A Parisian Themed Prom for Bucks IU Students

Dozens of local stu­dents enjoyed “A Night in Paris” recent­ly dur­ing a fes­tive prom at the Bucks County Schools Intermediate Unit (Bucks IU) in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. More than 60 stu­dents, ages 17 to 21, took part in the cel­e­bra­tion. The Bucks IU offers edu­ca­tion­al pro­grams to stu­dents with autism, emo­tion­al needs, and mul­ti­ple dis­abil­i­ties at var­i­ous sites through­out Bucks County. But for this one night, stu­dents had a chance to enjoy the cama­raderie of danc­ing and mak­ing mem­o­ries with one anoth­er togeth­er under one roof.

The prom allows our stu­dents to expe­ri­ence a night with all the sup­ports they may need to make it suc­cess­ful, safe and fun,” said Joanna Davis, a Bucks IU Program Coordinator and prom team mem­ber. “We hope they feel safe and sup­port­ed to be who they are with no judgement.”

Students were dropped off at the Bucks IU Administrative Offices to great fan­fare, with spe­cial greet­ings by staff who met each stu­dent out­side the entrance and allowed them the oppor­tu­ni­ty to expe­ri­ence their own ver­sion of walk­ing the “red car­pet” and being announced upon arrival.

Many of the female stu­dents wore full-length gowns. They sashayed in with daz­zling hair­styles and fine­ly man­i­cured nails. The male stu­dents also donned for­mal attire – from sharp suits to dap­per tuxedos.

Parent Jennifer Roche was over­come with emo­tion as she watched her son, Ryan Natello, make his way toward the steps lead­ing to the prom being held on the sec­ond floor. “To see him get from the begin­ning to this point, it is quite an accom­plish­ment,” Roche said. “We are so proud of him.”

Once upstairs, Ryan, a senior at Quakertown Community High School, quick­ly found him­self caught up in the moment.

I like every­body danc­ing,” Ryan, 17, said as he moved to the beat of the music in the mid­dle of the event’s big ballroom.

Prom team mem­bers cre­at­ed the ball­room by con­sol­i­dat­ing the Bucks IU’s upstairs meet­ing and train­ing rooms into one big dance hall.

It was dec­o­rat­ed to fit the Parisian theme of the evening, with pink bal­loons and oth­er accents lin­ing the ballroom’s walls and ceilings.

At one end of the room was a pho­to sta­tion with a drape of the Eiffel Tower in Paris serv­ing as the back­drop. At the oth­er end of the ball­room was Dave Fox, Bucks IU Skills Trainer with Project SEARCH, who served as the prom’s disc jock­ey. “It’s impor­tant to do this,” said Fox. “It’s their chance to have their own Super Bowl.”

Brooke Rosenberg, a stu­dent in the Project SEARCH pro­gram, said she loved hav­ing a Paris-themed prom. “I said ‘Ooh la la,’” Brooke, 21, said. “The best part is hav­ing some­thing where we are com­ing togeth­er with friends.”

The Bucks IU has staged five proms since 2017, said Davis, a prom team mem­ber. Other prom team mem­bers includ­ed Hillary FitzMaurice, School Age Special Education Supervisor; Dawn Yeselavage and Sara Walsh, Program Coordinators; Anita Harris, Social Worker; and Rebecca Lawson, Social Worker.

Team mem­bers enlist­ed the help of more than 70 Bucks IU staff mem­bers from through­out the coun­ty who vol­un­teered their time to help sup­port this amaz­ing event. The vol­un­teers staffed food, snack, and drink sta­tions in the hall­way out­side of the ball­room. Others were assigned to sup­port­ing stu­dents as they made their way between the ball­room, food and drink sta­tions, and a new sensory-activity room.

This Prom embod­ies the true spir­it of inclu­siv­i­ty for our kids,” said Pennridge Superintendent Angelo Berrios, one of sev­er­al coun­ty edu­ca­tion offi­cials who stopped by to check out the fes­tiv­i­ties. “These are mem­o­ries that these stu­dents will cher­ish for the rest of their lives. Hats off to the Bucks IU.”

Dr. Mark Hoffman, Bucks IU Executive Director, beamed with pride as he watched the stu­dents enjoy­ing the fes­tiv­i­ties. Dr. Hoffman stat­ed, “Everywhere you see smiles, not just the young adults who are attend­ing the prom, but also the smiles on the adults who are hon­ored to work with them every day.”

The Bucks IU thanks the fol­low­ing Doylestown, Pennsylvania busi­ness­es for their sup­port in help­ing make this a spe­cial event for every­one: Maryanne’s Pastry Shoppe, Nat’s Pizza, Simply Fresh by Macaffrey’s, and Weis Markets.