LOCAL NEWS

Springville High Latinos in Action hosts prom for people with special needs

Mar 23, 2024, 10:07 AM | Updated: 2:48 pm

Two friends hug and smile on dance floor...

Lacy Knight hugs her best friend Sadie Teague on the dance floor (KSL TV)

(KSL TV)

SPRINGVILLE  A Springville High School program hosted a special event Friday night for a group of people who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to go to prom this year.

Latinos in Action (LIA) put on an incredible evening for everyone who showed up to a ‘Night in Hollywood.’

Securing decorations in place, high school seniors Jaretzy Garcia and Kim Hernandez perfected every detail for a big night at the high school gym.

They strung steamers on stair railings and hung a sign on the window with glitter stars and the word “HOLLYWOOD” in big, gold letters.

“It’s a dream come true. It’s exciting. Emotions are everywhere,” Jaretzy said, of realizing the night she has spent months planning was finally here.

Two friends hang a paper "Hollywood" sign

Kim Hernandez and Jaretzy Garcia hang a sign welcoming people to the Night in Hollywood prom (KSL TV)

The Latinos in Action (LIA) program coordinated the entire prom for the United Angels Foundation, an organization that supports individuals who are raising people with disabilities, offering education, resources and community events.

“Their prom dance that they do every year got canceled,” Jaretzy explained.

She wanted to roll out the red carpet and give the Hollywood treatment to teens and young adults with special needs.
With everyone dressed in their best, one-by-one, prom goers walked in and walked down the red carpet, with students from LIA lining each side, cheering.

Lacy Knight and her best friend Sadie Teague came in together, basking in the spotlight.

“I was like walking out, I was like walking like this,” Lacy later explained in the hallway, pretending to hold up a microphone as she and Sadie waved to demonstrate their movie star moment. “Hi, everybody! Thank you!”

Both girls talked about their dresses and hair, and how they were looking forward to dancing and listening to music.

After stopping at the photo booth for pictures, they stepped into the gym and got down on the dance floor.

Jaretzy explained that she knew she wanted to do this event last year, well before finding out about the canceled United Angels Foundation prom.

She came up with the idea after what she experienced at her own prom.

“There were some kids with special needs that were there. Some kids decided to record them and post them online, make fun of them,” Jaretzy said. “So for me, it was very like, it melted my heart in a bad way.”

Not wanting students to feel judged or like they couldn’t be themselves, she asked her teacher last August if LIA could host a prom for individuals with special needs.

Young prom goers dressed up walking down a red carpet

Prom goers strutted down the red carpet to claps and cheers upon arriving at the dance (KSL TV)

LIA organizes other events usually focused on Hispanic Heritage Month, runs a tutoring program for elementary school students to learn Spanish, and offers translation at parent/teacher conferences for parents who aren’t English speaking.

In January, the serious prom planning began, and LIA reached out to United Angels Foundation. Then they found out that United Angels Foundation’s annual prom couldn’t happen this year, as they explained church venues from past years decided not to participate this year.

It became the perfect project for Latinos in Action. They found sponsors including Macey’s, Zurchers, Ream’s, and Smith’s.

Jaretzy’s 50 other LIA friends, including Kim Hernandez, were all in on helping with planning.

“Me as a Hispanic Latina, I feel like sometimes we feel left out in some activities,” Kim said.

She wanted the kids to feel loved and cared for.

“They need to be validated. They need to be seen,” Kim said. “Just like any other teenager, they deserve their prom. They deserve to feel included.”

Thinking of every detail, LIA created a space for parents to be able to watch a live feed of the dance in the cafeteria, as their kids boogeyed in the gym.

Sadie’s mom Kari Teague, who is also the United Angels Foundation program and events coordinator, popped into the dance floor every once in a while to take pictures and video, beaming as her daughter danced.

“As a mom, I’m so grateful for this opportunity for her that she can be with her peers and having fun, and not feeling like she’s being pushed to the side,” Teague said. “And as a United Angels Foundation person, I’m really excited to see all my teens and young adults there, that they are so happy to be here.”

On a big night, LIA hoped to create a safe space free of judgment, with people free to dance– everything that makes a perfect prom.

“I hope they feel happiness. I hope this makes their whole entire year,” Jaretzy said. “I hope they leave tonight thinking that this was the best night of their life.”

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Springville High Latinos in Action hosts prom for people with special needs