Texas high schooler to throw prom for teens often left out of the event

A Dallas teenager is making prom more inclusive. (Getty Images Hill Street Studios)
A Dallas teenager is making prom more inclusive. (Getty Images Hill Street Studios)

As prom season winds down, some high school seniors are already looking forward to the next big thing. But one student in Texas isn’t quite ready to put it all behind her. Kennedy Bentley is planning to throw another prom next year, this time for special needs students who might not be able to attend the more traditional formal.

“I started to think about how we spend so much money — some kids spend almost $1,000 — and how not everybody has the opportunity to do that,” Bentley, a graduating senior at Richardson High School, told the Dallas Morning News.

According to Yahoo Style’s 2017 Prom Across America survey, the average teen in the South spends about $617 on prom, and the numbers are even higher for kids in the Northeast ($699) and West ($625).

Bentley realized that many kids with disabilities and ongoing medical costs, can’t really afford such an expense.

“Their parents are already paying for medical needs and other classes they have to get through, and don’t have the financial capacity to get kids to proms,” she said.

She told the Dallas Morning News that she has felt a connection to kids with Downs syndrome since meeting them at her church. She noticed that others seemed to ignore or avoid them, and concluded that this would likely continue when it came to this celebrated time in a teens’ life. That’s why she decided to raise funds, with the help of her local Interact Club, a branch of Rotary International, to plan a special prom for anyone left out of their traditional one.

Bentley wasn’t able to organize this alternative prom in time for this spring. Instead, she’s going to hold it when she comes home from Bethany College in Kansas during her spring break next year.

Others across the country have held similar events to spread the fun of this high school tradition to everyone. Students on the men’s and women’s hockey team of Union College in New York held a prom on their ice rink for the teens in the nearby Stride Adaptive Sports program, for teens with disabilities, this past April. In Springfield, Ill., 240 adults of all ages hit the dance floor at the Developmental Disabilities of Clark County’s Spring Prom earlier this month. And senior — as in age, not grade in high school — proms have become a favorite excuse for older Americans to put on their fanciest duds, too.

“It was exciting to see [my friends] and forget, for at least a few hours that I have a disability,” Stride Adaptive Sports student Bridget Hotaling told Spectrum news of attending her prom.

Of course, all of these events require a lot of organization and funding. So, why would an 18-year-old want to take on such a task?

“People think it’s not their problem — that person is someone else’s problem,” Bentley said. Bentley is clearly not one of those people.

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