FAIRFIELD, NJ — Eighty-five Gramon Family of Schools students walked down the red carpet to their “Red Carpet Affair” prom on Friday.
“Students were so excited all day,” said Michael Farrelly, principal of New Beginnings, one of the three Gramon Family of Schools, which serve children, adolescents and young adults with special needs.
The New Beginnings’ school and gymnasium were transformed into a red carpet affair with decorations, photo booth and music provided by DJ Jill.
Students and teachers danced to the Electric Slide, the Cha Cha Slide, Cotton Eyed Joe and a mixture of fast and slow songs while wearing glow-in-the-dark necklaces. The hallway was lined with stars that displayed the names of each student, and the entranceway to the red carpet was decorated with a red balloon arch.
Students enjoyed a sit-down dinner that was prepared by classmates and served by faculty. Nolan, a student, said that the food was good, and fellow student Jonathan especially liked the chicken fingers with the honey mustard dipping sauce.
A popular prom feature was the photo booth with its props of frames, fake money and mustaches. Another student, Andrew, said he was excited to get together with his friends to enjoy the photo booth and the music.
Students remained after school on Friday to get ready for the prom. Faculty helped them get dressed and did hair and makeup for the girls. Boutonnieres and corsages were provided by the school.
The students were also taken on a ride around town in a party bus and then brought back to the school. They then walked from the party bus, down the red carpet to the prom.
Parents, who said they were just as excited about the prom as the students, were given dinner in the Gramon School, where they stayed to watch a montage of photos taken at New Beginnings.
“This is a great opportunity for our children to have a chance to experience the normal things in life,” said Safiyyah Muhammad, a parent of an 18-year-old student. “They have a right to have the same opportunities for recreation, fun and the experiences of making choices.”
She said she took her son shopping for his clothes and shoes and allowed him to pick them out on his own. Although his choices would not have been her first, she said her son was thrilled with his choices.
She added that he paid for everything with his own debt card. She continued to say how much her son loves the Gramon Family of Schools, expressing that “the school is like home.”
Fellow parent Henrique Hutchinson said his son has been at this school from four years old to 20 and that the Gramon Family of Schools is like his son’s second home.
Hutchinson said that the prom is very exciting, and that his son was excited for days because he knew what was going on. His father also said they went to a specialty shop for clothes because his son is so tall and thin. His sisters, Akena and Nahila, also attended to see their brother all dressed up for the event.
“I love that they did this for our children,” said parent Lisa McCroy. “It’s such a good experience.”
McCroy said her older son had his prom last year, and now her younger son had this chance to experience the same thing.
“It is nice to be included in something that is normal because it is a real challenge to have autism,” she said.
An observer said the kids had “a great experience thanks to the hard work of the staff at the Gramon Family of Schools.”
“The kids had a great time dancing,” she said. “Music for a lot of the students is a great way for them to express themselves. We have some great dancers and singers in the school. It was a great night for students and staff.”
Prom committee members include: Keira Meli, Melissa Fernandez, Jessica Barragan, Stephanie Bradford, Marcia Podvey, Dana Monto, Amanda Phelps, Janet Ellis and Heather Berger.