Linda Nolen Center students just dance

Published 9:32 pm Sunday, March 29, 2009

It looked just like any other prom.

There were dates, stylish dresses and some serious dance moves.

But the prom Friday at Linda Nolen Learning Center was anything but traditional.

The school serves students with severe physical, mental or emotional needs. The dance was a chance to forget about all that for the afternoon and just have fun.

“I think it’s very special and sweet,” said Stefanie Meeks, whose daughter Ellie attends LNLC. “It’s something big like all the other schools have.”

Teachers started planning the prom back in December, knowing they wanted to go all out. The center moves to the old Bradford Health System building in Pelham next year.

“We kind of wanted to do it bigger, being the last one here,” said Katie Boyd, adaptive physical education teacher. “I couldn’t have anything less for our kids.”

Boyd and other teachers transformed the school’s auditorium into a winter wonderland, filled with snowflakes, balloons and strands of blue and white lights.

“It’s been awesome,” said student Aquil Farrington, 10. “I like to dance … that’s my favorite hobby.”

Parents say the prom and other events at the center give their children a sense of normalcy, in spite of the challenges they face.

“It makes them a part of society,” said James Russell, whose son Kelly was named prom king. “They don’t hide the kids like they use to. They really care.”

Kelly suffered a stroke as a fetus and started attending the center as a toddler. The 21-year-old will graduate from the school in May. James and his wife, Paula, say Kelly has come a long way during his time at LNLC.

“It’s been a great program,” said James. “They continue to help him with his communication. There are lots of things he can do.”

John and Stefanie Meeks are grateful for the school too. Their 8-year-old daughter has a rare genetic disorder that slows her development.

“I think Ellie is getting as much attention as she deserves here,” said John. “Who knows, maybe one day she can aspire to be prom queen?”