in grades 7-12.
Jonathan announced to the football players and cheerleaders anyone is welcome to come help and be there with the SN students. His JAG class comes, too, for service.
“They don’t have to be there,” Jonathan emphasized, “but there’s a large turnout and the one’s who are there want to and have a good time.”
The evening begins with a catered meal that the football players serve.
When the eating’s done then the dancing begins.
The music is provided by a DJ, Jason Bordelon.
“I’m really impressed with the show he puts on,” Jonathan remarked.
The SN students do not hold back once the music begins.
“They party harder than anybody,” Jonathan laughed. “The football players are pouring sweat trying to keep up with them.”
The SN students don’t leave the dance floor, they don’t want to.”
The hall is decorated with the same theme used for the Marksville High prom and a photographer is on site.
Parents can attend and a SN student can invite any student from another school, but as Jonathan said, those students are screened.
The dress is formal. The first year Jonathan asked for prom dresses and shoes for the girls and the donations have grown from one closet to a room full.
This year he would like better formal wear for the guys: sport coats, slacks and shoes.
The dress code also goes for the student volunteers. Girls in Sunday dress and football players in slacks, football jersey all tucked in with a belt.
Every single penny raised through donations goes to the prom. “Last year I had T-shirts made.”
The shirts are a special reminder of the special evening.
Dwelling on how much fun the SN students have and their ability to out dance anyone in a heartbeat, Jonathan commented, “I get dehydrated just watching them.”