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Friday night, more than 150 youth with disabilities will gather in Springfield for their own prom. KSMU's Missy Shelton reports.
What do you remember about your high school prom? That over-the-top dress you bought? The cheesy theme the prom committee picked? Or dancing the night away with that cute kid who was your date? Regardless of which details you remember, prom is a rite of passage for most young people. And tomorrow night, a prom will take place in Springfield that’s geared toward letting youth with disabilities experience that same rite of passage. Nathan Zoromski is a Youth Advocate for the Southwest Center for Independent Living and is organizing the prom. He joined me by phone to talk about this year’s event, the 4th of its kind here locally, and how this event got started.
Zoromski: It came about four years ago. We had regularly hosted smaller dances for our youth group and requests came in for something larger and more special, i.e. a prom. So, with a lot of support from our youth and their parents, we decided to host our first one. Since then, it’s grown tremendously both in participants and in support from the community, especially Ridgecrest Baptist Church which helps host it.Shelton: Why is it important to have a prom specifically for youth with disabilities?Zoromski: This prom is inclusionary, which means it’s open to youth with and without disabilities alike. But it’s definitely targeted for our specific youth population because many of them don’t feel comfortable going to their own prom or have other reservations. So, we try to make ours geared toward them so they have that special venue at which they can have a good time.Shelton: What accommodations will this prom event have that you might not see at a traditional prom?Zoromski: There is an array of disabilities that will be present. We’ll have interpreters there for those who have hearing disabilities. For those who may have frequent seizures, obviously, we’ll avoid having strobe lights. A lot of the youth require one-on-one assistance so we’ll have volunteers there to provide that if the parents are unable to attend. Some dietary accommodations have been made for youth with gluten free diets. We’ll have food there to meet those needs.Shelton: So, what will be the highlights of this prom?Zoromski: There is a special DJ out of Kansas City who’s kind of locally famous is bringing his break dance team to put on a show for our youth. The largest treat has always been the limo rides. This year, we’ll have two limos to give rides around the block. Those are always very popular with the youth.Shelton: I’m guessing that after doing this for a few years, you have some great memorable stories from previous proms.Zoromski: There are hundreds of memorable stories. From last year, we had a young man with Down’s syndrome who, unbeknownst to us, had always aspired to be a DJ. So, this professional DJ from Kansas City invited him up on the stage and they spent 15 or 20 minutes rocking out together and learned a lot from one another.Shelton: Nathan, I wish you all the best on the prom. Thanks for talking with me.Zoromski: I appreciate it.That’s Nathan Zoromski with the Southwest Center for Independent Living. He’s organizing a prom for youth with disabilities in Springfield. He’s expecting more than 150 young people with disabilities to attend the prom. Participants are asked to pre-register. We have a link to more information about the prom at our website, KSMU.org.