Students helping seniors; Two days after students enjoy formal dance, gym transformed into true 'senior' prom
It was a tradition once at Weehawken High School. Some 30 years ago or so, Weehawken High School's gymnasium was transformed into the setting for a semi-formal dinner-dance for the students who weren't able to attend the Senior Prom. Then, after the students filed out of the gym, it became the parents' turn. They decorated the gym and they had their own dress-up dance, called the "Parents' Prom." Like many other traditions, the idea of the Weehawken semi-formal - and the Parents' Prom, for that matter - went by the wayside. A lack of interest, perhaps. A sign of changing times as well. However, some of the school's students expressed the interest to bring back the semi-formal dance this year and combining it with Junior Prom, which also hadn't been held at the school in ages. "We decided to take a step back and do it again," said Richard Terpak, the school's athletic director and Peer Pride counselor. "Use the concept that we once had and decorate the gym." The idea drew nearly 200 students from grades 9-12 to the new Semi-Formal. Since the gym was nicely decorated and everything was in place, the students who helped to organize the event decided that it might be a nice thing to keep the gym intact for a few days, then turn the gym into sort of a Senior Prom for the township's senior citizens. "There are a lot of senior citizens in the town that don't get a chance to have a night like this," said Weehawken High School senior Chris Gohde, one of the organizers of the event. "It's a great feeling to be able to give back." So the students, from the school's Student Council and Peer Pride groups, invited the senior citizens and allowed them to have a prom of their own. The township and the township's Senior Citizens Department thought it was such a wonderful idea that it decided to donate all the food for the event, as well as hire a disc jockey to spin some tunes. "The idea really took off," Terpak said. "Carmela Facchini (the director of the township's Senior Citizens Department) was a big help, arranging the transportation for the seniors. Louisa Camporeale, who works in the school cafeteria, really came through by preparing all the food. And we had a lot of volunteers who were willing to help out. Especially the students. It was a day off from school, but they still came back to help out. The students were dancing with the seniors and they all had a really good time." Approximately 125 seniors came out for their Senior Prom. "The seniors all had a great time and were so grateful," Terpak said. "They were lined up to get in and usually, with an event like this, the seniors want to go home early. But it was 9:30 at night and no one wanted to go home. They were all going strong." "It felt good to see the smiles on their faces," Gohde said. "I had fun, dancing with the ladies to the songs they love, like Frank Sinatra. I listen to Sinatra. I loved it. Hopefully, when I'm older, there are students around who will be willing to do that for me. I really enjoyed myself." Student Council president John Grossi was asked to dance, but he kind of declined. "I was more like hanging out," Grossi said. "Although I would be able to dance more to the music of that era, I can't dance." That was fine. The seniors loved their version of the Senior Prom all the same. "It went over so well that we're already talking about doing it again next year," Terpak said. So much for dead traditions.