Prom 2011: Party Planning
Local high school students gear up for the annual rite of passage.
High school prom is the stuff from which teenage memories are made. It has been a rite of passage for generations.
Speak with anyone involved and you’ll hear stories of planning, excitement, stress and expense all rolled into a three-hour event. No doubt, it is a big deal.
“This is THE big event of the year," said Elena Diberardinis, a senior at Annapolis High School. “It’s like homecoming times 10.”
All 12 high schools in Anne Arundel County have prom dates in May this year. Annapolis High celebrates its prom, titled “Elegance,” on May 20, with students choosing the theme and decorations to reflect the concept.
Proms (short for “promenade,” a reference to formal dances) gained prominence in the 1920s, with parents and educators using them as an exercise of manners and social skills.
In those days, prom took place in the school gym and music was provided by a record player or local band. Girls wore a nice dress, while boys wore a jacket and tie.
Promgoers from that era most likely would not recognize the evolution of this event. Even the parents of this year’s high school seniors seem to have a tough time grasping its scope.
“I grew up here and graduated from South River,” said Elena’s mom Laura Diberardinis, South River High class of 1983. “In the last 20 years, prom has become a huge production.”
A typical prom night will start with groups of students gathering at a home for light refreshments and photos. From there, they travel to the prom venue, which for Annapolis High is the BWI Marriott. Some students choose to rent limousines or luxury buses for transport as a group.
Once at prom, students dance to music provided by a DJ and enjoy a dinner buffet. Proms kick off anywhere from 7 to 8 p.m. and are over by 10 p.m. or later. After prom, many school's parent associations sponsor a prom breakfast at the school gym.
Annapolis High’s prom breakfast is from midnight to 2 a.m. in the school gym, and will have a beach theme along with music, food and couches to relax on after a night of dancing.
“The whole idea behind the breakfast is to provide the kids a safe place to come to and hang out after prom,” said Laura Diberardinis.
In recent years, the Annapolis High prom breakfast has also featured raffles for electronic items donated by local merchants and picture displays featuring the seniors.
Mary Lappe, Assistant Principal at Annapolis High School, said prom is an exercise in financial responsibility and planning.
“For many students, prom is the thing," Lappe said. "Graduation is important to the kids, but there aren’t as many options for student planning in a graduation ceremony. With prom, kids have a say in how the event looks, what they are going to do and how they present themselves. They also have to plan for their expenses.”
Fundraising for prom begins when a class enters ninth grade. Over four years, a class sets aside money in preparation for prom expenses. When they start their senior year, a committee of class officers and student volunteers, guided by the class sponsor and interested faculty members, plans the event.
Prom ticket prices are determined by how much money the class has been able to save subtracted from the projected cost.
There are fundraising opportunities for students to earn tickets and Lappe said the school always helps out when there is a need, on a case-by-case basis. At Annapolis High, about 400 people attend prom.
“It is a magical night," Lappe said. "Seeing them dressed up and presenting themselves as young adults, that’s the exciting part. As an administrator, I see them every day at school, but you see a different side of them at prom. It is one of the most special events of the year.”