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Draper Journal

Senior prom takes on whole new meaning

Mar 27, 2019 01:34PM ● By Julie Slama

At the Cedarwood of Sandy senior prom, 101-year-old Mary Ida Hunt danced all night, as seen here swaying with Corner Canyon High student Arik Manwaring. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Couples, dressed in their finery, were dancing under the lights and disco balls to the deejay as he played a little this and that — from today’s pop songs like Cupid’s “Cupid Shuffle” to the 1970s and 1980s hits of Wham’s “Wake Me Up” and Village People’s “YMCA,” from Elvis’ 1950s hit “Jailhouse Rock,” to even back earlier with the Andrews Sisters’ “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and “Chattanooga Choo Choo.”

Even though this senior prom had a king and queen who swayed to the last dance together, it took on a twist. It included both senior high school students and senior citizens dancing together.

“We are having a ball,” said 101-year-old Mary Ida Hunt. “What’s not to like? We have music, we have dancing and we have high school guys.”

The Cedarwood at Sandy senior living community hosted local high school students from Corner Canyon and Alta high schools to their prom night of the “Roaring ’20s” on Feb. 28, where Hunt, a 1938 high school graduate, danced the Charleston, the rock, the two-step — and even “YMCA.”

Cedarwood Executive Director Jesse Buntjer had hoped for this outcome.

“We wanted seniors in high school to connect with seniors in our community,” he said. “The two generations can laugh, dance and have fun together and make this milestone memorable.”

The two generations also took part in the preparations as Cedarwood’s senior resident council and members of Corner Canyon High’s 35-member Peer Leadership Team (PLT) met beforehand.

“PLT is a service-learning class where they are out in the community, gaining experience serving others so they can build the skills they need to take up leadership roles and gain a better sense of community,” Corner Canyon teacher Russ Boyer said. “They learn cooperation, collaboration, critical thinking — skills they can use in college and throughout their lives — and they can find something they’re passionate about, which they can contribute to at the same time.”

Senior Corrine Tousley was one of four students who helped plan the event, which not only featured dancing, but talent of the prom guests, as well as a photo booth with pearls, feathered headbands and boas and other props.

“We typically help with Head Start and Meals on Wheels, but when they came to us, I was super excited,” she said. “Our teacher thought it was a fun idea and I love the elderly, and often go visit on my own time, so I wanted to be involved. I think it’s a great opportunity to interact with the elderly. I love hearing stories; there is so much value uniting our generations.”

Joining Tousley with the planning were classmates Sophie Chernosky, Kiara D’Amico and Madison Gastelo.

In addition, some Alta High students attended, guests of the Corner Canyon students, including Alta High’s student body president Traven England, who was named prom king.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” the Alta senior said. “A friend invited me to come and I was just expecting to dance since I used to be on the ballroom team. It’s just awesome to have fun with these residents in our community.”

Cedarwood’s Kristi Nielsen was honored with a crown and sash as the prom queen. Her sisters, Karla Ney and Karen Neilsen, were among those who clapped for her.

“Everybody loves her,” said Ney, who also is Cedarwood’s resident council president. “She’s mentally challenged, but her smile draws people near her. She wasn’t able to go to high school back then and our family didn’t have money, so this is our first prom. It’s been incredible whether we’re 82 or 18. It’s such a happy time with the residents all dressed up dancing with these darling young people who came here to join us. It’s just been amazing.”

Before their dance together as king and queen, several others were getting in their kicks, including Mary Lou Banks, who will be 87 in April.

“We had sock hops and Sadie Hopkins at the end of the school year, prom — but nothing like this. It’s a lot of fun,” she said.

Corner Canyon’s Tousley said it was planned as “a fun and lighthearted way to bridge the age groups together.”

With smiles all around and several students dancing the night away with the seniors, resident Florence Roberts was just beaming as she was one of the last on the dance floor.

“It’s a ball of fun,” she said. “It’s just uplifting at a time in our lives, when we don’t think it’s ours anymore — this is just wonderful. It brings back memories of dances. I never went to prom, but now I have.”