There are certain milestones in a young person’s life and two of them happen almost one after another. There is, of course, graduation from high school, that chapter in your life when your choices become your own and you have a voice in your future. Right before that moment of adulthood, usually a couple of weeks before, is prom.
That word stirs up so many memories, sometimes more long-lasting than the moment you are handed your diploma.
It is the more widely known, shortened version of promenade which is the formal, introductory parading of guests at a party.
It is, for lack of a better term, the last get together you will have with those you have spent your formative years with as you all grew into adulthood. It is the social end to the journey of youth without the pomp and circumstance.
Some choose not to go to the event for their own reasons. And then there are those, for one circumstance or another, who do not have the opportunity to go.
Pierre Amilcar, a Roselle Park High School (RPHS) senior who graduated tonight along with his peers in the Class of 2015, prom was something he always wanted to do but was afraid he was never going to experience.
Enter RPHS Junior Caitlin Gibson.
Pierre and Caitlin met when she took part in a program to reach out to students who, either because of class schedules or special education program implementation, do not regularly interact with the general school population. From the beginning of the school year, the two groups of students would meet during lunch periods or study hall and hang out, getting to know each other as peers. As the year went on, they became friends. Caitlin did not take part in the program out of vanity. It came from a place of understanding, having an uncle who is autistic.
As the senior year was coming to an end for Pierre, Caitlin and he were talking about plans to celebrate the end of high school.
It was then that Pierre confided in his friend and told her, “I always wanted to go to the prom and dance but I don’t have anyone to go with.”
“Yes you do,” Caitlin responded, “You have me. I’ll be your date. I think it’d be great if we went to the prom together.”
Both of them worked to get everything ready. Pierre got his suit ready and spiffed up a bit. Caitlin looked for the perfect dress, and had her hair, makeup, and nails professionally done. She even ordered him a boutonnière.
Then, on Thursday, May 28th, amid Roselle Park’s townwide impromptu gala of suits and dresses and boutonnières and corsages, a young man and a young woman – two friends – met on her family’s lawn to have their pictures taken by family and friends and prepare to go to prom. Even some of Pierre’s teachers showed up to take pictures and be photographed with the Man and Woman of the Hour.
When asked how he felt, Pierre was honest and said one word, “Nervous.”
But through the nervousness both of them felt about the formal event they were to take part in was another word – joy. And once all the ‘just one more’ photographs were taken, they headed out together.
And as for the prom? Well, they danced, and danced, and danced.
Pierre and Caitlin shared in creating a memory they will never forget.
“It was a blast!”, Caitlin recalled of that night.
Pierre said of his prom, “It was great!”
Reaching out to Pierre on the afternoon of his graduation and asking him how he felt about it, he responded again, “Nervous.”
The life ahead – not only for Pierre and Caitlin but all of us – is meant for making memories. Pierre, with the help of his friend Caitlin, has made some very good ones and he is on his way to creating more.
(Photographs courtesy of Gina Santangelo)