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Andrew High School students spread joy at Kennedy School

May 7, 2024

Transform cafeteria into dazzling prom venue for developmentally disabled students

In a heartwarming display of compassion, Andrew High School students transformed the cafeteria at Kennedy School into a dazzling prom venue.

The group of student council leaders blew up balloons and hung streamers, turning the space into a magical wonderland fit for a prom celebration.

“It’s heartwarming,” said junior Abby Zurek as she worked alongside classmates, stringing a series of silver letters and numbers together to read “Prom 2024.”

The students purchased the decorations and party favors from student council funds raised at Andrew’s own school dances.

“We enjoy seeing how happy it makes (the Kennedy students),” said sophomore Eva Urban.

There’s such “joy on their faces,” agreed senior Sia Desai.

Decorating Kennedy School has been a long-standing tradition for Andrew’s student council. Every May, they send a team of students to create a prom for everyone to remember.

The annual tradition has become so popular among students that student council advisors Barb Sopiarz and Tracy Sukalo have to limit the number of volunteers each year by rotating teams of students.

“So many kids want to participate,” said Sopiarz.

“It’s cool to work with students beyond our high school,” explained Andrew senior Brian Ondras. “It’s awesome to celebrate all the successes of these students.”

The student volunteers not only decorate the cafeteria but stick around to dance and eat with the Kennedy School students. They also pass out prom-themed T-shirts and trinkets, such as necklaces, bracelets and sunglasses, that they purchase with student council funds.

The highlight is the crowning of the prom king and queen who receive specially crafted Build-a-Bears and crowns from the Andrew students.

 “We try to make it special for the kids,” said Sukalo. “We want (their prom) to be similar to (Andrew’s) prom.”

The time and effort students put into making prom so special is greatly appreciated by Kennedy School students and staff.

“We are incredibly grateful to the students of Andrew High School for their generosity and thoughtfulness,” said Kennedy School Principal Dawn Angelini. “Their dedication to creating an inclusive space where everyone feels welcome and valued is truly inspiring.”

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