Prom: the quintessential right-of-passage event reserved for high school seniors (and the lucky, popular juniors) nationwide. A night of limousines, rented tuxedos and more fun than most parents would ever want to hear about; for most, the prom marks the end of an era and the start of new beginnings. However, most remember prom as a night where everyone, regardless of who they were, their backgrounds, their cliques, their groups, mingled and mixed together and had an amazing time.
An amalgam of people laughing, fraternizing and enjoying a fun-filled night was the goal of The Welcome to America Project’s 2012 prom and it was a clear and apparent success.
Interestingly (and rather fortuitously), I ended up inviting and filling my table with all of my high school friends. These were the same people I attended prom with in the spring of 2003 and I knew it would be a great time. I was beyond elated when everyone agreed to attend as I knew from previous experience that the WTAP prom offers a fantastic opportunity, year after year, for groups of friends to come relive their own prom experience (or try prom for the first time). The major difference is that tickets, dresses and corsages were purchased to support not a school but a common and noteworthy cause.
The programming was captivating and led seamlessly by Channel 12’s James Quinones. Between his lively persona and banter between WTAP’s Executive Director Megan O’Connor, the night was certainly full of laughs. Megan’s own admission of her disastrous prom experience had the audience smiling endlessly and was a welcome addition.
Perhaps the most poignant part of the night was Alexis Niragira’s touching story of his journey to the United States and how WTAP helped him acclimate and assimilate. It was this story that really conveyed just how powerful the welcome can be and how absolutely vital The Welcome to America Project is to this population. I’ll admit, there was not a dry-eye at my table.
Of course the best part of the evening was seeing everyone let loose and enjoy themselves. Patrons and refugees alike moved from table to table, mingled and danced and the night brought together so many different backgrounds and cultures under the guise and premise of neighborly understanding mixed in with fun.
As a proud member of The Welcome to America Project’s Board of Directors, I was so elated to have my closest friends share in WTAP’s mission and get to see the impact this wonderful organization has on Phoenix’s refugees. The prom does a great job showcasing all that we work so tirelessly to achieve and is the signature event that not only strives for a fun-filled evening but to bring awareness to an organization that is truly one-of-a-kind. Hopefully patrons had as much fun as I did and were moved and prompted to sign up to volunteer or donate. If anything, I bet everyone who was there Saturday night are already waiting for their invitations for next year.