Cody St. Antoine, a 17-year-old Apollo-Ridge student, posed for prom pictures with his date at Lenape Heights Golf Resort in Manor and smiled broadly while signing the word “friends.”
He and his date, Michaela “Mikey” Boston, were among 102 students enrolled in life skills classes from nine school districts who attended the prom on Friday. Students in a life skills program have intellectual disabilities.
Cody often communicates visually rather than verbally.
Prom kings and queens were crowned from each school: Kittanning, Freeport, Marion Center, Penns-Manor, Blairsville-Saltsburg, Apollo-Ridge, Homer Center, New Story and Indiana.
John Hughes, 17, of Freeport High School, wore his crown proudly.
“I was surprised,” he said, adjusting it to sit comfortably on his head when he returned to his table.
Autumn Stone, 18, of Freeport, ended up with two crowns. The first was a tiara she had worn there to complement her pale pink gown. The other was bestowed on her along with the title of prom queen.
The annual prom collaboration between the schools began 20 years ago in Marion Center with a life skills teacher, Rhonda Reinholtz. It was a way for her to teach students social graces, said Bob Truscello of the ARIN Intermediate Unit in Indiana.
That first formal event originated with one class of 12, and it kept growing from there, Truscello said.
Kevan Landstrom, who teaches life skills classes at Kittanning High School, said local sponsors and volunteers helped make the day a success.
Close to 100 high school students from the schools volunteered to accompany their classmates to the prom.
Apollo-Ridge students Gillian Tones, a senior, and Alyssa Johns, a sophomore, volunteered as chaperones, accompanying Carlos Baines to the prom.
“It’s really sweet,” Tones said. “I love working with special needs kids. A lot of them don’t know each other, but they make friends fast. They make the best of everything and are so happy.
“They have such great hearts.”
Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or [email protected].