LIVINGSTON, NJ – Senior citizens were dressed up and ready for a fun evening as they gathered in the Livingston High School (LHS) cafeteria on Thursday for the township’s 31st Annual Intergenerational Prom, a beloved event held in conjunction with Livingston’s Senior, Youth, and Leisure Services (SYLS), Livingston Public Schools, the Township of Livingston and the Livingston High School Key and Leo Clubs.
Each year, hundreds of local seniors attend this event, which was recently acknowledged on the state level with a Daniel M. Gassalberti Award presented to SYLS for Excellence in Recreation Programming for last year’s 30th Annual Intergenerational Prom.
In keeping with this year’s prom theme, “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” the festive décor featured a sea of red and blue—from the photo backdrop with red and white stripes, to flag banners and flag photos, to flag-patterned balloons and red and blue tablecloths.
Local Vietnam Veteran and VFW Post 2856 Sr. Vice Commander Brian Boyle, who is very active with the veterans posts, the Livingston Old Guard and the township’s Senior Advisory Committee, was named the 2019 Prom King alongside LHS Key Club member Katrina Pham as the 2019 Prom Queen.
“Every year, we alternate the king and queen selection, where one year the king is a senior citizen and the queen is a LHS Student, and the following year vice versa,” said Liliana Branquinho, Livingston Senior & Adult Enrichment and Special Events Program Supervisor. “Both are selected based on their involvement/volunteerism in the community.”
In addition the township officials and teachers who assisted at the event, dozens of students involved in the LHS Key and Leo Clubs served food and danced with the seniors—many of whom attend the Prom annually and eagerly anticipate the soiree.
Branquinho explained that the Intergenerational Prom is a very meaningful event because two completely different generations enjoy an evening of interacting and learning about each other in a friendly and fun atmosphere.
“With this event, we are trying to bridge the gap between two generations that tend to be foreign to each other,” she said. “The intergenerational prom provides that opportunity which is so important."
The mission of the Key Club, which is affiliated with the Kiwanis Club, mission is to teach members “how to lead and to stand up for what’s right through service and volunteerism,” according to its website.
“Key Club members also volunteer for parties and sports clinics for the Livingston Advisory Committee for Disabilities (LACD),” said Key Club president Danny Hubert. “The teens spend a lot of time planning the prom, setting up, serving food and cleaning up but the most important aspect of the evening is the interaction between the students and the seniors.”
The mission of the Leo Club, which is affiliated with the Lion’s Clu, is “to support the efforts of Lions Clubs and partners in serving communities locally and globally, giving hope and impacting lives through humanitarian service projects and grants.”
Both organizations are international service clubs that emphasize volunteering and were founded approximately 100 years ago.
First-time Intergenerational Prom guests Clara and Lou Greenspan praised the prom and were especially impressed with the teen volunteers.
“The event is fantastic,” they said. “We’re very impressed with the students. They are so responsible and caring. Their hearts are truly in this, and they are immersed in conversations with the guests. The band is also amazing.”
Another woman who attends the prom each year complimented the teenage volunteers.
“They are very polite and helpful and will do anything for the attendees,” she said.
Many businesses contributed to the event as well as several township officials who volunteered at the event, including Mayor Al Anthony, council members Shawn Klein, Michael Vieira and Rudy Fernandez, LHS Principal Mark Stern, Livingston Board of Education President Charles “Buddy” August and more.
Entertainment was provided by the Livingston AARP Livingstones, the LHS Jazz Band, James Hegedus Major Productions and DJ Randi Rae. A Veteran Color Guard Presentation was made by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2856, American Legion Post 201 and Jewish War Veterans Post 740. The guests also tried their luck at the Tricky Tray raffle.
Branquinho, who has been on the Intergenerational Prom Committee for the last eight yeas, said this event is one of her favorites because she truly enjoys “seeing and feeling the happy energy in the room that evening.”
“I know it puts a smile on our seniors' faces,” she said. “I get to see them enjoying each other's company and interacting with the students. Truth be told, I love to have fun with them.
“I'm a real proponent of socialization being one of the best antidotes to depression and loneliness which can be detrimental to seniors’ lives. So, every time we can provide our seniors with an opportunity to have a great time where there's fellowship, music and food, it's a good thing.”
She added that Livingston residents are “very fortunate to live and work in a town that completely supports events like this.”
“We are also very thankful to have the support of local businesses and organizations that kindly help sponsor the event,” said Branquinho. “There's a lot of planning involved, so the Intergenerational Prom Committee starts early with all the planning and preparations. We are already discussing ideas for next year."
Among the committee members are LHS Principal Mark Stern; Bunny Ratner; Trish Mattia, LHS prom coordinator; Michelle Bent, the school district’s communications and community outreach coordinator; Nicole Cooper and Michael Fassbender of Aramark Food Service; and many more.