Third-annual Special Needs Prom brings university, community together

High school students from special needs classrooms across the region attended the third-annual Special Needs Prom hosted Nov. 17 by the University of Tennessee at Martin’s Non-Traditional Student Organization. This event began as a way to reach out to the local community and has become an afternoon area students look forward to year after year.

“We continue to host this event because of the effect it has not only on the special needs high school students but on UTM as a whole,” said Julie Durham, president of NTSA. “It breaks the boundaries. We are no longer Greek or educational students or special interest groups, but we’re one group.”

Special Needs Prom is specially organized to provide a comfortable atmosphere for students with mobility, vision, sensory or other special needs to enjoy time with their friends and family as well as students from surrounding counties.

Missy Gammons, a nurse at West Tennessee Healthcare Volunteer Hospital in Martin, brought her son, Tobey, for his first prom this year. “He’s an outgoing kid, but he enjoys being in smaller groups rather than at a larger school. He’s active in Special Olympics, and this is a group he is familiar with. It gives him an opportunity to come out and have fun,” she said. Tobey is a freshman at Obion County Central High School.

In addition to invited students, many members of the UT Martin community participated in the event as well. Almost 30 brothers from the UT Martin chapter of Kappa Alpha Order attended the dance in suits and ties to greet guests, serve food and assist however needed.

“We thought it would be a good thing to get out and help the kids,” said Parker Brown, a sophomore fraternity member from Linden. “We like helping others feel better about themselves. At the end of the day, if we can put a smile on their faces, then we’ve done our duty as KAs,” added Zack Williams, a senior fraternity member from Union City.

Many other university organizations supported the event as well, and Styles on Broadway Salon and Spa in Martin provided free hair and makeup services for guests prior to the event. This is the third year the salon has donated time and services to assist prom participants.

For more information on Special Needs Prom and plans for future events, contact Durham at 615-997-5930 or juladurh@ut.utm.edu.

###