By ADAM ARMOUR
Tremont High School’s prom was a little different this year. First and foremost, it floated.
Prom was held on a boat this year, a first for the school and possibly the county. Bussed to Tunica where they boarded the three-story Tunica Queen, approximately 60 students and teachers enjoyed dinner and dancing as they ferried down the Mississippi River.
While the idea of hosting the school’s annual junior/senior prom on a boat rather than in the gym was unusual, to say the least, it was met with enthusiasm … mostly.
“[Principal Eddie] Moore stopped cold when I told him the idea,” said THS assistant principal Michael Cates, grinning. After inadvertently forming the idea with a throw-away remark to teachers Noell Vanasselberg and Amy Emerson about the high cost of hosting prom, Cates decided to go to the principal with a proposal: Move the prom from land to water, on a river boat.
“He definitely got my attention,” Moore admitted, returning the smile. “At first I wasn’t so sure, but the more we thought about it, the more it seemed like a cool idea. We’re all about change out here, and what better way to change prom?”
The school hosted the annual dance in mid-April, with warmer weather just coming in. The students traveled to Tunica via ICC charter buses, after which they boarded the river boat and danced until 1 a.m.
It was something to see, Cates said.
“It was a good event for the kids,” he continued. “They’ll have those memories for a lifetime. It was something special. It wasn’t just a prom, it was an adventure. We did something that people did 150 years ago: Traveling up and down the Mississippi on a river boat.”
A practical adventure
“Decorating for prom can be a drag,” Cates said earnestly. “It seems like you lose a whole week of school. You don’t really get to have class.”
Make no mistake, hosting the prom on a boat was more expensive than doing the same on land; but, in a way, it was more practical as well.
That’s not to say, when Cates first pulled the idea from thin air, that it seemed very likely to happen.
“It was something we really considered out of our reach,” Vanasselberg said. She and Emerson handled all of the prom arrangements and, according to Cates, deserve most of the credit for making the unique night possible.
It turned out to be in arm’s length after all. According to Vanasselberg, the school typically spends between $3,500 to $4,500 on prom, for which the teachers and students have to work day and night to prepare. At a cost of approximately $5,000, the river boat prom wasn’t as costly as it might at first seem.
“It was only a thousand dollars more than what we would have spent anyway, and I’d happily trade that money for what we got the week of prom: A normal week of school,” Cates said.
Moore agreed that it was a good trade off.
“We didn’t lose that week of school to teachers and students decorating,” the principal said. “There were no distractions that week of prom. It was ‘school as normal.'”
“All we had to do was show up,” Cates added.
‘Part of their education’
“You don’t forget this kind of stuff,” Cates said of the event. “It’s an adventure just getting to go to the front of the boat and stand there, listening to the music and watching the water go all around you … The feeling is just awesome. You don’t forget that kind of stuff. We just wanted to give the kids a chance to do something they might not otherwise get to do. They won’t forget it.”
Planning for next year’s prom hasn’t officially begun, and probably won’t for little while, but Cates expects big things of the future. He called the recent prom “nothing way out there,” and promised something new and exciting for upcoming classes.
“I’d say look for something even more special in the future,” he said, flashing his grin again. “We’re not going to stop looking and thinking outside the box … You can’t always turn to ‘We’ve always done it that way.'”
Moore agreed that, in order to be forward thinking, the school’s administration, teachers and students should always be looking beyond their limits, pushing through barriers. It’s a lesson he hopes will resonate in the hallways of the school, far beyond a mid-April night in 2009, throughout the students’ entire lives.
“If you find something students are interested in, excited about, buy in to and want to see happen, it’s hard to say ‘no,'” Moore said. “It’s hard to say, ‘This is ridiculous. It’s impossible.’ I think when they see those impossibilities coming true, it resets their limits throughout life. Hopefully, they’ll always believe that way. It’s part of their education.”
Adam Armour can be reached at 862-3141, by e-mailing adam.armour@ itawamba360.com or by visiting his blog at itawamba360.com.