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May 01, 2012 | Luke Blount

Youth Group Hosts Prom for Special Needs Young Adults

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At a time when many high-schoolers were preparing for lavish high school proms, the youth of St. Andrew's, Pearland, decided sponsor a different kind of prom for special needs alumni from schools in Pearland and Alvin. On April 20, the prom night called “Enchanted Night Under the Sea,” allowed the special needs community to gather together, many for the first time since graduation.


Youth minster Jenn Neitzey met with Brenda Taylor who works with the local special needs population. Originally Neitzey wanted to work with the high school population, but Taylor recommended gathering alumni of the high schools as well. Special needs students age out of the school system at age 22, and after that, many of them don’t have an opportunity to see each other.


After discovering that many of the young adults love to dance, the youth group at St. Andrew’s decided to host a prom complete with music, pizza, door prizes and a photographer so that the youth group could send the participants pictures of their friends.


“It was amazing when they arrived,” Neitzey said. “They haven’t seen their friends in a long time, and they were thrilled, running up and hugging each other. It was beautiful.”


St. Andrew’s invited special needs people of all ages including current high school students. The youth group decorated the dance area, coordinated the event and danced with the attendees.


“I was so proud of my kids,” Neitzey said. “They were really great about interacting and making sure everyone was having a good time. If they saw someone off on their own, they would ask them to dance.”


For two hours everyone danced and caught up with old friends. One recent high school special needs graduate taught everyone how to do the “boot scootin’ boogie.”


“It was the most fun we’ve had at any event in a long time,” Neitzey said. “One of my youth, a ninth-grader, said ‘Ms. Jenn, this is the best dance I have ever gone to. School dances are never this fun!’ And I told her that was because the special needs people were just so open and loving. They weren’t trying to look cool or put on a show.”


According to Neitzey, watching that interaction was a real eye-opener. Even when the youth group announced door prizes, the special needs people were just as happy for their friends to win a prize as they were for themselves.


“This population has obviously been overlooked,” Neitzey said. “And this group and my youth group really clicked. It was a beautiful evening. I can’t say enough about this.”


St. Andrew’s plans to host a similar event sometime in the Fall.