A Parisian-themed prom

Bucks County IU 22  |  Posted on

Dozens of local students enjoyed “A Night in Paris” recently during a festive prom at the Bucks County Schools Intermediate Unit (Bucks IU) in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. More than 60 students, ages 17 to 21, took part in the celebration. The Bucks IU offers educational programs to students with autism, emotional needs and multiple disabilities at various sites throughout Bucks County. But for this one night, students had a chance to enjoy the camaraderie of dancing and making memories with one another together under one roof.

“The prom allows our students to experience a night with all the supports they may need to make it successful, safe and fun,” said Joanna Davis, a Bucks IU program coordinator and prom team member. “We hope they feel safe and supported to be who they are with no judgement.”

Students were dropped off at the Bucks IU Administrative Offices to great fanfare, with special greetings by staff who met each student outside the entrance and allowed them the opportunity to experience their own version of walking the “red carpet” and being announced upon arrival.

Many of the female students wore full-length gowns. They sashayed in with dazzling hairstyles and finely manicured nails. The male students also donned formal attire – from sharp suits to dapper tuxedos.

Parent Jennifer Roche was overcome with emotion as she watched her son, Ryan Natello, make his way toward the steps leading to the prom being held on the second floor. “To see him get from the beginning to this point, it is quite an accomplishment,” Roche said. “We are so proud of him.”

Once upstairs, Ryan, a senior at Quakertown Community High School, quickly found himself caught up in the moment. “I like everybody dancing,” Ryan, 17, said as he moved to the beat of the music in the middle of the event’s big ballroom.

Prom team members created the ballroom by consolidating the Bucks IU’s upstairs meeting and training rooms into one big dance hall. It was decorated to fit the Parisian theme of the evening, with pink balloons and other accents lining the ballroom’s walls and ceilings. At one end of the room was a photo station with a drape of the Eiffel Tower in Paris serving as the backdrop. At the other end of the ballroom was Dave Fox, Bucks IU skills trainer with Project SEARCH, who served as the prom’s disc jockey. “It’s important to do this,” said Fox. “It’s their chance to have their own Super Bowl.”

Brooke Rosenberg, a student in the Project SEARCH program, said she loved having a Paris-themed prom. “I said ‘Ooh la la,’” Brooke, 21, said. “The best part is having something where we are coming together with friends.”

The Bucks IU has staged five proms since 2017, said Davis, a prom team member. Other prom team members included Hillary FitzMaurice, school age special education supervisor; Dawn Yeselavage and Sara Walsh, program coordinators; Anita Harris, social worker; and Rebecca Lawson, social worker.

Team members enlisted the help of more than 70 Bucks IU staff members from throughout the county who volunteered their time to help support this amazing event. The volunteers staffed food, snack and drink stations in the hallway outside of the ballroom. Others were assigned to supporting students as they made their way between the ballroom, food and drink stations, and a new sensory-activity room.

“This prom embodies the true spirit of inclusivity for our kids,” said Pennridge Superintendent Angelo Berrios, one of several county education officials who stopped by to check out the festivities. “These are memories that these students will cherish for the rest of their lives. Hats off to the Bucks IU.”

Dr. Mark Hoffman, Bucks IU Executive Director, beamed with pride as he watched the students enjoying the festivities. Dr. Hoffman stated, “Everywhere you see smiles, not just the young adults who are attending the prom, but also the smiles on the adults who are honored to work with them every day.”

The Bucks IU thanks the following Doylestown, Pennsylvania, businesses for their support in helping make this a special event for everyone: Maryanne’s Pastry Shoppe, Nat’s Pizza, Simply Fresh by Macaffrey’s and Weis Markets.