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Last dancePost prom needs help if tradition is to continue
By: ANDREA GILLHOOLLEY Review Correspondent, Staff Writer
Melanie Brubaker and Kendra Rhinier want students to remember their prom as a special night, not a tragic one.
When their children were old enough to attend prom, that’s when they became involved in the Ephrata Post Prom Committee at Ephrata Area High School.
"The students are provided with a fun, safe environment to enjoy after the prom is over," said Brubaker, who served as 2011 co-chair of the program, which began 54 years ago.
Each year, the theme of the drug- and alcohol-free event is kept secret until students walk in to find entertainment, dancing, games, food, beverages and casino-type games with a chance to win prizes.
"What some people don’t realize is that the post prom is designed to keep students occupied during those hours after the prom that are notorious for private parties, underage drinking, drinking and driving, and other bad choices," Brubaker continued.
Planning for the event is a year-long process. With all but one co-chair from last year’s committee "retiring" from their leadership positions, post prom is in jeopardy if new leaders don’t step forward — and soon.
That is why the committee will hold a community meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 8 at the Ephrata Public Library in an effort to garner interest from three or four willing volunteers to share the leadership roles.
"Without the post prom, we are seriously concerned about how and where students will spend their time after the prom is over," said Brubaker, who is stepping down as co-chair for the 2012 post prom. Brubaker supports the concept of post prom "100 percent," and wants to help recruit new members.
But she does have a reason for concern.
The number of 15- to 20-year-old drivers who had blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) of 0.01 or higher when involved in fatal crashes dropped 37 percent from 2000 to 2009, which suggests that perhaps events like post prom are having a positive effect. However, crashes involving alcohol are still the leading cause of death in that age range, according to national data.
In 2008, 25 percent of drivers ages 15 to 20 who died in motor vehicle crashes had a BAC of 0.08 or higher, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly three out of every four teen drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes after drinking and driving were not wearing a seat belt. Half of teen deaths from motor vehicle crashes occurred between 3 p.m. and midnight, and 56 percent occurred on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
More research from The Partnership at Drugfree.org, Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and the insurance industry shows 70 percent of high school juniors and seniors expect their peers to drink and drive on prom night, which typically begins in mid-April.
Many students want a safe, but fun, place to attend after prom. Post prom fills that need and is open to Ephrata juniors and seniors and their dates, even if they don’t attend the prom. Some students are unable to pay for the expense of prom, but festivities at post prom costs a mere $10.
It’s not that there’s a lack of interest or support for post prom, Brubaker said, but rather when children move on, their parents tend to do the same. When this happens, the opportunity for change and fresh ideas also opens.
"I would not say people have lost interest. I just think in today’s world, people have so much going on, they find it hard to commit," said Rhinier, who has been involved for two years and plans to serve as co-chair for the May 2012 post prom. "I already feel like we are behind for the year, since no theme has been picked."
Throughout the year, there is a core group of about 30 to 35 people who help get decorations ready, she said. And while the support of volunteers is also vital on the night of the event, it is the culmination of months of planning that the leaders are tasked with.
Brubaker added that planning doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task. Volunteers work two to three days a week starting in the fall to paint, glitter and prepare decorations for the May post prom event.
Forty to 50 volunteers are needed the weekend of the event to convert the cafeteria into the special-themed showcase, run games, chaperone and serve food. The end result of a year’s work may avert a tragedy that could happen in seconds.
"Alcohol-related crashes among teens spike during the months of April, May and June," she said. "The post prom is in direct response to that information. Keep the kids off the road and safe during this infamous time of potential underage drinking and drug use."