“This doesn’t even look like my school” was the remark from a student at William Byrd High School on Saturday night at the school’s annual After Prom Party— welcome words for the volunteers who had spent countless hours preparing for the event.
“It looks like a different building,” said another— exactly the effect the William Byrd PTSA After Prom Committee was hoping for.
After Prom is months in the planning, and two intense days and nights of decorating, for a three-and-a-half-hour event which has become a cherished tradition at William Byrd.
After Prom 2018 was held this year at the high school on April 15 from midnight to 3:30 a.m., after the prom itself, held hours before at The Hotel Roanoke. Students were not required to attend the prom to attend the After Prom extravaganza, and a date was not necessary. Dress was casual. Food was abundant and free.
The PTSA sponsors the event each year with great support from the community. The organization committed years ago to hold the event with no charge for admission to provide a safe place for students, free of drugs and alcohol and off the streets once the prom ends. Most schools in the area charge admission to their similar events.
Juniors and seniors were invited to attend and permitted to bring one guest. They were required to arrive by 1 a.m. and could not re-enter if they left. Security was provided by Roanoke County Police.
This year’s theme, “Around the World in Eighty Days,” originated with teacher Alicia Spangler.
In the wee hours, 422 students attended After Prom with 254 of those staying until the end at 3:30— which earned them the treasured After Prom T-shirt (from Chalaine’s of Vinton) and made them eligible for the regional RAYSAC After Prom Car Giveaway sponsored by First Team Auto. Four senior and four junior names were drawn to enter the car giveaway. The car giveaway event is held in June after all local schools have held their proms. This year RAYSAC had the car on display outside the school entrance on After Prom night.
Another incentive that convinces students to make a night of it each year are the periodic drawings for gift cards throughout the early morning hours. Parents and community businesses donated 60 gift cards this year for After Prom. The Town of Vinton chipped in $250. Michael Spangler from Southwest Tool Supply donated $500, as did Keith Liles from Allstate Insurance. There were four grand prizes— $500, $200, and $100 Visa cards and a $50 Kroger card for gas.
Students entered through the original front entrance of the school and checked in electronically via computer.
A gigantic hot air balloon greeted them, created by PTSA volunteer Randy Nicely, along with a mock-up of Big Ben and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Students strolled down the Senior Walkway, designed by Spangler and replete with scenes from around the world, Class of 2018 senior portraits, and inspirational quotations. The international theme continued throughout the building.
Most students headed first for the free food in the cafeteria which included Vito’s pizza, snacks from McDonald’s and Chick-Fil-A, and a dessert bar with Katie’s Cupcakes, bowls of candy, cotton candy, drinks, and more. The cafeteria itself was decorated with hot air balloons on the tables and the ceilings. DJ Marks Entertainment.com was there for the duration. Artist Bat Hilliard produced free caricatures throughout the party.
Many students then moved on to the gymnasium— filled with giant inflatables and the mechanical bull ride, and to the darkened auxiliary gym for laser tag. A photo booth and a green screen were available along with tables of board games.
Volunteer Sue Wilson set up the craft area for the traditional decorating of picture frames— this year inked stamps of international icons were featured. Trenda Breeding created intricate balloon sculptures in the hallways.
PTSA President Karen Hanley coordinated and facilitated this year’s event with the assistance of PTSA board members Alicia Spangler, Lisa Nicely, Paulette Rechtenwald, and Shae Davis. Volunteer Michelle Woodstock collected donations and assisted with the event itself, as did Dominique Wilson. Hanley thanked her fellow board members for their efforts in addition to parents, teachers, and the school administration.
Hanley also thanked sponsors McDonald’s of Vinton and Chick-Fil-A, and the parents and businesses that donated gift cards for the drawings.
“We at the WBHS PTSA are grateful for all of the support from the school administration, teachers, parents and community,” said Hanley. “A great thanks to community providers for donating gift cards for the prizes throughout the night.”
This year the community was again invited to view the decorations before the students arrived, from 10:30 to 11:30. Those who stopped by expressed their amazement at the decorations and variety of activities planned and their gratitude for the huge effort put forth by the volunteers to give students a night to remember.
William Byrd Principal Tammy Newcomb expressed her thanks “to the PTSA and the William Byrd staff for making this year’s event wonderful. Many of the students remarked what a great time they had. It truly was a highlight of the year.”