WEST ORANGE, NJ — After more than a year of wondering what their final weeks of high school would look like due to COVID-19 challenges that threatened their ability to gather as a full class, members of the Livingston High School (LHS) Class of 2021 safely attended their senior prom on June 3 at The Lot in West Orange.

As faculty advisors for the Class of 2021, LHS teachers Kim Costanzo and Kelly Rocco said they were determined to hold a prom for this year’s seniors despite the challenges they faced during the planning process as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Working closely with the administration several months prior to the event, Costanzo and Rocco initially developed multiple plans that all included hosting the event outdoors because they were “unsure of how COVID restrictions would change as the months progressed.” In a joint statement earlier this week, they said the district was determined to “make sure that the Class of 2021 had the prom they deserved” and that the hard work was all “worth it in the end.”

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“This class has been through so much over the past year and a half, and we wanted them to be able to enjoy this classic high school event as ‘normally’ as possible with their friends,” they said. “We were so thrilled that we were able to host the prom at a venue that allowed us to do so.”

While searching for a viable location outside of Livingston to host the event, Costanzo and Rocco said they were fortunate to come across The Lot in West Orange, which allowed students to maintain a proper distance from each other while dancing without ever feeling like they were in a parking lot.

Noting that safety “was very high on [their] priority list when planning the event,” they added that all students were required to either be vaccinated against COVID-19, test negative for COVID-19 within 24 hours of the event or present proof of having tested positive within the last 90 days in order to attend. In order to simplify the testing process, LHS hosted a MediMobile Testing Site a day prior to the event.

“It was our pleasure to organize this event for our senior class,” they said. “We were just so happy that the class could all come together after so many months of being apart. Seeing the students smiling, dancing and enjoying time with their friends before graduation was priceless. Students have been coming up to us saying how much fun they had, and we have been so glad to hear such positive feedback.”

Class of 2021 senior class officer Ronni Agmoni also commented on the “hard and non-traditional” planning of the event, stating that “finding a venue that would host the entire grade as well as abiding by the people gathering laws that were in place” were among the most challenging aspects.

"With COVID, many times we had to work with what we had, and many times what we had wasn’t much,” she said. “We took it day by day, waiting until restrictions were lifted, hoping something would give us a better chance of hosting prom.”

Agmoni expressed gratitude on behalf of her class toward the administration and especially toward Rocco and Costanzo, who she called “the true engines of this entire event.”

“If it wasn’t for their resilience and dedication, none of this would have happened,” she said. “Even if prom this year is different and non-traditional, we should be grateful that we had a team as fortunate as this one to make it all happen for us."

Mark Stern, who served as acting principal at LHS for the majority of the academic year prior to taking over as assistant superintendent for the district, praised Costanzo and Rocco as well as recently appointed principal Danielle Rosenzweig for the success of the celebration.

“Once guidelines were listed, it was really already April; and I don’t mean listed, I mean once guidelines changed and really allowed for the outdoor prom," said Stern. "It was really the three of them who took charge of this and made it happen...

"The most rewarding part for me was actually showing up to this beautiful event and seeing everybody decked out and having a great time. That, to me, is what senior year of high school is all about, so I could not have been more excited for that.”

Stern added that he “could not be happier for everyone involved” and that he looks forward to continuing to celebrate the Class of 2021 throughout the month of June.

“I think the most important thing was trying to get everyone together and to be able to unite as a class,” he said. “The idea that this class has persevered through a really tough year and a half, they have earned every ounce of celebrating that we’re going do together, and I just look forward to just spending that time together with this class.”

Additional events will be held throughout the month to honor the seniors leading up to their graduation on June 24. 

Amarachukwu Uzondu is a senior at LHS who is currently participating in the 2021 Senior Internship Program, during which LHS students have been invited to serve as interns at businesses across the community. 

TAPinto Livingston owner/managing editor Danielle Santola contributed to this article. 

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