CRANFORD – Students from Linden High School served as Princess and Prince Charming for 27 students of the Cerebral Palsy League (CPL) at the League’s annual prom dance held in June. The Linden students dined and danced with their dates and cheered as CPL students Alana Gray and Cyril Spinks were crowned Prom Queen and Prom King.
Linden High students have been serving as prom dates for their CPL counterparts since 1993 when Linden High language arts teacher Esther Paden initiated the program as part of ongoing support she and her students each year provided the League.
“It’s been something the students have looked forward to each year,” Paden said. “It’s had a tremendous impact. What they learn here, that’s something they never forget. They treat these young people in the same way they would treat a date (at their own prom).”
The CPL students are equally thrilled by the experience, according to Barry Bullis, principal of the CPL’s Jardine Academy’s Cranford campus.
“It’s something they look forward to every year,” he said. “They are beyond excited. They come dressed to the nines.”
Linden High has long supported the Cerebral Palsy League. Paden, who also serves as coordinator for Learn & Serve America and advisor for Youth of United Way at the high school, has had her students involved with the CPL since 1990. In addition to serving as prom dates, Linden High students helped start a horticultural therapy program at the Jardine Academy’s Union campus, renovated of the league’s kitchen and often have assisted CPL students with holiday shopping.
Bullis noted that some of the Linden kids are repeat volunteers, which allows for a reconnection between the Linden and CPL students.
“I get too many volunteers,” Paden said about her prom dates. “I have to turn some away. It’s a popular thing with them.”
Each year students from Linden High School serve as prom dates for their counterparts at the Cerebral Palsy League (CPL) in Cranford. Christopher Bernot of Linden High School’s ROTC program was among the volunteers and served as prom escort for Stephanie St. Jean of the CPL. (Photo courtesy of the Cerebral Palsy League)
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