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2021 senior class might have ‘normal’ celebrations

Prom, post-prom and graduation will all take place during the last weekend in May for the Huntington North High School's class of 2021. All events will take place at HNHS.
Prom, post-prom and graduation will all take place during the last weekend in May for the Huntington North High School's class of 2021. All events will take place at HNHS. Photo by Katelynn Farley.

On March 13, 2020, Huntington County Community School Corporation (HCCSC) superintendent Chad Daugherty announced that the corporation would be closed until April 10, 2020, due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

At that time, the impression was that students would be able to return to classes as normal on April 13. Little did they know, the remainder of the spring 2020 semester would be spent learning virtually as COVID-19 numbers continued to climb in the community. Seniors at Huntington North

High School (HNHS) had to miss traditional celebrations such as prom and post-prom altogether, and had to seriously modify their graduation ceremony in order to have one at all.

Now that it has been nearly a year of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, discussion of what the class of 2021 will be able to experience in terms of their traditional celebrations is now on the table.

According to a presentation given by HNHS principal Rief Gilg at the Monday, Feb. 22, HCCSC School Board meeting, dates have been tentatively set for the three celebrations; prom, post-prom and graduation will all occur during the last weekend in May this year.

“As we spoke to our medical advisors, they said, ‘Get prom as far away from today as possible,” Gilg explained during the board meeting.

The planned event dates are as follows:

• Prom will take place on Friday, May 28.

• Post-prom will take place on Saturday, May 29.

• Graduation will take place on Sunday, May 30.

 “We don’t know exactly what (graduation) will look like. Whether graduation is full or looks like it did last year, or in between, we are prepared. We are going to do the best we can,” Gilg said during a recent interview.

It would appear that the plan for prom and post-prom 2021, on the other hand, is a little less concrete. That being said, the plans that have been laid out have a few distinct differences compared to years’ past. The school’s ability to put the events on as planned will all depend upon COVID-19 spread and recommendations from local health officers.

Since the spring semester of 2015, HNHS has held their prom at the Police Athletic League (PAL) Club in Huntington. Post-prom would then take place at the HNHS field house during the early hours of the following morning.

This year, should prom and post-prom be able to take place, both events will be held on school property. This decision was made partially due to rental scheduling and partially due to needing a larger space for students to spread out for the dance.

“We’re lucky to have these large facilities for use,” Gilg said.

Gilg hopes that the class of 2021, along with their parents and other members of the community, understand where these decisions have come from.

“Through this entire ordeal, we have tried to give (seniors) the best experience while keeping them safe. We’ve had varying degrees of success and we are very pleased we are able to work towards that,” he said.

Sandy Atkinson, who is the co-chair of the post-prom committee, has been “thinking outside of the box” in order to still raise funds for post-prom this year.

Typically, funding for post-prom activities would come from several staple fundraisers around the community, as well as from donations made by local business owners. Because of COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the economy and making things difficult for business owners to stay afloat, the committee opted to go in a different direction.

“We already knew funding was going to be an issue,” Atkinson said. “So we said to ourselves, let’s think about this a little bit differently.”

In order to raise awareness for their cause, the committee created the “I Saved Post Prom” campaign. This campaign involves the selling of sponsorship spots on the annual post-prom t-shirt that students receive. For a small donation, a donor may have their name listed within the design of the post-prom t-shirt.

According to the “I Saved Post Prom- HNHS Class of 2021” Facebook page, donors may purchase as many spots as they wish and shirts have been donated by Thorne Insurance.

Other fundraisers include tours at the Queen Bee’s Tea and Tour at 809 N. Jefferson St., Huntington, as well as a virtual cooking class led by a local restaurant.

“We’re leveraging what we already have,” Atkinson said. “We are just looking at how there is another door that can be opened at every obstacle.”

Atkinson believes that the committee’s efforts are worthwhile because “every kid deserves a prom.”

“We’re just going to take things in stride,” Atkinson added. “Did the kids have their night? If the answer is yes, it was a success.”

Atkinson hopes that the plans they have in motion for post-prom will be memorable for the students in attendance.

“Again, we are thinking outside of the box. We are working on a few ‘memorable’ or ‘different’ activities because we really want to wow these kids,” Atkinson said. “Huntington has such a great group of kids, and they deserve their night.”

Several Huntington North seniors have voiced their hopes for what the end of their high school career might look like. After being given the opportunity to anonymously  submit their thoughts on the topic, one student said,  “It’s a day we’ve all thought about since we were little and now we might not even get it. I’ve been wanting to go prom dress shopping with my friends but I don’t see the point in spending all of that money for a day we might not even get.”

Another student said “I get that it may sound selfish, getting upset over prom, but I feel like the least the school can do is give us a dance. We’ve already had so much else taken away from us.”

While the plans for prom and post-prom are still being nailed down, post-prom committee members have come up with back-up plans so that students can have some way to celebrate their senior year.

Should post-prom have to be canceled altogether, funds that were raised for post-prom activities will be used to purchase senior gifts instead.