The scene was set for a senior prom in West Philadelphia Tuesday morning. Guests arrived in sequined gowns, colorful party dresses, suits and tuxedoes. The room was decorated with balloons and signs, and a table was stocked with food and refreshments.
“They love to dance and to dress up,” said Alicia Conquest-Bulgin of her students from the School of the Future.
But this party wasn’t just for high school seniors. It was also for senior citizens at the West Philadelphia Senior Community Center. The West Philly Senior Center hosted its first Intergenerational Prom on May 28th.
The Center and the School of the Future have been community partners for more than a year. Alicia said she and her colleagues reached out to the Center to help decorate for Christmas in 2011. They’ve been coming back ever since to assist with events and visit with the members.
“For me personally, it’s about getting the younger kids to interact positively with the seniors,” Alicia explained. Alicia and her colleagues at the School of the Future hope these events inspire students to continue community service well after they graduate from high school in a few weeks.
The Intergenerational Prom was created to help to bridge the generational gap between the two age groups, a bridge that was illustrated on the dance floor. The party really got underway as soon as they deejay played the first song. The Cha-Cha Slide song, a hip-hop electric slide, inspired all ages to step to the beat. Senior citizens and high school seniors joined hands, laughed and danced.
“They see (the students) that our seniors aren’t sitting around here. They are doing the same dances they do and their doing their own dances,” Julia said. “When they spend more time together, they learn from each other,” she added.
Julia also hopes events like this help breakdown stereotypes held in the community about senior community centers.
“We hope students go home and tell their parents and grandparents – who are eligible to be members – about how active we are here. We’re not just sitting in the corner knitting,” she said.