All Things Must Pass. But the Prom, Somehow, Goes On.

May 24, 2019 · 68 comments
Tony (New York City)
Life has so many joyless days, so much pain . This is a wonderful story that brings joy and a smile to your face, It is uplifting to know we can still create memories of happiness, Wonderful story, thank you
David Bartlett (Keweenaw Bay, MI)
The night of my Senior prom, my date and I left early, walking the downtown streets of Ann Arbor, Michigan, admiring the beautiful architecture of the many lovely churches in the vicinity, then meandering over to admire the stately, ivy-covered buildings on the campus of nearby University of Michigan. It was a glorious, mellow May night---right out of a Maxfield Parrish painting. You know the kind: time slows to a dream. We were young and in the springtime of our lives, so full of optimism and 'sophistication' in our resplendent evening wear. Cut ahead 42 years. This past February I saw my old girlfriend and prom date again at a reunion. Did I completely ruin prom night by dragging you away from the dance, I asked. Not at all, she smiled in reply. It was the best night of all my school years. We had so much fun, walking and talking---away from the noise and commotion of the dance. To me, it was unforgettable. Me too, I told her. Me too.
Donna Kny (Long Island)
@David Bartlett Awww. Thanks for sharing that. :-)
Justin Harrison (Washington DC)
Thank you for writing this story!
bronx refugee (austin tx)
Tim Tebow has been sponsoring and hosting events like this for many years: Night To Shine. Awesome guy.
Jeneva (Brussels)
I have saved many, unused, ballgown dresses over the years. I've never known what to do with them. Just decided. I'll send them to the school with the hope that some of the women can find one that they love.
Elizabeth (Boston)
@Jeneva The high school that I teach at collects gently used gowns for students to use for Prom, a local dry cleaner generously offered to make small repairs and to clean the garments pre and post-dance. If you ever doubt the impact of a donated fancy-dress in good condition and style do not; it sometimes is the only thing that makes prom possible for many of our students.
Chrislav (NYC)
So sweet to read a shout out to Doc Pomus in this beautiful article. He and his wheelchair were in the audience many, many times at The Bottom Line in the Village back last century because he loved all kinds of music, especially blues. And he never tired of people shaking his hand and thanking him for writing not only, "Save The Last Dance For Me," but also "Why Must I Be A Teenager In Love," "This Magic Moment," "Can't Get Used To Losing You," and so many more. I wonder how many proms they've been danced to . . .
lydia davies (allentown)
@Chrislav omg - all my favorites!
Baba (Ganoush)
Mixed feelings. Great inspiring article. But Betsy DeVos might see it and try to shut the place down.
thank you for this.
Sparky (Los Angeles)
Right on.
Ric (Vermont)
I hate to throw the proverbial "wet blanket" on this story thing that has not been brought up is the fact that the school, itself, is not very "inclusive". According to the school website, it "serves teenagers ages 14 to 21 with developmental disabilities". We have learned from decades of research that placing students in separate schools because they have disabilities is not the best way to prepare them for life after high school. This takes into account their transitions to the community, world of work, or, possibly higher education. The prom is fantastic! I am only hoping that they use the same philosophy at the prom that the Special Olympics uses; an equal number of persons with and without disabilities in a unified approach). It was not evident that this happened.
Hat Trick (Seattle)
@Ric Kids with developmental issues need special attention and they can get that in schools like this. Trying to mainstream them isn't an efficient way to teach them or the kids without any developmental issues. They are also able to gain much self esteem socializing and learning with their peers. I'm speaking from the perspective of a former Special Olympics coach.
Alison (Ohio)
@Ric Maybe in an ideal world this would work. But as hat trick mentions, to get self-esteem and learning with their peers, specialty schools work best.
Jane (Bloomingburg, NY)
@Ric, luckily this school is in Orange County, NY, and the students may have the opportunity, as my son Marty did, to attend the SUNY Bridges program at SUNY Orange/Orange County Community College. Marty was one of four students who spent the past 3 years attending the college every day like any other student, with the opportunity to audit two classes a semester. The rest of each day was spent in classes that taught social skills, vocational exploration, and independent-living skills. Working closely with the occupational-therapy students at OCCC, Marty and his classmates had peer mentors who could attend the audited classes with them, or otherwise hang out with them. Last Thursday, Marty, Brian, Brynn, and Tommy proudly donned a cap and gown and walked across the stage as pioneers of this top-notch program. So, although this high school may be restrictive in some ways, there is a wonderful program waiting in the wings.
Yvette Andino (Harlem)
What a beautiful article! This made my day. Everyone deserves to have some happiness in their life. Kudos to the teachers, school staff and parents for making these students smile.
clancy (NY)
A wonderful story that warms the heart. With all the nastiest in our world today this portrait of joy and happiness was a welcomed interlude. Thank you for sharing the students special day which Im sure they will remember for years to come
Linda Pitler (Boston)
The happiest, most sincere article I’ve read all week. The absolute joy comes through every word and picture.
Craig (CT)
That is easily the happiest.most soul-affirming article I've read in quite a while -- beautifully written and structured. Congrats to the class of 2019 and many thanks to the unsung heroes who make events like this possible.
Congratulations to the grads, their families and teachers! These kids know a thing or two about overcoming tremendous challenges. Inspiring!
Cynthia (Goshen NY)
I have the pleasure of working at this school in a different program, but I interact daily with the students and staff at Raymond C Cramer. This is a lovely article and it truely depicts the excitment these young men and women have for this exciting evening. The staff is fully committed to making this a great event and they never disappoint! They spend their own time, money ( buying corsages, boutonnieres, etc.) The staff is an amazing group of dedicated and loving people who deeply care about these students. You really want to cry..... come see the Talent Show!!!! Incredible!!
nycmsteacher (nyc)
One very small, yet huge, detail in this story that makes this school community even more amazing is the mention that there is an alumni dance that follows the prom each year. For many students with developmental disabilities, especially those who live in rural areas, life after high school can be very lonely and isolating. Many support services disappear and communities of friends scatter when high school ends. These annual social events keep people connected and provide a high point to the year, enriching the quality of life for alums and their families. Not to mention that it's always exciting, speaking as a teacher, to see former students and to learn about what they are doing after graduation.
John Binkley (NC and FL)
A wonderful essay, and writing about this prom as any other prom is so on point. How deeply it must cut for these kids to always be thought of and called "special" by the rest of us. They know what that really means, and they would like nothing more than to not be "special" but regular, just like all the other kids. They deserve to be and should be treated the same as all the other kids.
nycmsteacher (nyc)
The best part about this story for me was the focus on all the typical joys and preparations students and families go through for prom, and that it followed by the mere incidental reference to the fact that the students have developmental disabilities. Wacky and wonderful teens will be wacky and wonderful teens, regardless of how they learn, what their abilities, or where they live. Thanks to all the amazing families, educators, and community volunteers who make this possible. And thanks to the author for a beautiful story.
Nils Wetterlind (Stockholm, Sweden)
As Leonard Cohen taught us: America is home of the best and the worst. Here, we have the very best: optimism, inclusiveness, kindness, sheer joy.
LisaLisa (Canada)
What a beautiful story featuring so many kind and generous souls. And the students all looked amazing! I’m sure it was a fun night for all, and I’m grateful to have been able to share in the joy.
Brian Prioleau (Austin)
I would have given anything to be there.I would even have kept to the cafeteria, just to see them all come out with smiles blazing. Such joy! Thanks, Mr. Leland and NYT.
N Stewart (California)
Beautiful town, beautiful students, beautiful tradition...exceptional tradition.
nz jonnno (los angeles, CA)
I’m not crying. You’re crying.
Ann (California)
Thanks for letting us share in the joy and for the teachers and other volunteers who delivered a wonderful experience.
Thank you for capturing in the photos not only the joy of the students but also the joy and care from the others in their lives. This day was special, and those other faces make it clear that the student's lives are full of deep, meaningful relationships. Wonderful.
steve (columbus)
Just finished my 32nd year of teaching high school. I've taught in a barrio high school in New Mexico, international and American schools in Asia, and the last 16 years in an urban school in Ohio. I've seen lots of proms, including my own (1977!). I have to admit, I've kinda grown to like them. Back in the day, it was up to the guy to do the asking; it was up to the girl to be anxious about getting asked. And NO ONE went unless it was as a couple. That has changed, and for the better. Now, kids go in groups, some mixed, some not, dance with anyone else that wants to dance, don't seem to take too seriously the whole prom royalty thing. Yeah, the girls still spend a lot more on their looks than the guys, and isn't for everyone. But for kids who've waited a long time to go, I say let em have fun.
@steve Thanks for 32 years of teaching!
Madame (Mid Atlantic)
Just finished my 24th year of teaching at a high school in Delaware, and I agree that the prom is much more equitable today. No more couples only, although many attendees still have dates. LGBTQ dates are accepted. Many just go with groups of friends. Cost is just for the dance, dinner, at a restaurant or a dinner party at someone’s house (or none at all) is on your own. Girls can borrow a dress, guys can wear a suit, no tuxedo need be rented. As a tradition going back to my own high school years here, the seniors’ tickets are free. There is no reason for anyone who wants to go to the prom, cannot go at least once.
Susan (Vermont)
My kids attend a tiny k-12 public school in rural VT, with 40-ish high school students. This year they voted to have an overnight "lock-in"at the school, instead of prom...a no-devices, bring-food-to-share fest of board & card games, movies, casual dance, pick-up basketball, etc. They are going to have an amazing time, and virtually no money spent. I feel the same joy in these pictures. Prom (or alternatives) should be fun and inclusive, regardless of ability to pay. Hope other schools are starting to come round to this.
Just a story... (NY)
@Susan I love this!!!
Ardyth (San Diego)
I’m prom was a nightmare but I didn’t have a point of reference so I wasn’t haunted about it. My best girlfriend’s brother, who was a famous track star having beat Jesse Owen’s record in the 100 yard dash and attending Oregon State University on a scholarship, got me a date when he asked his best friend to take me. I wasn't a dog but I was 6 feet tall and had never been out with a boy. I was 17, and luckily it was a double date so when I was plied with alcohol I got drunk and threw up. I’m sure that disgusting scenario served to protect my honor.
Toronto (Toronto)
Thanks for a great story. As understated and beautiful as the kids themselves. Reminds a friend from the North what he admires in America. Hope to see you regain your place in the world soon.
@Toronto Thank you. So do we.
Patricia (Kentucky)
@Toronto. Thank you. I hope so too.
Beantownah (Boston)
Wonderful to see the Times give some overdue positive coverage to the disabled/other abled community. More, please.
[email protected] (pittsburgh)
This article reminds me a couple things. One is due to poverty and rampant un-dateability I didn't go to the prom, and how I'm extremely lucky enough to have the faculty of mind to not care one bit in the least. It also reminds me how some do care and how those in their lives make it a lasting, happy memory. The pictures and words also remind me of how dusty here it is at the 'ol job. Soooo dusty...forgive me I'm gonna have to go get a couple tissues. You know 'cuz of the dust... :)
@[email protected] The comments are a perfect companion to the story. Gentle and poignant.
nigel oldale (wales uk)
And what a great comment we never had proms when i was at school i am now 62 and wish i could turn the clock and country back so i could i would have fitted right in but i was always told i was dumb and not good for anything i had dyslexia and very bad eyesight i never saw a cow or a sheep in the field until i was 14 so you can see how i would fit right in but i am living proof that you can do anything you want to most important is BE YOUR SELF well done all of you students staff and most of all families god bless you all nigel
E (Pittsburgh)
Beautiful photography. The joy is priceless.
Maida Vale (Boston)
My son goes to a school like Cramer and they also have a prom. The venue is not as nice as the prom for our local public school, and my son's prom only goes from 5 7:30 p.m. but the kids get just as excited. The girls especially enjoy the chance to get into their most elegant dresses! Thank you for letting us see our world reflected in the New York Times.
DJS (New York)
It was very strange that the author did not mention that the students at Cramer have developmental disabilities until the end of the article.
Michael Monello (Middletown ny)
@DJS Why would that matter if the children have development disabilities when prom is just about having fun with your friends from school and not what the media depicts as pertaining to animal house or wild parties. My sister had an incredible night and I'm glad that that this was posted. These young adults had an amazing night.
CW (Baltimore)
@DJS I think the point the author is obviously making is that the issue of disability is far from the first reason this prom deserves our attention. The photos also make the event's significance abundantly clear.
Mike (Australia)
@DJS Not mentioning the disability of the students is in fact, DJS, what makes this way the story is written sublime.
R. Anderson (South Carolina)
Refreshing to read a story about proms which doesn't focus on limo's, alcohol, $500 dresses.
Maureen (North Of 49)
My thoughts exactly. We need more inclusive articles like this one - thanks NY Times.
Ginger (Georgia)
@Maureen. We need more SCHOOLS like this one!
Amy (Colorado)
This totally made my day.
Counter Measures (Old Borough Park, NY)
There was a period, say from the late 1960's till the release of Animal House, when in many high school quarters, The Prom was out of fashion! How soon we forget.
Julie Zuckman’s (New England)
Exactly! I think there was a small prom for the jocks at my HS, but none of my friends went. One friend hosted a big party at his house where a good time was had by all. No drama, no stress, no expense. 1973.
Susan Levy (Brooklyn, NY)
@Counter Measures I graduated from a large (the graduating class had almost 1,500 people in it) Brooklyn high school in 1966. In that very political age we did not have a prom. Four years later, thanks to numerous events around the country culminating in Kent State, my college had no Commencement. As the song goes, “Those were the days, my friend...”.
Ella (D.C.)
The story would have been more meaningful if the article had mentioned from the start that the kids had developmental challenges. Good group of kids.
Connie O (North Carolina)
Their challenges are probably the first thing most people notice about these students, but it is only a part of their identities. I am glad it was not the main focus or headline; the story is special even without pointing out the differences in these students.
ms (ca)
@Ella I though that too initially but then I thought maybe the author/ photographer wanted to emphasize the excitement and joy of teens and proms. These kids are probably often judged first by their developmental disability rather than anything else yet they are much more than their disability. If you've ever been in a situation where one particular trait you had was emphasized to the exclusion or downplaying of your other traits you had or considered more important, you'll know what I mean. Perhaps this article was trying to capture that.
S.L. (Briarcliff Manor, NY)
@Ella- It is perfect the way it is. The point is that these are kids excited about their prom. The fact that they are developmentally challenged doesn't change the fact they are excited just like a lot of other high school kids.
Greg (Los Angeles)
Please - we need these - and more. This is truly real America at one the finer moments in life. Thank you for taking my breath away and watering my eyes.
Steven (NY)
"Teachers: sigh" ... no truer words. Thank you for this reminder of the good in humanity.
acd (MA)
Thank you for a beautiful story. The pure joy on their faces! Thank you to all the parents and teachers who provided their support and hard work. I hope everyone had a wonderful time!
Jan Brown (Denhams Beach Australia)
Lovely lovely story, with all the pettiness going on in the world here is a shining little light. Good luck to you all.
downtempo (Quogue)
Seriously needed this article today to combat against all the bad news out there in the world. WOnderful story and photographs. Thank you!
Michael Shaw (Fiji)
@downtempo Well done article altogether, the story and the photos. I like that you waited until the end to say these youth have disabilities. I felt it showed respect for the kids, and allowed their happiness and excitement to shine through unfiltered. Cool.
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