Nazareth hosts prom for teens with special needs

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Sunday, April 5, 2015

Nazareth hosts prom for teens with special needs

A guest and Nazareth student greeted each other. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
A guest to the prom gets her corsage from Michael Johannes. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Nazareth students greet their guests for the school's third Prom Night for Teens with Disabilities on March 7. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Shawn Spera gets his photo taken with Emma McGee. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Hope Murphy (blue dress) dances in the conga line with Joe Smith (to her right). (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Maddie Cahue poses with her buddy for the night Josh Sylvie. Sylvie was crowned prom king as a result of a random drawing. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

There were corsages for the girls and boutonnieres for the boys. There were buddies for the night, games and a photo booth. There was food and dancing and even a king and a queen. And last but not least, lots of smiling faces.

All of this was part of Nazareth Academy’s prom for teens with developmental disabilities held at the La Grange Park school on March 7. This was the third time Nazareth’s Friends in Service and Hospitality, called FISH, held the event.

FISH works during the school year with ASPIRE, a group that provides services to children and adults with developmental disabilities. Members from that group and teens with disabilities who attend area public high schools were invited to the prom. Fifty-three guests attended the event and more than 100 Nazareth students volunteered for the event.

Dates weren’t required for the prom and each guest was paired up with a “buddy” from Nazareth. When they entered the school Nazareth students gave the girls wrist corsages and pinned flowers on the boys’ jackets.

Parents of the guests could drop their son or daughter off or stay upstairs and socialize with other parents and watch the prom through a live feed on TV.

Nazareth principal Deborah Tracy said the students are “blown away” by the event and the school couldn’t take all of the students who wanted to volunteer.

“They just embrace it fully,” she said. “We do a lot of great things but this is walking the walk and not just talking it.”

Some of the guests have attended the prom before, like Shawn Spera, who has been to all three events.

“He loves to dance,” said Shawn’s mom, Alice Palach-Spera, a parishioner at St. Louise de Marillac Parish in La Grange Park. “It’s so nice that they can have a special prom like this.”

That Catholic school students put on the prom made Palach-Spera happy because students at Catholic schools don’t often get to know teens with special needs, she said, because the schools don’t have the funds for the extra staff to accommodate them.

“I was thrilled to find out they were doing this,” she said. “The students make it such a fun night for them.”

Maggie Harrington, a Nazareth senior and member of the prom’s steering committee, said she volunteered as a buddy during the previous prom and said it was “a really great experience.”

“The kids at Naz are so willing to jump in and do whatever is asked of us by campus ministry,” Harrington said. “We’ve heard some comments that this prom night is better than our own prom night.”

Local businesses supported the event by donating food and items for the gift bags given away to each guest.

Sister of St. Joseph Carol Crepeau, past president of Nazareth, said her congregation and the high school exist so “that all may be one.”

“On a night like this there are no lines, no divisions,” she said.

She noted the joy on the faces of young people in wheel chairs spinning around on the dance floor; how one guest who was 6 feet, 6 inches tall was going around comparing his height to everyone else, proud that he was the tallest; and another guest going around memorizing everyone’s names.

For the Nazareth students, “It’s good,” she said. “It’s probably one night in their lives when it’s 100 percent giving.”


  • catholic schools
  • nazareth academy
  • prom

Related Articles