LIVINGSTON, NJ — Navy veteran Ruth Cross and Livingston High School (LHS) junior David Lin were named the king and queen of the 30th Anniversary Intergenerational Prom last week, where the Township of Livingston, Livingston Public Schools (LPS), Livingston Education Association (LEA) and the LHS Key Club collaborated to bring Livingston students and senior citizens together to get to know each other as members of the same community.
For more than three hours, students and local seniors lit up the high school cafeteria with smiles and embraced this year’s prom theme, “Celebration Time!”
“This is one of the things that makes Livingston, Livingston,” said LHS Principal Mark Stern. “Here are students, here are seniors from town, here are all the community leaders and educators all coming together to do nothing but have a great time. To enjoy each other’s company, to eat, to dance, to celebrate just being from Livingston and everyone coming together to do that makes it a great annual event.”
Stern, who has attended nearly half of the 30 proms, was part of the Intergenerational Prom committee along with event chair Bunny Ratner; Liliana Branquinho, supervisor of Senior and Adult Enrichment and Special Events Supervisor; LHS staff members Martha Ackerman and Trish Mattia; Michelle Bent, LPS communication and community outreach coordinator; Michael Fassbender and Nicole Cooper of Aramark Food Service; and LEA member Melissa Cohen.
Committee members and members of the LHS Key Club, Leo Club and other student volunteers served dinner and dessert to their senior guests, while dancing between courses. DJ Randi Rae of Supreme Productions served as Mistress of Ceremonies, and guests enjoyed performances from the AARP Livingstones and LHS Lancer Jazz Band.
Branquinho said the prom king and queen are selected each year based on volunteerism, how much they give back and their involvement within the community. As a Navy veteran, Cross gave back to her country, and in the community, her son teaches line dancing and ballroom classes at the Senior and Community Center.
“She’s a wonderful lady, she’s done a lot for our country and she deserved to be recognized,” said Branquinho.
Lin, a Key Club member since his freshman year, said being named Prom King was completely unexpected, and that dancing with someone as inspiring as Cross was a great experience.
“I think one of the main reasons Key Club is such a great opportunity and different from most of the clubs is because you get to meet so many amazing people who are very dedicated to volunteering and all have unique ideas,” said Lin. “I’ve actually met most of my friends from Key Club. It’s the largest club in the school, so it’s a lot of fun.”
LHS senior Eileen Veng, a former Key Club president and former Intergenerational Prom Queen, said Lin deserved this recognition after the hard work he put into recruiting enough volunteers to help the event run smoothly. She said this is the Key Club’s most popular event, and that planning for it begins early in the school year.
“I’m really glad that there’s as much turnout as last year, if not more, and a lot of the seniors are familiar faces, so it’s really nice,” said Veng, who will be attending University of Pennsylvania in the fall. “I think it’s a really nice way for the high schoolers to connect with that community and for the senior citizens.”
Veng said a highlight of the event was seeing one familiar face among the seniors who brought her own father, a 98-year-old Livingston resident, with her to the event after having so much fun last year.
“It speaks a lot for the community, the fact that the board of education and the town council continue to, year after year, support an event like this,” said Branquinho. “They see the value in it for our seniors and for the residents, so I think that’s really what keeps [the event] going. People look forward to it every year, so we’re very happy to continue to offer it.”
Branquino also acknowledged the nearly 30 local businesses that donated more than 40 door prizes, food and more to the event.
“This has become one of the town’s annual icon events in the senior community—You can tell everybody has a great time,” said Livingston Mayor Ed Meinhardt. “We are very appreciative of the work that Liliana Branquino does, and having the kids from the Key Club and the other organizations involved with putting this together just brings this evening to what it is. They really add a great touch to it, they make these great props, they make decorations and they help the seniors when needed. It’s just a great town event and it was fun to participate.”
As seen in the video above, the seniors and students held hands while singing "God Bless America" to cap off the event. A full list of all sponsors can also be found in the photo album above.