About the Unified Prom
High school prom celebrates the coming-of-age for teenagers and their parents. It is often the last ‘hurrah’ of high school where the last of the ‘best’ high school memories will be made and students will have one last opportunity to show off their good taste, fun dance moves, and ability to demonstrate the good, adult, manners high school students should have instilled in them. There are fancy gowns, young men in tuxedos, flowers, and the chance to dance the night away to a first-class DJ with people with whom you have traversed the slippery slope of high school.
Prom Can Be A Challenge
But, for some students, Prom is an unattainable, or perhaps even, an undesirable landmark in their high school journey. The itchy dresses, high necklines of a tux accompanied by the flashing lights and thumping music of the DJ are too much for some to handle. Compounding the challenges of the mainstream Prom is that many parents of students within the Life Skills program are not quite prepared for their student to leap into adulthood and sweep off until late in the evening. This is is where the Unified Prom sets in.
The Unified Prom is a unique, district-wide event that has been designed and dedicated to the Life Skills Students of the district. Students enrolled in Liberty High School, Heritage High School, Freedom High School and the Gateway Program are all invited to the day of Prom events. This bi-annual celebration is a chance for students, and their families, who might not otherwise attend a Prom, to experience the fancy clothes, fun music, independence and elaborate night out on the town like their typical student counterparts. The only difference is that instead of the event being seen as something that is out-of-reach or undesirable, it is a night that students and their families look forward to all year.
Getting Ready for the Big Day
With dresses already selected from a specially designed ‘shopping experience’ for the young ladies and tuxedo fittings for the young men, students begin the day of the Unified Prom early. Young women arrived to Heritage High School early in the day for a morning of pampering. While sipping sparkling apple cider, the students enjoyed a full spa experience, including hair and make-up. Young men were invited to KJ’s Barbershop and John’s Man Cave for fresh new hair cuts before the dance.
Once hair and make-up were photo-finish ready, students were ready to show-off their formal attire. All the dresses young women wear were donated by local community members and some local retailers. Understanding the challenges of fit, each young lady was fitted with a new, or nearly new gown for the evening and any alterations were made when necessary. This allowed each student to truly feel, and look, like the belle of the ball. Young men were fitted for tuxes from Tux Of Class in Antioch. Although the tuxedos were not fully donated, Tux of Class ensured each student has a class tux to don the day of the Prom without concern for a high price tag.
Flowers and Photos
Following a morning of preparation, students met back at Heritage High school for a formal pinning of flowers and a group photo. Diane O’Brien from Ribbons and Roses Designs, pinned, designed and donated all the flowers for the Unified Prom. From corsage to boutonniere, every student and their dates adorned beautiful flowers – just as they would at a typical prom. The final touches of flowers ensure that each student attending the Unified Prom has flowers that truly set the tone of a traditional prom.
With flowers displayed, students could pose fully adorned in their Prom attire for photos with friends, family and their dates. Snapshots capture the joy and excitement – only missing the happy laughter that emanates from the students and their families. Now, it truly feels like prom.
An Escort to Dinner
Next, students were escorted to Vic Stewart’s for a formal, pre-prom dinner. Again, following a traditional Prom evening – but with a twist. When students arrived to Vic Stewart’s, they were welcomed into a beautifully decorated dining space that has been reserved especially for their evening meal. The outside of the restaurant was lavishly decorated by leadership students from Freedom High School, really bringing the Star Wars theme to life. Again, to ensure complete inclusivity, Vic Stewart’s prepared meals that answered to any necessary dietary guidelines and covered the cost of the meal. In 2019, this meant meals for over 80 students and their dates!
Decorations welcomed the students celebrate the themed event. With a “May the 4th Be With You” Star Wars theme, this meant students were immersed into the world of Star Wars the second they stepped off the bus until the end of the evening. As students were welcomed into the space, the walls, centerpieces and balloon arches screamed celebration and party. The leadership students from Heritage High School not only designed the dining space to reflect the theme but dedicated hours making the decorations and ensuring the dining hall was a special space for the students to eat in.
Modeled after a traditional Homecoming Parade, the Unified Parade meant the streets of Downtown Brentwood were closed off while students were carried down 1st Street and Oak St., toward City Park and the Community Center in a line of slow-moving convertibles. The parade is an incredibly fun, community-oriented event. It allows the students to show off their fancy clothes, new hairdos and make-up while sitting atop a convertible, waving to the crowds of people lining the streets, cheering them on as they pass by.
Students from the local high schools and middle schools lined the streets with the community at large in full themed-costume, holding on to signs that celebrate the bi-annual theme of the parade. The atmosphere is light-hearted and fun and a perfect way to spend a warm Spring evening with your family. Plus, community non-profits, high school dance teams, and cheer teams, as well as other youth organizations came out to walk and dance in the parade, making the atmosphere bubble with excitement and expectation.
The Brentwood Police Department and Oakley Police Department joined in the fun and made an appearance on motorcycles for the event. Local veterans kicked off the parade by proudly presenting the U.S. flag and flags representing the branches of our military.
Once the parade made the turn from 1st Street down to Oak, Star Wars themed music filled the streets. The energy emanating from the streets only added to the fun and excitement. The end of the parade meant a red carpet, lined by uniformed ROTC students in full dress uniforms, to welcome them into the event center. Greg Robinson, of the Brentwood Press, worked tirelessly to organize the parade and various vendors that met the students at the community center. Photographer Steve Nosanchuk of Steve Nosanchuk’s Freelance Photography captured everyone’s grand red-carpet entrance into the event center.
The Prom itself was held in the Brentwood Community Center. The location was painstakingly decorated to celebrate the Prom by leadership students attending Liberty High School and Freedom High School. Decorations vary per year – but always stick with the theme that the Prom committee has selected to truly showcase the talent and creativity of the typical students. The large room was inviting and welcoming for students to dance, sit and watch, or kick back and take a break listening to the music provided by a “DJ Leen” – who was brought to DJ the event by motivational speaker Mike Smith, to ensure the students have the best beats to dance the night away to.
The dance kicked-off with a short speech from Mike Smith. Mike Smith is best known for his work with high school students about just being better people. His work, throughout the country, has been powerful. This year, Liberty Union High School District students will get to meet him, and his DJ, first hand. The hallway outside the main dance hall also had a variety of snacks and games for students to enjoy as well!
The Breakfast Klub and Concert
The evening ended on the dance floor for students attending the Unified Prom. However, this year, the Breakfast Klub offered a benefit concert for the parents of the students at Prom. For many parents, the idea of leaving their teens unattended, even at a school event, is stressful and unnerving. Students within the Life Skills Program often have obstacles that are unique to mainstream students – making a night at the Prom stressful for them, and perhaps even more stressful for the parents.
John Zink, and his band members at the Breakfast Klub decided they wanted to give the parents, and the community, something to do and enjoy while their teens were at Prom. The ideal solution is a major concert at City Park, starring the Breakfast Klub and the high school performing band Step Back. This allowed parents to stay near their students, but also provide the independence many of the teens were seeking. And what better way to enjoy the evening is by dancing the night away, under the stars, to one of the Bay Area’s top 80’s cover band.
A Spectacular Evening
The Unified Prom is a major overtaking. It entails finding balance between three major high schools and the Gateway program, the community at large, and both the Brentwood Police Department and Oakley Police Department. Heritage High School Activities Director Jessica Banchieri and School Resource Officer Mitch Brouillette carry the bulk of the leadership organizing and managing the district-wide event.
The leadership programs at each respective high school do have a Unified Prom committee that manages the complete decoration logistics of the entire event – each school location taking responsibility for one of the locations, including the restaurant and the community center, to decorate. Ms. Banchieri explained that it takes a special partnership between the district and the various police departments and a major commitment from students to make the event happen. But, she also stated that it is the commitment and dedication to the Unified Prom and the attending students that makes it such a special event and one that everyone is excited for each year it takes place.
There are an incredible number of ways you can become involved with the Unified Prom.
First, this event is put on entirely by donation. From the time allocated to the materials used to decorate, the cars, the dresses and the dinners – everything is provided to the students at no cost. This means if you can do hair, provide make-up or make-up application, a dress or cover the cost of a tux rental, your donation would be warmly welcomed. If you have a car that you can drive in the parade or if you have a passion for music and want to DJ, each prom comes with a need to provide for these aspects of the celebration.
Second, donate money. Any monetary funds help cover the expenses to host this amazing Prom experience for students. Donations should go to Brentwood Police Activities League (PAL). Every single donation counts and helps make this evening possible.
Finally, attend the parade and benefit concert! Not only is this free, but it is a fun way to show support to local students, their families, and the hard work many contributors have put forth throughout the previous year in planning. Plus, who doesn’t love a parade and a concert in the park on a warm Spring evening?
A Thank You To Our Video Sponsors
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The Downtown Business Coalition: The DBC is a not-for-profit organization focused on developing the Historic Downtown Brentwood corridor. The non-profit produces large events downtown to highlight the storefronts, restaurants and drinking establishments and attract more people to enjoy Brentwood as a true destination location.
Lozano’s Maintenance and Landscape: Lozano’s Maintenance and Landscape is a family-owned and operated yard maintenance and landscaping company serving the San Francisco Bay area. Lozano’s is committed to exceptional designs and thorough maintenance of your property to highlight your property’s aesthetics.