His dance partners, though, never danced to such music when they were in high school – they may have never even heard of these songs before their prom last Wednesday.
This is because Abbot, along with many of his fellow HHS juniors and seniors, were attending the Hazard/Perry County Senior Center Intergenerational Prom, where young and old came together to dance away the day at a prom that crosses generational lines.
“This prom gives all the kids and all the seniors a chance to come together and have a good time for a day,” said Abbot, who, along with his classmates, attended to the senior citizens’ every need during the prom.
Abbot said he has participated in the Intergenerational Prom so he can help put a smile on the face of some of the community’s seniors. He said all the students at the event were having fun.
“I’ve heard some kids from the school quote that this is more fun than actual prom,” Abbot said.
Melissa Vermillion, then director of the Hazard/Perry County Senior Center, said she is grateful for the participation from HHS students, who have been participating in the Intergenerational Prom for eight years.
“They’re wonderful, they’re gracious, they’re compassionate and they’re so courteous and so kind,” Vermillion said. She said the students take care of the seniors the whole day, serving them food, dancing with them and even taking prom pictures with them.
She said the event brings young people in the community together with seniors in the community so they can see first-hand that they really aren’t that different from one another. This is the entire purpose of the Intergenerational Prom, she said.
“I think it’s a good day when they all sit down together, and break those age barriers and see that they can all have fun together,” Vermillion said.
She said a lot of people attending the prom know each other as neighbors, and that some of the students are grandchildren of some of the seniors. The prom, she said, allows all attending to see each other outside of their “normal” roles.
“I think it makes younger folks relate a little bit differently (to the seniors) and gives them a little bit different perspective (about the seniors) that they’re just not that older person in the rocking chair,” Vermillion said.
Happy Mobelini, HHS principal, said the students look forward to Intergenerational Prom every year.
“The kids come dressed to school in what they’re going to wear to the prom,” Mobelini said.
He said the students get no extra credit or anything else out of their participation. They simply attend the prom because they enjoy doing it, he said.
Perry County Judge Executive Denny Ray Noble attends the prom every year, and said the participation of HHS students is irreplaceable to the seniors enjoying their prom.
“This is a wonderful thing for our seniors,” Noble said. “It really enthuses the seniors for the young people to dance with them, and they (the young people) do a great job.”
This is the third year the Intergenerational Prom has been hosted on the campus of the Hazard Community and Technical College. In previous years, it has been at the Senior Center and the National Guard Armory.
“This year, we thought, ‘we’ll try something big, and we’ll try something grand,’” Vermillion said. She said the College was gracious enough to open their doors to the Center.
Vermillion said about 200 people attended the community-wide event this year, and that over $5,000 went into making the prom happen. She said that without the help of numerous sponsors within the community, especially American Woodmark Foundation, the prom could not have happened.
With the help of many partners, such as LKLP Compassionate Hearts Adult Health Care Center, the Eastern Kentucky Veterans Center and the Hazard Nursing Home, decorations were made and hung in the First Federal Center, and a D.J. and photographer were hired. There was even a cosmetologist on hand to help seniors with their make-up.
All of this, Vermillion said, was to make the day special for all who attended.
“It’s just a really nice time,” Vermillion said. “I certainly think that this is one of the better outreaches that we have within our whole program.”
Abbot is a living testament to the outreach created by the Intergenerational Prom. He said the event is about more than just community service for him – he is able to help the elders in his community while having fun with them.
“It’s a good feeling that you’ve helped someone that may not be able to do something like this everyday,” Abbot said. “It gives them (the seniors) a sense of happiness that hopefully they do have everyday, but that they may not have every day.”