- Sponsorship -

Students, Community and People with Disabilities Voice Solidarity Through Best Prom Ever


The atmosphere inside the Sparta High School cafeteria crackles with excitement.

Hundreds of people fill the room wearing natty suits, fashionable tuxedos and elegant evening gowns while enjoying a lasagna meal, taking selfies, cutting a rug on the dance floor and tooling around town in limousines.

But not Andrew Grettenberger.

The Sparta senior is clad in a gray Sparta High School T-shirt. A walkie-talkie drapes his neck in case he needs to respond to requests for help.

Like the others, Andrew is at the Best Prom Ever, an annual dinner dance for teens and adults with any disability that drew 900 people from around the region to enjoy a night out at no cost.

But for students like Andrew, Best Prom Ever is a service-learning project. That means he and his classmates plan the annual dinner-dance, starting a year in advance. He’s a student of special education teacher Renne Wyman’s program for those with mild cognitive impairments.

Andrew has attended seven Best Proms, and this is the final one he helped plan.

Getting Happy

“Planning the prom means selling the idea to vendors and having fun, and that’s the best part,” Andrew said. “Some people may be in a wheelchair, and getting out to the prom makes them happy.

“The main thing is I’m helping and running around the building, and I do sweat a lot.”

Andrew indicates he would like to say more, but he receives a call on his two-way radio and politely excuses himself.

Months before the prom, Wyman’s students learn how to promote the event on social media, contact vendors and cold call businesses that may sponsor the cost of the prom.

“I could teach this in the classroom, but it’s not as real as when they need to purchase something and need to check seven stores in Grand Rapids,” Wyman said.

Sophomore Kayle Bigelow agrees with Wyman. She immersed herself in planning the prom, helped oversee the decorations, ordered balloons and tables, called people to sponsor and called again to thank them for their donations.

She proved to herself she can juggle a number of details and get them done, she said.

Sparta students help plan the prom, but its reputation precedes itself for what it means to people who don’t mix socially with others very often.

“Many are in group homes and don’t enjoy many fun recreational activities,” Wyman said. “We’re providing an event free of charge for people underserved in the broader community.”

Community Camaraderie

There’s an even broader purpose of Best Prom Ever, she added. A spirit of camaraderie occurs when the school district and the community at large that spans five counties —Kent, Ottawa, Ionia, Kalamazoo and Montcalm — work in solidarity.

“The community of Sparta comes alive and falls in love with this project and more to the point, the people who attend it,” Wyman said.

“There is a hunger in this community to have connections made, to inspire and express joy and emotion. It’s as memorable a night for volunteers as it is for the guests.”

And sometimes it’s just about having fun.

For junior Jerry Scott, who’s wearing a snazzy navy blue suit, sky blue shirt and striped tie, the Best Prom Ever is a chance to demonstrate what he’s capable of on the dance floor.

“I have some moves,” Jerry said. “I can do the sprinkler and mow the lawn.”

CONNECT

Best Prom Ever

Last Year’s Best Prom Ever: Projects Help Special Needs Students Learn, Gain Confidence

Michigan Radio story: Teens with disabilities cut loose at “Best Prom Ever”

- Sponsorship -

LATEST ARTICLES

Fourth-grader’s pickle stand inspired by school marketplace

‘With my tiny fingers, I am good at stuffing them,’ said the young pickle peddler. ‘You can see how they are packed in, so you get more for the money’...

Looking for classroom lessons in the great outdoors

Sally Triant is exploring every GRPS campus in the city, looking for places to turn the outdoors into an educational opportunity...

Home schooling inquiries grow as parents ponder how to meet children’s needs

The pandemic has caused parents to seek options for schooling and socialization. For some, home schooling becomes an option, while others create new ways to help their children...

GRPS to continue virtual-only instruction for rest of semester

GRPS leaders decided to extend the district's 100 percent virtual learning model for the rest of the first semester after the Kent County Health Department announced rapidly rising COVID-19 positivity rates...

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Homecoming, modified

The coronavirus pandemic has forced school districts to make changes to the ways they celebrate some annual traditions...

Restoring the land, one tree at a time

Appleview Elementary students and other community volunteers are helping bring back native plants to a section of land around their school, thanks to local grants and the efforts of a retired teacher...

New VP says ‘It feels like joining a family’

Aaron Romoslawski is the new vice principal of Sparta High School. He takes over for Stacey Rumsey, who was named Sparta High School principal last spring...
- Sponsorship -

HOW'S SCHOOL TODAY?

Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...

RADEMACHER & FRIENDS

Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -

MEDIA PARTNERS

Maranda Where You LiveWGVU

SUSTAINING SPONSORS