WMU News

Senior citizens and students swing at 'Senior' Prom

March 20, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- Age will definitely have its advantages during Western Michigan University's 14th annual Senior Prom on Wednesday, March 27, but it will be the guests not WMU's upperclassmen who have the upper hand on the dance floor.

The free, semi-formal event brings Southwest Michigan senior citizens together with WMU students, faculty and staff for a night of Big Band music and swing dancing on campus from 7 to 10 p.m. in the East Ballroom of the Bernhard Center.

The prom began in 1989 as a way for older WMU alumni and area residents to share an evening of fun and reminiscing with current students. The event gradually grew in popularity and last year, attracted some 450 senior citizens and WMU community members.

This year's event carries the theme "Timeless Classics." Those arriving early will be able to warm up by participating in Bingo as well as card and board games from 5 to 7 p.m. These types of early-bird activities were added in 1993 to accommodate the many seniors who prefer to arrive before the dancing starts and spend their entire evening on campus.

"People have been coming back for 14 years, so I guess it's going over pretty well," says Bridget Smith, a senior from Dearborn, Mich., and co-chairperson for the prom. "It really does bring the community and University together, and it's a great way for students to do some networking with people who have worked in the same fields they're majoring in and who are often willing to provide tips about jobs or help arrange interviews."

Smith adds that about 30 student volunteers and half a dozen committees are involved in preparing for this annual mixer, with additional volunteers needed to help out on prom night.

"It's a huge process to put something like this on," she says. "I can't thank the other student volunteers enough. They've been spending a lot of Saturdays and Sundays working on this."

Music for the 2002 prom will be provided by the Phoenix Big Band, a 15-piece ensemble from Kalamazoo that has been providing music for the prom since the event's inception. In keeping with previous years, refreshments, photo keepsakes, dance contests and prizes will help liven up the evening.

Smith notes that students traditionally prepare for the prom by teaming up with senior citizen tutors in mid-March to learn such dance steps as the fox trot, waltz, Lindy and other dances popular in the 1940s. The seniors also can brief them on topics such as authentic hairstyles and fashions of the period.

The prom is being coordinated by Draper-Siedschlag Residence halls. Once again, area businesses are donating the prizes while financial assistance is being provided by several WMU units and organizations, including Residence Life, the Residence Hall Association, various residence hall councils, the Office of the President, the Dean of Students Office, the Western Student Association, the Campus Activities Board and Auxiliary Enterprises.

To get the word out about the event, organizers rely on mail invitations, announcements at area senior citizen centers, and newspaper advertisements and stories. A personal invitation is not necessary to attend, but for planning purposes, those wishing to participate are encouraged to call in a reservation.

For more information or to make a reservation, contact Bridget Smith, Chris Slaigh or Sarah Weaver in the Draper-Siedschlag office at (269) 387-4790.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 269 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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