Devastated by news prom is canceled, a group of seniors at Lincoln-Way East High School in south suburban Frankfurt are taking to the Internet for help, hoping to put on an independent event instead in July.
District 210 canceled the annual spring dance because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In an email to NBC 5, superintendent Scott Tingley says, "This spring has been full of disappointment for our students, particularly our seniors. This is not the way that the seniors deserve to end their high school career."
Dr. Tingley says prom typically draws 1,000 attendees, and "due to the current environment, it seems very unlikely that gatherings of 1,000 people, while maintaining current social distancing guidelines, would be allowed in the near future."
Students are choosing to remain optimistic, with some student council members banding together to plan a summer event instead. They are collecting donations through an online fundraiser to secure an event space and pay for a DJ and seated dinner.
"In just two days we raised $4,000. We just want to keep that momentum going," said Lincoln-Way senior Caellin Flaherty, who assures donors the money will be refunded should a stay-at-home order be extended.
Another senior, David Vargas, says an online survey shows demand for a prom is high, and even parents are on board.
"It’s not just us. It’s the whole community trying to help and push and collaborate together," said Vargas. "There’s a big push for it."
Another organizer, Sophia Martello, says above all it's a chance to say goodbye to the classmates they've spent time with over the last four years.
"It’s the one last thing you have together besides graduation," said Martello. "It'’s been really difficult I think for all of us. We had our last day of school without even knowing."
Meanwhile, when in-person gatherings just aren't possible, a local company is helping high schoolers hit major milestones, while still adhering to social distancing guidelines. My School Dance, a subsidiary of Merriville-based Think Tank Networking Technology Group, is putting on virtual proms across the country.
"While they’re listening to our DJ's, the students can chat with other kids around the country, but they can also interact with their friends in different video platforms they choose," said My School Dance Chief Operating Officer, Taylor Buckley.
The virtual proms are hosted by time zones, but students from across the country are invited to attend any free event, with donations to "No Kid Hungry" encouraged. The next "virtual prom" is Saturday, May 2.
Although computer screens won't replace the real thing, Buckely says virtual prom is facilitating connections for isolated teenagers.
"What the kids are really missing is the interconnection and the relationships," said Buckley. "It’s allowing kids to expand their network and meet other people."