At the Kirk School prom, seniors arrived in a stretch limousine, all decked out in stylish dresses and suits. The girls had their hair and nails done, and excitement was running high.
"Our students look forward to this night all year," says Principal Kim Dungan. "It's huge."
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In all, nearly 100 high school students attended the prom -- held at the Atlantis Banquets in Arlington Heights -- and they had just as many staff members and teachers on hand to help them enjoy the evening.
Kirk School in Palatine serves students with multiple disabilities, including autism, hearing and visual impairments, and cognitive and physical challenges. Yet, like their able-bodied peers, they love getting dressed up and going to the prom.
Just to hold the event, teachers at Kirk begin planning months ahead of time. Not just to line up the vendors, but to prepare and teach students in anticipation of the big night.
"It's a teaching moment," Dungan adds. "We see students do things here, that we never see at school."
She points to one student, who works with a gait trainer in order to advance his walking skills, but he didn't need it for the prom.
"We never see him bear weight at school," Dungan says, "but here, he practically ran into the room to get to his table."
Likewise, she points to another student who is hard to reach in school, but at the prom, she was engaged and animated.
Jill Anderson, one of the faculty chairpersons for the event, said students voted on the theme for the night: "Party Rock," taking its cue from the LMFAO song, "Party Rock Anthem."
They also chose the colors for the evening: purple, silver and black.
During class time, they practiced table manners and the art of making social conversation, as well as asking someone to dance. Girls in the school visited the Kirk lending closet, and chose from gently used prom dresses, and then two Kirk staff members made the alterations.
One week before the prom, students from Glenbrook High School came to Kirk for a pre-dance event, teaching students the latest dance moves and helping them learn the ropes of attending a dance.
"It's a big night for our students, but it truly is a community event," Dungan adds. "Nearly all of the vendors donate a good percentage of their services to help make this night possible for our students."
She points to the disc jockey, Dana Logsdon, photographer Gregory Delijewski and videographer Mike Feldman, who all return year after year. Alex Lambrou, owner of Atlantis Banquets, offers the room, food and wait staff services at a discounted rate.
Frank Davis and his 100 Percent Foundation help to sponsor the event, as well as employees from the Assurance Agency in Schaumburg, whose charitable arm has chosen the Kirk School prom as one of their prime charities.
"We support others like Shelter Inc. and the Northern Illinois Food Bank," said Heather Hodgerson of Bloomingdale, chairman of Assurance Caring Together. "But the Kirk prom is one we all love."