Fantasy is a reality

A prom coronation at Fort Dodge Senior High Friday honored a court of 10 special education students.

The four boys and six girls crossed a gymnasium decorated with blue and white balloons, with a wintry castle serving as a backdrop, while their schoolmates cheered and applauded them in celebration.

“We have students who have faced a lot of challenges, and because it’s their senior year we want to treat them like the royalty they are,” Jenae Kennedy, FDSH instructor and Student Senate adviser, said. “So we’re spoiling them and pampering them all day.”

The event, started in 2013, was the ambition of the FDSH Student Senate. They were inspired by Rachel’s Challenge, the nationwide initiative based on the writings of Rachel Joy Scott, the first victim in the Columbine High School shooting. Scott wrote in journals about including those who are different.

“Our kids were thinking about ways we can do something special for students like that at our school, and this is what they came up with,” Kennedy said. “It’s kind of cool that something as horrible as Columbine actually transfers across multiple years and hundreds of miles to bring this to Fort Dodge.”

The challenges faced by those in the prom court are diverse.

“We’re going to talk about students with adversities, students with challenges,” Kennedy said. “Some personal things, some things that they faced, whether it’s their experiences or challenges they were born with. I’m leery about using the term ‘special needs.’ I don’t want people to think we’re singling them out.”

The court members were excited to be participating in the coronation, according to Kennedy.

“This whole week has been a cool experience for them,” she said. “A lot of them have never even been to a high school dance before, and they get to go to the prom for free and wear their outfits there. It’ll be a neat experience, not just today at the coronation, but also, for prom, we have a special dance where we put them in the middle and everyone gathers around and they dance and people cheer them on.”

For participant Kelsie Moss, getting ready was time consuming, but deciding what color she should wear was the easy part.

“Pink is my favorite color,” she said.

The coronation also presented a chance for mothers to be moms.

Brenda Spencer had a surprise for her daughter, Desirea Spencer. She presented it to her daughter as she was being escorted into the gym by her father, Randy Spencer, by running out onto the floor. It was a bouquet of flowers.

“She didn’t really want them before,” Brenda Spencer said.

Tom Bethke got to share a special moment with his daughter, Mary Bethke, when he accompanied her across the decorated floor and onto the stage for her crowning.

“It’s a big moment of pride,” he said. “I’m very proud of her.”

The coronation’s theme of Frozen Fantasy Royalty took months to plan and many hours to prepare.

“We were here until about 10:30 last night and since 8 this morning,” Kennedy said.

Fort Dodge businesses contributed to the event, as well. Elaine’s Bridal and Repeat Boutique donated prom dresses. The boys received a discount on tuxedo rentals from 2be Trendy. And Lilly’s Floral & Gifts provided the court with corsages and boutonnieres.

“We’ve got four hairdressers coming today who are going to do hair for free. We even have a nail artist who’s going to do nails for free,” Kennedy said. “We have two professional photographers who are going to come and shoot professional pictures, and we have frames we’re going to give the kids to put their shots in.”

She added, “To get that all organized in here has been a lot of work, but it’s so worth it.”