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M-PHS celebrates Unified Prom

Jessie Atkins, of Jessie’s Hair Studio in Marysville, does the hair of Marysville-Pilchuck High School Life Skills student Erika O’Kelly, during the ‘Day of Beauty’ before the Unified Prom on May 10. - Kirk Boxleitner
Jessie Atkins, of Jessie’s Hair Studio in Marysville, does the hair of Marysville-Pilchuck High School Life Skills student Erika O’Kelly, during the ‘Day of Beauty’ before the Unified Prom on May 10.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

MARYSVILLE — Special needs and general education students were able to get down on May 10 for the Marysville-Pilchuck High School Life Skills Unified Prom.

“The word ‘Unified’ is used by Special Olympics to refer to ‘Unified Sports,’ where athletes with and without disabilities compete together in a supportive and inclusive environment,” M-PHS Life Skills teacher Jim Strickland said.

“We decided to use the word ‘Unified’ to describe our prom because it also is a truly inclusive event, with at least half of the roughly 80 attendees being general education students, and the other half being students with disabilities,” he added.

The Life Skills students’ parents and peers needed to make sure that everyone looked their best for the evening’s dance, though, so they enlisted the aid of community members to kick things off with a three-hour “Day of Beauty” that afternoon.

Local beauticians Beth Hauck of The Water’s Edge in Everett and Jessie Atkins of Jessie’s Hair Studio in Marysville joined student and adult volunteers in doing the hair and nails of 10 young women in the Life Skills program, so they’d feel confident when each student’s arrival was announced over a microphone that night.

The prom literally rolled out a red carpet for the students’ entry, and O’Connor Photo Studio offered free professional shoots during a brief interlude in the dance, when students grabbed slices of chocolate cake.

The students of Everett High School’s floral arranging program provided the corsages and boutonnieres, while Rosie Reynaud did a hula dance.

Shannon Donovan, a parent in the Life Skills Booster Club who organized the prom with M-PHS “No Labels Club” and Leadership students, extended her thanks to the Olive Garden in Tulalip for its spread of pasta, salad and bread sticks.

“We have such a small budget that this made a huge difference for us,” Donovan said, adding that everything was free to the students.

Donations of time, materials and money came from other parents in the Booster Club, as well as the Tulalip Tribes, the M-PHS PTSA and the Marysville Special Education PTSA.

Strickland sees the prom not as an act of charity toward the Life Skills students, but as an opportunity for all students to enjoy each other.

“The general education students are not there to do for our students, but to do with our students in a real spirit of equality and inclusion,” Strickland said. “Several parents commented that this was the best Unified Prom we’ve ever had, and I have to agree.”

Arlington High School will have a Unified Prom on Friday, May 30, from 12:30-3:30 p.m. in the Byrnes Performing Arts Center lobby.

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