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East County Wednesday, Apr. 11, 2018 1 year ago

Prom is still a big night in Lakewood Ranch

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High school proms remain important to students and their parents.
by: Amelia Hanks Community Reporter

Jessica Ortiz can’t help but cry when she thinks about her son, Tav, going to the prom.

“I’m so proud of him, he’s completely independent,” she said. “He arranged for everything by himself. He’s taking care of the prom all on his own.”

Tav and his girlfriend, Emily Manning, will be attending their second Lakewood Ranch High School prom together. When Tav was a junior, he was on the junior advisory board that organized the prom. This year, he’s excited to just go and experience it.

“It was stressful,” Tav said.

The theme for Lakewood Ranch High School’s 2018 prom will be “Venetian Evening” and will be held April 13 at the Hyatt Regency in Sarasota.

Jessica Ortiz and Dean Lagala pose in front of their ride for the prom in 1990. The fashion then was shorter dresses. Courtesy photo.

Tav is picking up his tuxedo the day of the prom, but Emily has had her dress for months.

“I like the style of the dress, I like that it’s fitted,” she said. “I think my favorite part of the prom is dressing up and taking pictures.”

While a prom itself is the kind of tradition that you might not expect to be popular with today’s teens, it remains a really big deal, according to area students, their parents and school personnel.

Jessica Ortiz went to her proms in 1989 and 1990. She said fashion has changed since she attended.

“Most of my friends did not wear long dresses, but I think the girls today love a long gown,” she said. “How often are they able to get all dressed up like this? As fashion evolves, so do prom styles. I see all of these kids looking so confident. I love it.”

Tav and Emily won’t be riding in a limo but will drive themselves to the prom. They did coordinate her dress color with his tuxedo choice, as well as corsage color. Tav even brought a photo of his date’s dress to the tuxedo rental business to assure a match.

What makes the prom special? Well, for one thing, ticket price. Students who are attending Lakewood Ranch’s prom pay $60 apiece so they can attend an elegant venue. Braden River students pay $55. 

At Braden River High, Hannah Arduini is the president of the junior advisory board that planned the prom.

“I wanted to make this night special for my friends,” Arduini said. “I think the prom is an important experience in high school.”

The junior advisory boards at both Lakewood Ranch and Braden River begin planning the prom right after summer break.

Erin Novarro, a junior advisory board staff member at Braden River, said one the best things about her position is to see the students come together to organize the prom.

“At first, it’ll be the kids having all of these grandiose ideas. Then, when we kind of break down the budget for them, the ideas become a lot more practical,” Novarro said.

Emily Manning models the prom dress she's wearing to Lakewood Ranch's prom on April 13.

Tana Phelps, the junior advisory board staff member at Lakewood Ranch, said precautions are taken to assure a safe prom.

“There will definitely be administrators and Breathalyzers out front,” Phelps said. “There’s a dress code that they have to follow that’s posted on our website, and they’re going to be searching bags.”

The schools do try to make sure anyone who wants to participate is able. The Lakewood Ranch junior advisory board keeps some dresses for those who might not be able to afford one.

“If they’ve been saving up for a ticket and they weren’t sure they were going to be able to go until the last minute, then we donate dresses for people,” Phelps said. “We want to make sure they can still go. It’s important for these kids.”

For Tav, life after prom means the end of high school. It is the culmination of his school career.

“It’s fun, but it’s the last big thing that all my friends and I will do in high school together. It’s sad, but it’ll be a good time,” Ortiz said.

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