Year after year, students anticipate the annual gala known as prom. And for exceptional high schoolers across Iredell County, that eagerness was no different as they awaited Thursday’s event at the Charles Mack Citizen Center.
Donning their sharpest suits and smiles, exception children from ninth through 12th grade attended the EC Prom – an annual occasion welcoming EC students, teachers and chaperones for a magical event designed with their needs, desires and fun at the forefront.
“It is fun,” said Reece Williams, a senior at North Iredell High School. Wearing a dapper blazer jacket as well as an NC State bowtie -- his father’s alma mater -- Williams said he was excited to attend another prom after several years of doing so. “And I get to take a break after the Special Olympics.”
Fellow North Iredell senior O’Darious Redmond shared the excitement, eager to dance for a few hours, “I’ve been looking forward to it all month.”
Williams and Redmond were just two of the more than 250 attendees on Thursday, including EC students, parents, teachers, additional chaperones and student volunteers.
Prom guests arrived at 11 a.m. and were welcomed by the blues and silvers of 2018’s theme, “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.” Kids ran, rolled and strolled into a prom pathway of balloons, greeted by cheers. This year’s event included ample dancing alongside a DJ, a catered lunch of sandwiches and snacks, a photo booth and ice cream bar.
The student-run Friends 4 Change club at Lake Norman High School yearly designs and organizes the celebration, starting planning discussions as early as the beginning of the school year.
Friends 4 Change, said one of the club’s presidents, Lake Norman senior Nicole Kennedy, “is all about breaking the social barrier” between students. Friends 4 Change increases inclusivity through school-day lunches and gym time as well as weekend bowling, Special Olympics participation and the LAMB 5K. However, the biggest event each year is prom hosted specifically for EC high schoolers.
“We do not just throw this prom for my club’s students. We invite Mooresville High, North and South Iredell High, Statesville High and others,” said Kennedy, noting formal invitations are shared with every high school throughout Iredell County as they each have similar clubs with the same ideals. “We do this because these kids never go to a real prom because they are scared so we believe that everyone needs to go to prom.”
Although fear can occasionally play a hand, Lake Norman EC teacher Trevor Batchelor said some students choose not to attend schoolwide prom for other reasons, such as parent preference, environmental triggers or even allergies, which EC Prom can manage better.
“Our students look forward to prom every year. They start talking about it around Christmas,” he said, noting that it brings significant joy to the classroom. “Our high school students are just like any other high school student. They talk about their dresses and what they’re going to wear.”
Batchelor said this event shows great community and countywide support for EC students -- from the donations that make prom possible to the many schools that come together on one day for dancing and celebration.
Kennedy agrees, noting all the hard work -- including by her fellow Friends 4 Change presidents and club members -- is always worth it, “I feel so good setting it up because I know it’s going to turn out successful.”