For many high school students, going to prom is a highlight of senior year. But there are lot of reasons why some students can't go.
For some, it's the high cost of prom: gown, tuxedo, flowers, even the ticket -- especially if the venue is someplace fancy. For others who have mobility issues, the idea of going to a dance can be intimidating.
Solutions to both problems came together with acts of kindness at the Penn Hills High School prom, which was held Thursday night aboard the Gateway Clipper's Empress riverboat. The party set sail around 7 p.m. for a cruise along on Pittsburgh's three rivers.
First the problem of cost. For the past three years, businessman Fritz Kummer has paid for the ticket to prom for every Penn Hills senior who is expected to graduate, through his Honors to Prom organization, which was formed to reward students' efforts to excel academically. He chose Penn Hills because of the district's financial challenges.
The students we talked to had no idea who was paying for the Gateway Clipper trip, but they were grateful for his act of generosity. "I'm really excited. Not everybody gets to have prom on the Gateway Clipper," said senior Julie McKenzie.
"It's really special." Penn Hills High School Senior Julie McKenzie
Now the issue of one student for whom going on a riverboat cruise would be a challenge. That's where Julie comes in. Her good friend Steffany Wilson has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. "She was excited to go to prom," said Steffany's mother Casandra Lewis, who says her daughter would have figured out a way to go no matter what. But Julie's suggestion that the two of them go to the dance together made it that much easier.
We were there for boarding -- and to hear Julie's piece of advice for us all when it comes to being kind.
It was great to see these young people, smiles on their faces, head off on a night they'll always remember. If you're interested in learning more about Fritz Kummer's Honors to Prom organization, click here.
“For most high school students, prom is much more than a dance. It’s the chance to live a fairy tale." Fritz Kummer