Student-led Celebration Focuses on Friendship, Acceptance and Entertainment

Anna Kutz, Life Editor

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Every year, prom season rolls around. And every year, only a few guest dates permeate the crowd of Edwardsville students. But New Friends Prom, a Key Club and student council run event, is the exception: FLS students from the metro-east area mingle together for a night of dancing.

 

This year, it will be held at EHS on April 6.

 

“New Friends Prom is an fun evening for high school level students who have special needs,” said Michael Taplin, student council president. “Students from the Metro-East area are invited and over one hundred students attended (last year.)”

 

And while prom might seem menial to upperclassmen, it’s something extremely special to those who participate. These students might not be able to attend their own prom, and that’s why it matters so much, according to senior Key Club member Kylie Chiapelli.

 

“It’s all about inclusion. I love to see people of different abilities and from different schools all coming together to have fun and make memories,” she said. “It’s one of those rare times where you feel free and know that it is a judgment free zone.”

 

The event’s sole purpose isn’t just making memories and friends, however. To the students who spend countless hours organizing and planning a new theme each year (Dr. Seuss this time around) it’s about spreading acceptance.

 

“New Friends Prom is not only about making new friends, it is about respecting and understanding their disabilities . . .” Taplin said. “Nobody should feel left out from their high school prom; some girls in our FLS program dream of putting on their favorite dress for a night of fun.”

 

And this dream-fulfilling soiree is cherished by both the students who participate and those who help to bring it together. For Taplin, whose brother helped to start it back in 2012, the event is like no other.

 

“I am beyond proud to lead a council of hard working individuals,” Taplin said. “They put on homecoming, Mr. EHS, Beauty Week, etc., but the number one rewarding event is New Friends Prom.”

 

And for the Key Club members like Chiapelli, the dance holds a special place in their hearts because of the joy it brings to their friends.

 

When a guest arrives at New Friends Prom, each student is announced and greeted with a round of applause. The smiles that she watches blossom makes it the most important night in her high school career and maybe that’s why she thinks it will be so hard to leave behind.

 

“I’m expecting to be a little emotional this year,” she said. “It’s my favorite high school event and it will be my final one. (But) I am very excited, especially since I will be surrounded by my favorite people.”

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Student-led Celebration Focuses on Friendship, Acceptance and Entertainment