Villa Esperanza Students Are Pampered for Prom

For most teenagers around the country, prom is one of the most exciting events of the school year. After all, the opportunity to get dressed up and dance the night away with friends doesn’t come around very often, especially for students in the educational program at Villa Esperanza Services. The nonprofit devoted to the support of those with developmental disabilities made sure that its school-age population received the traditional prom experience earlier this month by hosting a dance at its Pasadena facility.
“Just like any other high school student that has a prom, we host one here,” said Casey Gregg, vice president of children and youth programs at Villa Esperanza. “We do it during the day because our students come from all over and it’s easier to do it here at school rather than trying to do it afterward. It’s difficult if the students go home and then come back to school. Sometimes, that transition is very hard for them. Parents come and join in and it’s just a good event that students really love to do. They love the music and it’s just a fun time.”
This was Villa Esperanza’s sixth year hosting the prom, but first year partnering with Pasadena City College’s cosmetology department. Prior to the afternoon dance, six cosmetology students from PCC volunteered their time to come beautify Villa Esperanza students. The aspiring makeup artists and hairdressers set up shop at the facility and spent the morning giving individualized attention to the teenagers and even some of the Villa Esperanza staff.
“I thought it would be really nice to do something special for the students here for their prom,” said PCC cosmetology instructor Samantha Manuel. “… Just to teach [our] students to be of service to the community, I think that it’s really important. As cosmetologists, we make people look pretty all the time and everybody needs to feel that — especially on prom day.
“[It’s important] to have us come in here for the students who may have issues going to a salon or may have trouble sitting and allowing people to touch them because of sensory issues.”
The collaboration with PCC originated this spring when Villa Esperanza had the cosmetology department work its magic during the organization’s staff appreciation day. Manuel’s crew was more than willing to return to assist with the prom festivities.
“They have just been great,” said Gregg. “The fact that they come over here and we don’t have to go to them [makes it] easier for our students. The girls like makeup, they like to get their nails painted and they love having their hair done. The guys like having their hair done as well. It’s nice seeing all the students get dressed up.”
While Villa Esperanza serves students ages 5-22 who have special needs associated with developmental disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome, the prom catered mainly to the nearly 50 high school students along with a few middle school students. They received an opportunity to pose for group photos before walking up a ramp and into the venue, a conference room that Villa Esperanza staff redecorated to match the “Black & White” theme of the prom.
Once inside the darkened room that featured a table lined with snacks and refreshments, students were initially hesitant to dance — as is usually the case at prom. But this phase didn’t last long and most warmed up to the DJ’s pop stylings within a few minutes. Some parents joined in the celebration as well, and the sixth annual Villa Esperanza prom was another rousing success.

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