Prom is something most high school students, especially seniors, look forward to and even dream about. That dream was shattered in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and some schools, including Lyons Township High School, again cancelled their proms this year.
But Riverside Brookfield High School seniors got to experience a quintessential high school rite of passage on May 27, when the school held a prom just for the senior class at the Hyatt Lodge in Oak Brook.
Like most things during this lingering pandemic, it didn’t go exactly as planned. The event was supposed to be held outdoors on a lit bridge overlooking a pond. But rain and temperatures in low 50s – following a solid week of perfect summer weather — forced the prom indoors.
“Obviously it wasn’t exactly the same, but it was still pretty good,” said senior Olivia Janunas. “Because of the weather, I didn’t mind very much.”
Most of the 260 seniors who attended the prom, 67 percent of the senior class, agreed. They let loose, jumped around, danced and, perhaps, most importantly, spent quality time with friends after spending a good part of the last year-plus hunkered down in their homes. For most, it was their one and only high school prom since last year’s was cancelled because of the pandemic.
“It’s been a long 15 months,” said RBHS Superintendent Kevin Skinkis, who attended his Nazareth High School senior prom at Hyatt Lodge in 1994. “It’s great to see these kids get back to some normalcy.”
While many high schools canceled their proms for the second straight year RBHS administrators, after getting feedback from students, were determined to make a prom happen if at all possible.
Attendees appreciated the effort, and the result.
“I’m really glad that they put something together, and I think we all appreciate that they scheduled something for us,” said Brenna Loftus, a member of the Prom Court. “Everything is starting to feel more normal.”
Jack Szymczak agreed.
“We’ve been stripped of a lot of stuff the last year and a half, and having a prom and seeing that the school is willing to put effort and money towards us having a somewhat normal experience, I think it’s good for all parties,” Szymczak said.
Although original plans stated that face masks were required when students arrived, they were told they could take off their masks if they wanted to and probably more than half did.
“Vaccinated students had the option based on updated guidance from [state health officials] on May 13 and the Hyatt on May 19,” said Dave Mannon the assistant principal for student affairs.
There was certainly no social distancing happening on the dance floor throughout the night. DJs started the night playing primarily hip hop, rap and contemporary pop. Not everyone liked that.
“I wish people would dance more and I wish they would have played more Spanish music,” said Arlette Latorre.
During the last hour the DJs played switched to classic pop and disco classics, including “Dancing Queen” by Abba, and Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.”
Prom goers were mostly just happy to see friends and classmates, some of whom they had not seen all year.
“I have not seen probably 70 percent of the people here all year,” said Jack Pitts, a member of the Prom Court.
You could forgive the seniors for thinking somehow they were a jinxed class. On top of COVID and pandemic lockdowns, when it looked like fair weather was certain, rain and cold drove their prom indoors and postponed their Friday night graduation until Saturday – dragging out a rough school year another day.
“It’s just the way the year has been, but it’s only going to get better with the summer coming,” Pitts said. “Everything will get better, eventually.”