Amanda Lambert might never share a first-date kiss, drive a car or play a varsity sport, but the 21-year-old Michael Krop Senior High School student will always be able to claim a title that generations of teenage girls have coveted: Prom queen.
Thursday, during a luncheon dance that the Miami-Dade School Board threw for students with special needs, called the Spring Social, Amanda — in a body-hugging hot pink cocktail dress and sparkling earrings — took the tiara and declared: “I was shocked.’’
Then she added: “It’s really nice being prom queen.”
The countywide event, in its eighth year, may be the only one of its kind in the U.S., and has grown larger and more elaborate every spring, this year hosting 600 young men and women battling sometimes life-altering disabilities.
Unlike conventional proms, attending this event at Jungle Island didn’t cost a fortune. Thanks to the district’s special education teachers and administrators, and community contributions – Fox-Mar Photography took portraits of every child, EMG Entertainment spun the records, and both Men’s Wearhouse and Becca’s Closet donated gowns and tuxes – it was free.
Bernie Fernandez, a special education teacher who helped supervise 35 students from South Miami High School, said she incorporated prom preparation into her lesson plans in recent weeks. The students talked about dressing up, etiquette and communication in class.
Students in her program seem to master their skills more easily when the lessons are fun, she said, and her “kids have been very excited” about the prom for weeks.
The dance, she said, allows children with learning disabilities to use social skills they’ve been practicing at an event that caps the school year “on a positive note, and celebration.”
Chris Martin, who teaches adaptive physical education at North Miami Beach Senior High, arranged his students in a circle Wednesday to teach them dance moves to the beat of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. “We have goals in the class, but I really enjoy seeing them smile and have fun,” Martin said.
Amanda, who is developmentally delayed, practiced her dance moves with music videos, so when a DJ rolled Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night, she was ready to dance with her “king,’’ George Pink of Project Accept, in a felt crown.
Superintendent Alberto Carvalho cancelled a business trip to crown the king and queen, and announced to raucous applause that disabled kids in the district will always have a prom of their own – so long as he’s in charge.
At Krop, prom day began at 8 a.m. sharp. About a half-dozen girls from the school’s Best Buddies program, which pairs disabled children with typically developing peers, helped girls slip on their silk and satin dresses and fasten their shoes. Boys in tuxedos sat like penguins on ledges waiting for limos to arrive. Moms primped their daughters’ hair. Hugs were exchanged and pictures taken. At 9, the school’s honor guard made an arch of swords through which the children walked arm-in-arm on their way to two limos. Teachers, administrators and students applauded.
Tracy Biondolillo adjusted her son Louis’ tie, and told him how handsome he looked. “He’s 19, and he’s beautiful,” she said, losing the battle with her tears.