It was a roaring good time for many local developmentally disabled students, who danced the night away in the Granite Hills High School cafeteria, during the 16th annual Stars in the Hills Prom on Saturday night. This year’s theme was “The Roaring 20’s.”
The prom, hosted by the Porterville Breakfast Rotary Club, started when the club noticed a need for a prom where this specific set of students felt safe, comfortable and free to just be themselves. Students who are enrolled in the Tulare County Office of Education program/classroom, and are of appropriate age, may attend the prom up until the age of 22.
“The Porterville Breakfast Rotary saw a need in our community and decided to fulfill it,” said Janice Castle, a Breakfast Rotary Club member who has been to every Stars in the Hills Prom since its inception. “The Stars in The Hills Prom was created 16 years ago with the help of Breakfast Rotary and the committed Porterville community.”
Cathy Machado, with help from staff and teachers at L.B. Hill, provide and coordinated notifications and letters sent out to each attendee informing them of the prom. Tux and Tails, a business in Visalia, comes to Porterville to measure each student for tuxedos and then brings the tuxedos back to them after they have been altered to ensure they fit each student perfectly.
For dresses, Barbara Gaffrey is among those who donate their seamstress skills for alterations. The Press Shop provides cleaning of all gowns, and Denise Everhart and her friends at Salon Sassafyde provide hair cuts, styling and manicures to make each student feel their absolute best.
Promoting Self Worth, a local Porterville business, donates transportation the students call ‘Party Buses,’ because they’re decorated on the inside to give the students riding in them the full prom experience. Just after 6 p.m. students began arriving to the prom in these buses, and after making their red carpet entrance into the Granite Hills High School cafeteria, they were already prepared to get on the floor and start dancing.
As attendees began to arrive, members of the Porterville Breakfast Rotary Club began serving guests their dinner. The highly requested meal among the students was pizza with a side of healthy and fresh veggies, paired with either water or lemonade. Amanda Yan, with Hergesheimer’s Donut Factory, donated several dozens of donuts as a sweet treat for the night.
On top of allowing the prom to be hosted in their cafeteria, the Granite Hills High School Ag Department’s Floral Design team provided corsages, boutonnières and centerpieces. The high school’s Interact Club helped develop a theme and the prom decorations for the evening.
DJ Adrian Cloyd, who went attended the Stars in the Hills prom while he was growing up, was already in the mix as students began to arrive, providing classic music to walk into before switching it up and playing popular dance songs that had students, teachers, caretakers and parents grooving to the beat.
“I just wanted to give back to my community,” said Cloyd about why he volunteered to DJ for the prom. “I wanted to give back to a class that I had come into. I was recently in this program and I had attended this prom. I just wanted to bring back a good moment and give back to my community. The prom was so fun for me. It’s been awhile, but my favorite moment was just showing up to it. It was once in a lifetime for me.”
Sierra View Medical Center donates the linens used during the dance, and Donnie Moore, from the city’s Parks and Leisure Department, donates the use of two light towers to light up the parking lot, so those in attendance can see where they’re walking.
The Copy Center donates printing for the prom, and Brian and Gretchen Brumley, from Generations Photography, donate photos to each student. This year, Generations Photography came prepared with a stunning and vivid backdrop that featured an old classic car and fireworks. Prom attendees were posed in front of the backdrop and their photo was taken. On-site photo printing allowed each student to take home their photos that same night.
Monache High School PIVET Club provides the students with keepsakes to remember the night, and the Monache High School Video Department, with help from Robert Styles and many students, film the prom and provide DVD’s of the evening.
Bank of the Sierra makes a $1,000 donation to the prom each year, and Simplot Growers donated $750 this year. The prom is also supported by many community members and anonymous donors who give money, clothing and accessories for the event.
“The Porterville Breakfast Rotary Club would like to acknowledge the numerous contributions from individuals, businesses and the community for being the framework of this wonderful event,” said members from Porterville Breakfast Rotary. “We appreciate what all these individuals and businesses have done to make this event possible and hope you will support them as they have supported this group of very special students.”
Trent Fiori and Scott Scheer, of Imperial Ambulance, donate an ambulance and Paramedic Nelson Pleytez was in attendance for the evening. Cal Fire brought their fire truck, and fire fighters Toni Davis, Ernest Austin, Cary Booker and Gonzalo Garcia attended the prom. Officers Rich Standridge and Carl Jordon from the Porterville Police Department provided security for the evening. Porterville High School AVID teams up with Strathmore High School AVID to give the students at the prom support and to help clean up once the dance is over.
“I am honored to be a part of this prom,” said Castle. “The Porterville Breakfast Rotary members realize they are truly making a difference in our students lives and are very proud of them. Rotary’s motto is ‘Service Above Self’ and this event exemplifies our intent.”