ONTARIO -- The cafeteria at Ontario Middle School was unrecognizable Thursday night, transformed into a whimsical ballroom with twinkly lights, a disco ball and a rollout dance floor.
Prom guests danced the night away and snapped silly pictures at a photo booth. But it wasn't a high school prom -- it was Ontario's first annual Senior Citizen Prom.
The prom was organized by Ontario Recreation Director Heather Hendrix and the Ontario Middle School Leadership Group. The Ontario VFW Post 7651 sponsored a performance by Just Jazz Live.
Hendrix said she stumbled across the idea while researching senior citizen activities from other recreation departments.
"Especially this year with all the COVID and everything and everybody all cooped up, we thought it would be a great event for them to get out, socialize, meet new people," she said.
Approximately 60 senior citizens from Ontario and the surrounding communities attended the free event.
“I am so impressed by everything," attendee Darlene Dawson said. "The music, the lights, the food, the service!”
The prom was primarily staffed by a group of middle school students. Some students worked as servers, bringing the guests snacks, desserts, drinks and sandwiches. Others operated the photo booth. A third group of students printed photos from the photo booth and placed them in frames so every guest or couple had a memento to take home.
Reta Kirsh attended the prom with Lee, her husband of 67 years. The Kirshes heard about the event from their daughter, a sixth grade teacher at Ontario Middle School.
“I love getting to meet some of the students and they’re so attentive to us," Reta said. "It’s a great thing to get the youth involved with the senior citizens. It makes us feel younger. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a prom.”
Eighth grader Alexia Sesco, who serves as an editor on the yearbook staff, helped run the photo booth.
"Our principal came and gave us the idea of setting up a photo booth and we loved the idea," she said. "I love the way it turned out personally, I've had so much fun interacting with the people and getting to know people that I would have never met."
Principal Keith Strickler said the prom was a good experience for the students.
"This isn't part of a class, they're not getting credit, they're not paid. This is just an opportunity for them to learn how to serve," he said.
Strickler said he hopes Ontario Middle School will continue to host the event for years to come.
“It's great to be able to do something for our community," he said. "We're looking forward to this growing to be even bigger and better next year.”
Hendrix said she hopes to make the prom an annual event.
"We've had a decent turnout and I think everybody's having a fun time and enjoying themselves," she said. "I'm really pleased with the results.