Decatur After-Prom Event’s Future Much In Doubt

BERLIN — With the school year suddenly cruising toward its finish line, prom season will soon descend on the area, but a popular annual event aimed at keeping local teens safe following the big dance is in danger of going away because of waning interest.< ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office">

Stephen Decatur High School’s prom is set for May 11 and once again an important program is being planned to keep teens safe and under supervision after the big event as opposed to the often deadly alternatives. Each year, hundreds of local kids attend Decatur’s After Prom event as a safe alternative to parties and other activities that often meet with dangerous and sometimes deadly results.

The After Prom party, held at the high school in Berlin after the event at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center, provides revelers with food, drinks, music, games and other activities all under the supervision of adult volunteers. There are big incentives for attendees who stick out the After Prom event, which usually runs until about three or four in the morning, including televisions, computers, notebooks, bicycles, gift cards and gift baskets, for example. Each teen gets a ticket upon check-in and the winners must be present to win, which helps ensure most hang around until the end.

However, the popular event is at risk of going away in the near future because of an apparent lack of interest. Most of the current After Prom Committee members are parents of seniors and the committee is running into difficulty reaching out to new members to continue to carry the torch in the future. Committee member Sue Carpenter said this week appeals for new members are going unanswered to a large degree, putting the After Prom event’s future in doubt.

“I’m not entirely sure why, but we’re having trouble getting new volunteers to keep this going,” she said. “Now, we’re at the point where we’re starting to wonder if this year’s event will be the last one.”

Carpenter said the committee is looking for new members from the parents of underclassmen to keep the important initiative going, and despite appeals through phone calls, emails and social networks, the call for help is largely going unanswered. Serving on the committee requires some time commitment. Planning sessions are held on the first Monday of each month throughout the school year and volunteers often beat the pavement seeking donations for food, drinks and prizes, but the commitment is negligible compared to the benefit.

“It’s a shame if this goes away for lack of interest,” said Carpenter. “This is so important and the statistics bear that out.”

Indeed, the statistics do bear out the importance of supervised after-prom events. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, on a typical prom weekend each spring, 48 teenagers are killed and another 5,200-plus are injured in vehicle accidents and 40 percent of the deaths are alcohol related. In an effort to prevent local teens from adding to those statistics, Decatur’s After Prom party will offer a safe, supervised alternative to traditional prom night parties.

In a new twist added last year, an open house is held at the After Prom event at the high school to allow parents to see first-hand what their kids will be doing and make sure it is safe. The next meeting is set for April 2, at 6 p.m. at Decatur. The final meeting is set for May 6, at 6 p.m. at the school. For more information, contact Carpenter at 443-614-5317.