Not Your Typical Prom

It’s prom season for many metro Atlanta high schools, and while excited teenagers are gearing up for an incredible night of fun, a local senior center had its own senior prom but with a unique twist.

The idea of a senior center having a prom is nothing new. However, having a group of teenagers, their parents, and teachers host a prom for a senior center is, and attendees of the Bear Creek Senior Center in Henry County were the recipients of such an occasion.

The idea of this collaboration came about when Melissa Roberts, the Hampton High School’s Work Based Learning teacher, had an opportunity to do an externship with the senior center. “I fell in love with the seniors and wanted to create a partnership between them and our school. After asking Brenda (senior center manager) what we could do to help or what they needed, she said they needed a bigger place to host a dance.” That was the need that sparked a relationship that would continue for years to come. “My FBLA [Future Business Leaders of America] students, our SGA [Student Government Association], Hampton Gents, the Fine Arts students, the cooking class, and several teachers came on board to help. It was amazing!”

Their first prom in 2019 was such a huge success that, soon after, they began to plan the 2020 prom. “We had a person from First Baptist Lovejoy call and invite the ladies of the senior center to come and be fitted for a dress, jewelry, shoes, the works, since they had a connection with the TV show Say Yes to the Dress!” However, COVID-19 entered the scene, and the pandemic shut down the world. Everyone went to shelter in place, and the 2020 prom was cancelled. “We were so disappointed. All the decorations were ready to hang, the food was ready, we had already bought the flowers and made the favors for them to take home after the prom. At first, we thought this too would pass, and we would be back at school in a couple of weeks.”

After a three-year hiatus, the 2023 prom was back with a Roaring 20’s theme. Now this was something to see!

Walking up to the doors of Hampton High School, you were greeted with a line of students, eager to escort each guest down a hallway sprinkled with flowers. The ladies were given a corsage and the men a boutonniere provided by the Future Farmers of America (FFA) club at the high school. There was no shortage of photo opportunities from taking your own behind a backdrop provided by the art club, by a professional photographer, and by students of the yearbook club actively playing their part as the prom paparazzi. Students of the theatre club, dressed in 20’s attire, danced with guests, refilled drinks, and ensured guests were having an overall good time. And it wouldn’t be a prom without the crowning of the prom king and queen, right? The high school’s SGA handled the ballots and tallied the votes.

What was truly amazing was the coordinated effort of the students, teachers, and parents to bring about a night that was solely focused on making someone else feel special. One party goer stated that “these are some great kids; you just hear about the bad ones on the news”. Other sentiments from the night were, “it just feels good to dress up!” and “it’s beautiful, I didn’t expect all of this!”.

The senior center participants were not the only ones who had a good time, “This is even more fun than our prom!”, one student said. Mrs. Roberts states that students come all year to join FBLA just because they want to help with the prom or have the opportunity to get to know the older people. Several of them said, “I can’t believe how much work this was, but we want to do it again! When is the next one? What can we do for the seniors until next year?”

While the prom occurs once a year, the collaboration doesn’t end there. “We have loved and enjoyed our partnership with Bear Creek so much! Every year in September, our Fine Arts Department (Dance, Band, and Chorus) put on the Grandparents Day presentation. My FBLA students help serve the Veterans Day breakfast held at Bear Creek in November. The AP History and AP Literature students went to Bear Creek in 2019 to gather and compile the stories of these veterans. We compiled these stories in a book, Heroes of Bear Creek, and presented it at the breakfast as our gift to them. The AP History students have gone over a few times and collected oral histories from the seniors. This has created such a wonderful bond between our kids and the seniors.”

“Before COVID, the ladies at Bear Creek started a Crochet Club to teach the students how to crochet and build relationships with them. I believe about 20-25 students came to this club and loved learning from these precious ladies.”

“Our FFA students have gone over and helped with landscaping and taking care of the gardens. There have been two student interns who have worked at the center to help with clerical tasks or whatever was needed. These students were not paid – they just had a heart to serve and loved being with the seniors.”

One interesting side note was that the youngest person at the prom was 14 years old and the oldest 92 years old but were still able to join together in a Conga line and Cha-Cha slide. Our older adults have such a wealth of wisdom and knowledge to share with our youth, and this partnership proves that the generational gap is never too wide to cross.

Joy Hutcherson

Joy has worked with the Atlanta Regional Commission since 2016 within Aging & Independence Services. Joy is passionate about serving others and spends leisure time volunteering within the community or just helping a friend in need.