CRANFORD – Students from Linden High School once again this year attended the annual prom of the Cerebral Palsy League’s Jardine Academy, held June 3. The Jardine students were thrilled to share this rite of passage with the young volunteers from Linden, according to Barry Bullis, Jardine’s principal.
Linden High students have been invited to attend the Jardine prom each year since 1993 when language arts teacher Esther Paden initiated the event as part of ongoing partnership she and her students each year enjoy with the League. The students come from the school’s Learn and Serve student volunteer program and the Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.
The Linden students – the young ladies dressed in gowns and the young men donning their dress uniforms – mingle and dance with the Jardine students and help bring a festive air to the prom, which begins with a grand entry of the Jardine students as they show off their own gowns and suits. The program has become so popular among the Linden High students that each year Paden has more volunteers than she can use.
“They love it,” she said. “It’s probably one of the most fulfilling things they’ve ever had in their lives. This program brings out their humanity. They realize that everybody has the same needs…Most of these kids have never had the experience of being around a child with a disability.”
Michael Clenendori is a junior who attended the prom for the first time.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew it wasn’t about me,” he said. “I had to make sure they had a good time. It was about focusing on others.”
Takela Williams, a senior, also was thrilled by her first-time experience.
“It was a great experience because it was something we all got to enjoy,” she said. “The smiles on their faces when we got out there and started dancing, that really blew me away.”
Williams also enjoyed seeing the academy and its unique Downtown Main Street setting. She planned to major in forensic psychology in college “but after this experience I’m thinking of taking early childhood education for kids with special needs,” she said.
The enthusiasm of the Linden students helped create a wonderful experience for the Jardine students, as well, according to Bullis.
“Prom is a typical rite of passage,” he said. “For our students it’s an opportunity to participate in a long-standing traditional activity with students from another school. Just like every prom, it’s a chance to celebrate their successes. It’s also an opportunity for them to use all the skills they work hard to master each day, such as communication and mobility.”
The Jardine Academy practices the curriculum and is a model site of MOVE International, which focuses on improving the functional mobility skills of the academy’s students to enable them to sit, stand and walk, thereby allowing for fuller participation with family activities and inclusion in the wider community, according to Bullis.
Tomas Giraldo, a student at Linden High School and a member of the school’s Navy Junior ROTC program, thrills Vakiyh Dort (left) and Nadiaa James of the Cerebral Palsy League’s Jardine Academy at the school’s annual prom as other Linden High volunteer dates look on.
Jhon Drago, a student at Linden High School and a member of the school’s Navy Junior ROTC program, dances with Tracy Wright, a student at the Cerebral Palsy League’s Jardine Academy, at the school’s annual prom.
(Photos courtesy of the Cerebral Palsy League)
Connect with NJTODAY.NET
Join NJTODAY.NET's free Email List to receive occasional updates delivered right to your email address!