An alternative to the after-prom bacchanal
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Around the time that I interviewed Kiki, I published a column, “Reversing prom’s terrible groupthink.” At a Kiwanis Club dinner I met a senior at Kennedy High School in Bellmore who was about to graduate and head off to a top-rated college. She said she liked a story I had published called, “Grads party on –– and on,” about the heavy drinking that too often goes on after the prom.
The student, a nondrinker, said the story interested her because it mentioned Long Beach’s substance-free post-prom party, at which a car was given away at night’s end. She wished Bellmore-Merrick had a post-prom party, not so much because she wanted to win a prize, but because, she said, it would relieve the pressure she felt to drink on prom night.
At the time, Bellmore-Merrick didn’t have a substance-free post-prom party. The young woman said she didn’t plan to drink on prom night, but many of her friends did. She was unsure whether she could withstand the pressure.
I focused my column on her struggle. “Lots of kids don’t really want to drink after the prom,” I wrote, “but in this community, the adults give them no choice.”
The stories of these two young women inspired me to join the Bellmore-Merrick Community Wellness Council’s Alcohol Awareness Committee, which Gail Volk, who was then the council’s executive director, formed in the summer of 2004, after reading the Herald’s series.
Gail appointed me chairman of a post-prom party subcommittee, which quickly grew to a dozen members, mostly mothers of high school freshmen, sophomores and juniors who worried about what might happen to their kids on prom might. I often had to explain to people why I joined the committee, as my own children weren’t yet in elementary school.
I told them about the two young women I wrote about, one of whom was pressuring her peers to drink, while the other was feeling pressure. I wanted my own children to have an alternative to the post-prom “kegger” when they reached high school.
It took three years of planning and lobbying to get the post-prom party off the ground, but in June 2007, Bellmore-Merrick’s first substance-free “Midnight Madness” was held at Sportime in Lynbrook.