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Community support helps Life Skills students to enjoy day at prom

| Friday, May 30, 2014, 5:31 p.m.
Randy Jarosz | For the Bridgeville Area News
South Fayette seniors Patrick Mancini and Alexandria Brazelton dance during a prom held for special-needs students on May 28 at PNC Park's Lexus Club.
Randy Jarosz | For the Bridgeville Area News
Carlynton sophomore Ziaire Teagle dances during a prom held for special-needs students on May 28 at PNC Park's Lexus Club.
Randy Jarosz | For the Bridgeville Area News
Carlynton seniors Hailey Baker and Justin Autry dance during a prom held for special-needs students on May 28 at PNC Park's Lexus Club.

The disc jockey played pop artist Katy Perry's “Firework,” and the kids went wild.

The students threw up their hands, kicked off their heels and discarded their jackets. But mostly, they danced, even though it was 9:30 a.m. — because it was the prom.

The students were part of the Life Skills programs – designed for those with special needs – at nine area school districts. The nine groups meet throughout the year for various functions at different districts. The districts take turns hosting the prom.

“They become a big group of friends. At their high school prom, they wouldn't be together,” said Colleen Geletko, event planner for Hello Productions, which has organized the prom for the past two years. “They all mingle. They all mix together.”

Geletko and Hello Productions became involved last year through a connection with Elizabeth Forward School District, which hosted the 2013 prom. The dances had previously been held in the host district's gym, with teachers providing most of the entertainment.

South Fayette hosted this year's prom, and worked with Geletko to bring it to life again.

“The students are still talking about last year's prom,” said Kara Pappas, a South Fayette special education teacher. “This is their day.”

For Carlynton special education teacher Frank Zebrasky, it's about watching his students have fun.

“This is ‘the' day for them,” he said. “It's a great activity that they show so much camaraderie at. All you have to do is look at them to see. There are moments, and then there are ‘moments.'”

Students hit the dance floor as soon as they arrived, breaking only for lunch and a magic show.

It was Carlynton senior Haely Mollica's first prom.

“It's awesome,” she said. “I like that we can all be here together.”

PNC Park donated the venue, and Aramark and Levy Restaurants provided lunch. Corsages, boutonnieres, a photo booth and DJ services were also donated. Project Prom helped provide dresses for some students, and beauty academies in the North and South Hills handled hair styling and makeup.

Pappas said the community support was unreal.

“Everybody came together to give them the day they deserve,” she said.

She said that while Life Skills students are invited to the high school prom, they do not always have the opportunity to participate.

“This is a day we can be here to support them and still give them as close to a regular prom as possible,” she said.

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or mguza@tribweb.com.

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