Special needs students treated to perfect prom

2014-04-22T18:25:00Z Special needs students treated to perfect promDamian Rico, The Times damian.rico@nwi.com 219-545-3980 nwitimes.com

CROWN POINT | The girls didn't worry about who looked better in their dresses and none of them would've been devastated if someone had the same one.

And when the prom king and queen were announced, the entire room celebrated jubilantly with the utmost sincerity and compassion.

It was the Special Needs Prom, hosted by the Lowell High School Red Devils Peer Mentoring group last week at Youche Country Club in Crown Point.

"This was such a wonderful evening," said Jorden Zubay, a Lowell High senior and event coordinator. "We couldn't have asked for a more magical event and seeing the happiness in their eyes is touching.

"I can't begin to explain how proud I am of our team to have gotten this done."

More than 75 special needs students attended the dance and were invited from Hobart, Portage, Hebron, Lake Central, Kankakee Valley, Whiting, Munster, Lowell, Crown Point, Highland and Griffith high schools.

"I would just like to commend these students for hosting this," said parent Teresa Walters.

"These kids, my son Schuyler included, would never experience something like this if it weren't for these wonderful kids. He is just having the time of his life."

Zubay pitched the idea in October 2013 to her peer mentor instructor and wasn't taking no for an answer.

"Jorden came up to me with her ambitious plan and enthusiasm and I just knew she was going to pull this together with her team," said Joe Swanson, Lowell High School Peer Mentor instructor.

"I was really worried there wasn't enough time or resources available to plan something like this, but these kids continue to impress us with their ability to get things done."

Zubay and dozens of her fellow peer mentors, clad in black dress attire, joined the special needs kids on the dance floor, served meals and drinks, provided souvenirs and took hundreds of photos with the promgoers.

"I don't know who is having more fun," Zubay said. "It is such a great feeling to be part of this special evening."

Most of the special needs students didn't leave the dance floor and strutted their break-dance moves and line dance skills for hours.

One of the evening's highlights came when Zubay announced Emily Ingles and Matthew Fallon were prom queen and king. They were chosen using a blind draw format with all the students' names included in a jar.

"What a night," said Michael Gregoline, a Crown Point High senior.

Youche Country Club donated its facility for the Hollywood-themed prom, while Aunt Nae’s donated the the black and gold balloons that blanketed the dance floor and dining area. Photos were taken by Inter-State Studio.

“Why not have a special day for all the special needs students that they deserve more than us?” Zubay said. “The kids are having a blast and there are smiles on their faces so I’m happy.”         

The committee started working on plans in October.        

Lowell High School sophomore Emily Rose, also a peer mentor, said she loves being in the program.

“I hope that all these kids have as a great time being here as we did planning it,” Rose said. “I think all the kids love it. They are all smiling and happy.”

About the theme, Rose, who has a great uncle with Downs Syndrome and a cousin who is severely autistic, said the committee wanted it to all about the students and make them feel individually special.  

“What would make you feel better than walking down a red carpet?” Rose said.

Initially planning a career in journalism, since becoming a peer mentor Rose is now planning on becoming an elementary school teacher for special needs children. 

Rose said the high school’s 50 peer mentors assist in the special needs classes interacting with the students, sometimes playing puzzles, drawing or making crafts with them.

Times Media Co. correspondent Diane Poulton contributed to this story.

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