The prom. A right of passage for us all, full of updos, fancy clothes, dancing, and pure fun. Post-prom. A potentially unnerving time period for the moms and dads of the promgoers, with unsupervised activities and potential for trouble.
One year ago, a group of Island parents and like-minded community members organized the first After Prom Party, which was held at the YMCA in Oak Bluffs. Many off-Island communities have sought to create safe drug- and alcohol-free after-prom alternatives for their teens, and the Vineyard version is a good example of the teamwork needed to pull it off. The people at the helm last year (and some this year) were Deb DeBettencourt, Rachel Araujo, and Amy Sullivan. Others assisting were Michelle Bettencourt, Sarah Townes, Lisa Bonneau, Theresa Manning, and Tony Lombardi from Alex’s Place at the Y. Also supporting the effort two years in a row were Jamie Vanderhoop from Youth Task Force with organization and finances, and Sterling Bishop as master of ceremonies and DJ. New helpers this year are Laurel Reddington, Mary Holmes, Shannon Donovan, Paula Peters, and Beth Hayes.
“Debbie [deBettencourt] and Rachel [Araujo] have really been the pivotal people in making this happen,” said After Prom committee member Mary Holmes to The Times. Many years ago there was a post-prom party at the Boys and Girls Club in Edgartown, but before last year “there hasn’t been one for a very long time,” said Ms. Holmes.
“What has been a tradition is for the kids to rent limos, and they’re kind of unsupervised, and they’re not a very safe way for them to celebrate after the prom,” Ms. Holmes said. “As a group of parents and community members, we really wanted to find an alternative to that.”
“We want to do this because we don’t want there to be a tragedy,” said Ms. DeBettencourt.
Ms. DeBettencourt and Ms. Holmes did not even have juniors as children when they began working on the after-prom party. They, and others involved, are hoping that the party picks up steam and will be the thing to do once their own children get to prom age. “It will take a number of years to make it a popular thing for kids,” said Ms. Holmes, “and that is what we are really working hard to do.”
“Last year we had a small, but successful party,” said Ms. DeBettencourt. “There were about 25 kids in attendance last year. If we have 50 kids this year, that would be awesome. We hope that in five years’ time the party becomes the norm.”
The YMCA has generously donated its facility on the night of May 16th from 10 pm to 5 am, but the After Prom Committee must pay the YMCA staff. There is a DJ at poolside beginning at 2 am, excellent food, prizes, music, games, inflatables, a photo booth, and much more. Prizes include a GoPro camera, a charter fishing trip, parasailing, free studio time at YMCA’s Alex’s Place, and a refrigerator.
The event is open to all juniors and their dates, but juniors who do not attend the prom are welcome to attend the YMCA afterparty. Admission is free. There will be parent chaperones in attendance, “but we have promised the juniors that there will not be junior parents at the event,” said Ms. Holmes.
The doors open at 10 pm and close at 12:30 am, allowing no further admissions. The party folks can leave anytime, but they cannot re-enter the party. As for driving off, a junior operator driver’s license prevents those who have been driving for less than six months from driving between 12:30 am and 5 am, and applies to those ages 16½ to 17 years old — the age of many juniors. Breakfast will be served before the 5 am end time.
The 2015 Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) junior prom will be held this Saturday, May 16, at the Beach Plum Inn in Chilmark. After, a bus that will transport those who wish to attend to the YMCA After Prom Party.
“From what I’ve heard, it’s a 50-50 split between people who think it’s a great idea and people who don’t,” MVRHS senior Charlotte Potter told The Times. “And generally those who don’t like the idea didn’t go, but I heard from some of my friends that it was fun and there was a lot to do!”
At 8 pm on May 16 the After Prom Committee is hosting an Open House at the YMCA for all junior parents and donors. In addition to financial donors, many local establishments such as Sharky’s, Giordano’s, Edgartown Pizza, 7a, the Black Dog, and Vineyard Bottled Water have donated food and drinks.
The 2015 After Prom Party committee is happy to accept monetary donations to help with event costs. They have raised $5,000 so far, and have spent the same amount. They are also collecting prize donations, and desire anything related to cars, electronics, college, beach, events, sports, and various types of lessons, to name a few. Monetary donations can be sent to the YMCA in Oak Bluffs with “After Prom Party 2015” written in the memo. Information is also available on Facebook at facebook.com/mvafterprom2014.
Ms. Holmes summarized the event. “It’s a safe place for your kids to be all night after the prom.”