Roosevelt students plan alternate prom after first one leaves town
By Michael Gonzalez Post-Tribune correspondent May 9, 2014 10:58PM
D'Era Jemison (left) and Connie Davis prepare a welcome sign in front of the Marquette Park Pavilion before the start of a private prom for Gary students Friday. | Michael Gonzalez/for Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 11, 2014 6:08AM
GARY — Young ladies twirled their gowns, while their dates popped tuxedo lapels.
They came in stretch limos and large SUVs and walked in Grand Marches.
But students at Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy first had to choose which prom to attend — the school-endorsed event at Centennial Park Pavilion in Munster or a private prom put on by parents at the Marquette Park Pavilion in Gary.
“We just want the kids to come and have fun on their lake,” said Dwayne Hunter, one of the private prom’s organizers and pastor of Yes Lord Church in Gary. “Everybody’s happy and pleased and proud of what we’ve done as far as keeping a prom here in Gary.”
Hunter and a small group of parents and Roosevelt students conceived of the second prom after they said school administrators chose the Munster site without consulting them or the prom committee.
An official with EdisonLearning, the private corporation that runs Roosevelt, said students were consulted, and school officials gave their blessing for the separate event.
To keep the Gary students attending their high school prom in Gary, Hunter and the group rented the Marquette Park Pavilion and outfitted it with a DJ, elaborately decorated tables and even a crown and tiara for the prom queen and king.
Church members, like Connie Davis, worked on decorations while waiting for their guests to arrive.
“(Hunter’s) given them a choice,” Davis said while adjusting an outdoor sign. “Gary’s young people need to have a choice.”
The organizers opened the prom for all high school seniors in Gary and other communities, including Portage and Michigan City.
The private prom was a more affordable affair. Tickets for the beach prom were $20 for a single ticket and $25 for a couple. The school-endorsed event reportedly began at $60 for a single ticket.
Roosevelt administrators declined to answer questions or comment on the school’s prom. One administrator whisked prom attendees into the Munster parks facility to prevent them from talking to a Post-Tribune reporter.
Still, several students at the Munster event said they would leave early to head to the beach prom, where Hunter said their tickets would be honored to continue their party.
Chanty Williams, of Gary, dropped off her nephew and his date at the Munster prom and said they would not head to Gary later in the evening.
“It’s kind of inconvenient for a lot of parents because (the Centennial Park site) is so far from home,” she said. “The idea is it’s Munster, but the school has to make it more convenient for parents and students.”
Decked out in a blue suit with gold details, Dwayne Hunter II, president of Roosevelt’s student council, said he was ready to get the Gary prom going after leading a petition drive at the school and planning the event.
“Some kids were torn between the two proms, and they didn’t understand altogether what was going on,” he said while waiting for his date. “Now, I’m just ready to party.”