At Keystone, we even celebrate prom our own way
“Adolescence isn’t just about prom or wearing sparkly dresses.”
On so many occasions, I admire our Keystone students and the way they innovate and discover new ways of looking at the world. They remind me of the oft-cited George Bernard Shaw line that Senator Robert Kennedy quoted in 1968, “Some men see things as they are, and say why. I dream of things that never were and say why not.”
So, it’s only natural that our students would approach a tradition like prom with a dynamic creativity and iconoclastic mindset. The institution of prom, which some historians date back to the late 19th Century, brings adolescents together for a night of music, dancing, and revelry. My professional prom history goes to 1989, having chaperoned prom every year since then – yes, you read that correctly!
This year, prom took place at the Quarry Golf Club, with Upper School students enjoying their evening along with chaperones Nurse Penny, Dr. Armentrout, Ms. Hall, Dr. Caraway, Mr. Nydegger, Mr. Spedding, and I gathering for the first time in three years.
Witnessing the rituals of prom in several schools, I appreciate the way Keystone students practice this American tradition, and I commend their approach. Perhaps this is because our Cobras seem to view this once-a-year dance with a sense of perspective. Yes, it can be a rite of passage, and it may hold more weight than other high school dances; however, at the end of the day, it’s one dance in one evening. They will have a lifetime of celebrations, and this particular one need not define their entire existence or even their whole high school experience.
For example, getting a date for prom can be incredibly anxiety-inducing and in some cases expensive and expansive with highly choreographed “promprosals;” it seems like many Keystone students, though, feel comfortable going as part of a large group or coming on their own. It was heartening as we checked them in at the Quarry Golf Club to see students arrive individually, in large hordes, small groups, or couples equally at ease. Ultimately, we want students to feel okay attending however they wish.
While many proms contain a court or king and queen, Keystone students opted to avoid this tradition. Perhaps, it’s because they don’t like hierarchies, natural or created, or they feel it may be outdated. For whatever reason, there was no coronation, and nobody seemed to miss it.
A historian could write a fascinating account on the history of prom outfits and what they might say about events or trends occurring at that time. From the perspective of adults working at the Keystone prom, it proved reassuring to see the variety of styles and all looking sharp. Yes, there were the stunning evening gowns and handsome tuxedos as one might expect. Nevertheless, there were also students who were just as “stylin” while being less formal.
Here again, they all seemed to be at home in their own skin and their chosen outfit. Also, almost all the girls who arrived in high heels very quickly ditched them for sneakers or in some cases socks as they hit the dance floor. Truly, an impressive display of sanity.
Another Keystone difference comes in the way we pay for prom. As parents and school administrators know, prom can become extremely costly. Whether it’s buying or renting outfits, paying for dinner, or the school helping students afford a venue and food, the funds devoted to a one night dance can rise quickly. While we wish for students to have a great time, we also want them here again to maintain a healthy outlook. That is why we made a change in prom funding after the Class of 2021 graduated. When those students couldn’t have a prom due to COVID, they voted to donate the money they raised to the San Antonio Food Bank.
Going forward, the juniors will engage in fun community-building, fund-raising activities on Valentine’s Day as they have for decades at Keystone – and have the opportunity to serve local or national non-profit organizations. The way it works is that the school will match the amount of money the juniors raise, and that becomes their prom budget. The juniors will then select charities to which they can donate what they collected. This way, they will have a good time while helping others. As they do in so many other ways, our students take the opportunity and occasion of prom to continue fulfilling the school’s core values of ethical growth, community involvement, and responsible leadership.
Even in what could be a superficial, one-night celebration, our students make us proud as young adults who wish to have fun and make their world a better place for others.