DVHS senior class officers host prom amidst setbacks by the COVID-19 pandemic

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  • As students enter the football arena, they are greeted with a long red carpet under the Willie the Wildcat inflatable.

  • As seniors start settling into the football field, many games such as pool are set up for them to enjoy.

  • As the sky starts getting dark, seniors make their way towards the stage and dance around with their friends to the loud music.

  • Signs are set up around the football field reminding students to remain six feet apart in accordance with COVID guidelines.

  • Seniors finish up their meals and start doing the activities available, such as the life-size chess board.

  • Workers come in to serve high quality food, such as tacos, to the seniors for their meal.

  • Seniors mingle around the tables and enjoy their time as they reach the end of their high school career.

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The DVHS senior class officers held the Mask-querade Prom on campus on May 14, the culmination of a planning process brokered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A typical DVHS prom takes place at the California Academy of Sciences or San Francisco City Hall with bookings at least two years in advance. However, with venues canceled due to COVID and prom not being green-lit to take place on campus until the beginning of April, the officers worked with a shorter schedule, tighter budget and COVID guidelines to help prom take place in a little over one month.

When the county first started lifting restrictions, the DVHS senior class officers considered planning a post-graduation event on the Alameda County Fairgrounds. But as vaccine rollout increased, the focus shifted back to a formal senior prom.

“The district [became] more accommodating,” DVHS Senior Class Treasurer Danelle Lizardo said. “We were able to get that prom and secure it on [campus], which is what we initially wanted because it provided more sentimental value.”

It was a moment DVHS senior Rishika Vinnakota had been waiting for.

“‘I’m buying a dress. I’m going to prom,’” she said, describing her initial reaction. “The moment they announced it, that I had a chance to go this year, was super exciting because I didn’t even expect us to have one.”

With approval at the administrative and district level, DVHS Leadership teacher Daniel Bowen noted that they officially had “six weeks to pull it together.” 

Specifically for this year, the leadership committee had a harder time getting ideas approved by the district and administration due to strict safety protocols. 

“We have to consider whether [this activity] is COVID-safe, if admin will allow this, and if this is something that people might have to flock to. In our games like mahjong and cards … we needed to figure out how to get these little pieces that you have to touch not be vectors of transmission,” DVHS Senior Class Vice President Joseph Lee said. “Danelle came up with the idea of having gloves, but not every problem has a solution as simple as that.”

The senior class officers ensured social distancing was their top priority. Six feet distancing signs were located throughout the campus to serve as reminders. Additionally, all students were given hand sanitizer when they arrived and had access to multiple hand sanitizer stations throughout the event. Teachers and hired security were also tasked to monitor close interaction.

This really is our last month of high school and all of us, no matter if you’re in the same friend group, you’re all going to different places, and you all have different futures ahead of you. This is the last night where you can really say that you spent [time] with your friends at school.

— Danelle Lizardo

However, Vinnakota felt enforcement of such measures were not as strong as they could have been.

“Everyone kept their masks on … but the fact that everyone was moshing, everyone was really close together, no one was really social distancing when we were dancing — it wasn’t the most reassuring thing,” Vinnakota said.

DVHS senior Kristen Yee agreed that she was uncomfortable with the lack of social distancing when a mosh pit formed for Sage the Gemini, a performer and rapper the senior class officers had hired to close out the night.

“We’ve never had a performer at prom,” Bowen explained. “In the past we tried to hire performers and we’ve been told no. I think the school knew that students have lost out on a lot this year, and so they were willing to make some concessions … about different possibilities.”

Although activities such as silent disco, a tradition where DVHS rents headphones that have multiple channels to switch to and dance to, were unable to happen this year, there were many constants with the senior prom. Officers kept the tradition of prom royalty and hired the same plethora of food vendors, including a taco bar, a mac and cheese bar and a crêpe bar.

“There were plenty of great things like the food, games, great music,” Vinnakota said. “I didn’t realize we were having a Prom Court and nominations … [which] was one of the better parts of the night.”

Yee also appreciated the photo opportunities, as it was a way to catch up with old friends and take pictures with them “just being in the moment.”

“It was nothing like what the movies told me prom would be like, but I think I still had a really good time,” she remarked.

One advantage that came with having senior prom at school was that the lights and decorations that usually went toward transforming City Hall weren’t as necessary this year, allowing more of the focus to go towards the activities and booths that were available. However, this also meant officers needed to factor aspects into the budget that would have come naturally with a traditional venue.

“Because we wanted to transform the look of the stadium, we had to pay and focus more on just the edits that we would normally have,” Bowen said.

Despite all the suddenness that came with senior prom and the overall year, organizers hoped to leave lasting memories with the seniors to end their high school career. From the irony of the theme—a masquerade—to embarrassing yourself on the dance floor, they wanted seniors to celebrate this milestone in their lives.

“This really is our last month of high school and all of us, no matter if you’re in the same friend group, you’re all going to different places, and you all have different futures ahead of you,” Lizardo said. “This is the last night where you can really say that you spent [time] with your friends at school.”

Although Yee had initially not planned on going, thinking the $125 tickets were too expensive, she was glad she attended her “first and last prom.”“Having prom [be] the last hurrah before graduation was really nice because I got to see my friends,” she explained. “I think that was a good way to wrap up senior year.”

Vinnakota agreed that the sheer excitement of reuniting with her friends cinched the evening for her. 

“It’s the memories that make it,” she said. “[It’s] the people there.”