In the limo, one girl in a lime green gown became suddenly petrified. “I wanna go home,” she cried. “I’m scared.”
But Juan Ramirez, who knows the girl from Best Buddies, reached over and held her hand.
“You’ll get to dance with a lot of cute boys and nice girls,” said classmate Iona Weissman, who runs the school’s Best Buddies chapter. The girl became calm as quickly as she became tearful.
The students arrived at Jungle Island’s ballroom in school buses and fancy white limos. Some boys wore tuxedos or suits, though one showed up in overalls, befitting the party’s Western theme.
Girls wore flowing sequined gowns and strapless dresses in every color of the rainbow. Some clicked across the dance floor in high heels; others, with fragile feet and unsteady gaits, wore sneakers.
Some attended in wheelchairs.
On the dance floor, a tall boy in a pink shirt jumped up and down, oblivious to the beat. Another, in a red bandana and a straw hat danced arm-in-arm with his teacher. A small girl with Down syndrome sang along as a hit song by Pitbull thump-thump-thumped in the background: “I just want to feel this moment.” Another boy blew bubbles.
And if they didn’t keep to the beat on the dance floor, no one snickered.
“You know what?” asked Krop’s Manny Quiroga, who oversees vocational programs, “these kids don’t care.”
Quiroga helped raise money for limos, corsages and the formal wear by selling bagels at school early in the morning.
Thursday was Ana Sevilla of Krop’s first prom. “It’s very nice,” she said, as she nibbling on strawberries. “I want to come here next year.”
By the afternoon, Amanda Lambert – her hair now a little wilder, her pink dress a bit wrinkled – slipped back into a limo after more than four hours of dancing. She had been up since before 6 a.m., styling her hair with her mom, fighting the excitement.
“I think it’s really nice being prom queen,” she said. “I’m going to wear this crown tomorrow to school.”