Pines Bridge School Holds First Prom for ‘Transitions’ Students at PNW BOCES

June 13, 2018

In many ways the inaugural Prom at the Pines Bridge School, held at the Putnam Northern | Westchester BOCES campus in Yorktown, was similar to those thrown for other local high schools. There were young women in fancy dresses and makeup and young men wearing jackets. There was a “Red Carpet” photo booth surrounded by balloon columns. And there were smiling groups of students tentatively trying out dance moves to party standards like “Cotton Eye Joe.”
These young people, however, daily face physical and developmental challenges unknown to their typical peers. So, for them, there was a special joy in experiencing that most typical of high school milestones – Prom.
“We are all so happy to see these kids feeling excited and proud, and experiencing the fun part of high school,” Pines Bridge Csilla Mate said Tuesday, as she looked around the gaily decorated gym at students laughing and dancing together – sometimes with the help of a staff member pushing a wheelchair back and forth in time to the music.   
Prom was particularly meaningful for the young men and women graduating later this week from Transitions – a regional program for students between the ages of 16 and 21 who have developmental delays or multiple disabilities or have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Transitions helps students prepare for life after school by teaching daily living and social skills and providing vocational opportunities.
With Mate’s support, occupational therapist Danielle Iammatteo organized the school’s first prom after polling students on its theme and other details.
“These students don’t often get to have the same experiences that other kids their age do,” Iammatteo said. “We wanted them to have their own Prom – and they’ve all been so excited about it.” Lashanda Crosby was one of the students who spurred her on, and said she was thrilled to be attending Prom before graduation.
“The music and dancing make us all feel happy,” she said. Before Prom started, the school day began with the young women – all dressed up in both short and long dresses – having their hair and makeup touched up by teaching staff. Then at noon, it was on to the gym where the soon-to-be graduates walked the Red Carpet to the cheers of Transition classmates and staff.
Carmen Aleman, who drives a bus for the program, had created balloon centerpieces for the tables and helped decorate the gym. “It’s amazing to see the kids looking all grown up and feeling beautiful,” she said. “It’s bringing tears to my eyes because they’re really having a ball!”
Cutline:  (L-R) Caroline Chrysler, Anna Milano, Caroline Serlin and Alexis Aguiar strike a pose at Prom.