LNLC students dance among the fish at annual prom

Bright blue streamers, colorful fish, music and lights transformed the cafeteria at the Linda Nolen Learning Center into an undersea adventure for the annual prom April 2. Several teachers wearing their teal “Underwater Fantasy” prom T-shirts danced with students, swaying and twirling their kids or holding hands in a circle as they all moved to the music.

Like most proms, the one at LNLC included refreshments, dancing and a prom king and queen. But this prom was also a chance for the LNLC students to engage in physical and sensory therapy. The LNLC currently serves around 120 students with special needs from the ages of three until 21.

“It’s a great sensory experience. It’s a chance for them to have free time and explore. The social aspect is different at the prom, because the kids get to interact with peer helpers from other schools,” said Laura Wren, a preschool teacher.

One of her students, 5-year old Chakaron Shamburger, doesn’t usually respond well to strangers, said Wren.

“But today he’s been dancing with a girl he’s never met before,” she said.

This is the first year that preschoolers have attended the prom. To keep it from being too overwhelming for her students, preschool teacher Jennifer Kiser prepared her students before they came in.

“I told them there would be lots of people. And I brought them by the cafeteria to see it change as the decorations were put up all week,” she said.

Once her students arrived at the prom, they knew exactly what to do. “We’re always singing and dancing in my class, so they’re used to this,” said Kiser.

Katie Boyd, an adaptive physical education teacher, organized the prom for the fourth year in a row.

“We talk about the prom throughout the year, especially at Christmas, getting the kids excited about it,” she said.

Her favorite part of the prom is seeing her students in their prom day outfits.

“I love to see the kids come up here all dressed up, wearing dresses and suits. Some of them dressed up for the Valentine’s Day dance, but we didn’t have any suits,” Boyd said.

Four-year-old Damion Kimbrough wore a tan suit jacket over a pink shirt and tie this year, but his mom Asterik Kimbrough said he didn’t want to dress up at first.

“Now that he’s here, he’s OK. He knows he’s spiffy,” Kimbrough said.

The prom lasted from 10 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Preschool through fifth grade students stayed until 11 a.m., then left to give the sixth through 12th grade students their turn to enjoy the party.

The LNLC selected Amie Miller, this year’s only graduating senior, to be prom queen and Channing Meredith, a senior who will leave the school next year, as prom king.