WHS students host prom event for SCI class

Westwood High School students Avery Merrick, left and Faith Ross dance together at the school’s second annual Peer to Prom event in the WHS media center. The event was hosted by Peer to Peer students for fellow students with disabilities that would prevent them from attending a traditional prom. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

ISHPEMING — The prom is something that most high school students look forward to, but for some students, especially those with severe disabilities, attending an event like the prom is not possible.

Nine students in Westwood High School’s Peer-to-Peer program thought every student should have the opportunity to attend the prom, so they held a Peer-to-Prom event for five students in a Severe Cognitive Impairment class on Friday in the new WHS media center.

Peer-to-Peer is a volunteer program linking general education peers with students who have disabilities in order to support these students throughout the school day.

WHS special education teacher Mandy Moebius, who also teaches the Peer-to-Peer students, said teens with severe disabilities might be uncomfortable in the traditional prom atmosphere.

“The regular prom — it might be too loud, the lights might be too much, the crowd might be too much. They all need care, so somebody would have to go with them,” Moebius said. “So this allows them to experience that but they are still safe and comfortable doing it.”

Moebius said the second annual event was organized by nine of her general education Peer-to-Peer students over the course of a couple of months.

“They decided to do it on their own,” Moebius said. “This year we thought, we want to do it again, but this year we will have it as part of the class, so they have used a lot of class time to plan for it.”

Moebius said Britney Pelkola and Faith Ross, two of her general education Peer-to-Peer students came up with the idea last year.

Pelkola said she saw how excited the Severe Cognitive Impairment students got when she would talk about her plans for the traditional WHS prom, and she wanted them see what a prom was like firsthand.

“I think it’s important because they can feel the way we feel at our prom and can experience what we have, but in their own setting where its made for them, basically,” Pelkola said.

The event was planned much like the traditional prom, with balloons, food and drink as well as a photographer. Main Street Cosmetology students added even more glamour to the event, donating their services to give attendees prom-worthy hairstyles.

NICE Community Schools Superintendent Bryan DeAugustine handed out corsages and boutonnieres at the end of the grand march.

Moebius said the SCI students really enjoyed the Peer-to-Prom experience.

“For these guys, first of all it’s a day that’s all about them. You can tell, some of them get really excited to dress up and get their hair done,” Moebius said. “But they also get to experience what other high schoolers get to experience just in their own comfortable safe way.”

Moebius said the event would not be the same without the help of volunteers and donations from area organizations and businesses.

Local photographer Sandy Maki helped with the decorating and donated professional photography for the students, Auto Value of Ishpeming and the Champion Lions Club gave monetary donations, and gift cards were received from Shopko Hometown, Econo Foods, Target, Blimpies and Bucks Sub Shop.

Moebius said she was especially pleased with the effort put in by the students who planned the prom.

“I am really proud of my peer to peer students, and this event is great for all of them,” Moebius said.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.