OTTUMWA — The Class of 2020 has experienced a senior year like no other. One member of the Ottumwa High School class is hoping to provide a bit of normalcy.
When Iowa schools got shut down over Ottumwa’s spring break in March in response to COVID-19, it put traditional milestones such as prom and graduation on hold.
A modified, drive-up graduation was held in May with a more traditional ceremony — with social distancing — held this past weekend. But the news of prom being canceled hit Saige Knight and some of her classmates hard. That’s why she’s planning a senior prom July 31 at Hotel Ottumwa.
“A lot of people were not too happy,” she said of the news of the cancellation. “I know a lot of the girls spent a lot of money on their dresses.
“Right after they canceled [prom], my mom just said, ‘We’ll have our own,’ and I just stuck to it. I really wanted to do this for our seniors,” she said of the event. “I really felt like taking charge so they weren’t as disappointed.”
Word about the event has gotten around to Knight’s classmates. She said the seniors already had a chat group for the class of 2020 set up, which she utilized to ask if people would be willing to come. She’s already gotten 40-50 pre-orders from classmates saying they’ll attend. With dates, that’s around 100 people, said Justice Finch, Knight’s boyfriend who is assisting with the planning.
In addition, a post about the event has gone up on Facebook, where a lot of parents are tagging their senior students.
Knight said that her mom has been funding the prom up front with money from ticket sales to the event and a 50/50 raffle contributing to it. Other seniors and their parents have been willing to help, the couple said, as well as contribute decorations and help with setup.
“Posting the event on Facebook and asking for money didn’t feel right,” Knight said. “I felt like we would be begging for money when we were already asking for ticket prices.”
There’s no set theme for the prom except for decorations in silver and red. Family friend Josh Miller has been booked as the photographer, and a DJ has been hired. “It will be a full-on dance,” said Finch.
But Knight and Finch are more focused on providing memories for the seniors.
“I just feel like with they chaotic year they’ve had, this gives them a chance to reminisce on the times they’ve had before they go off to college,” said Finch, who graduated in 2018 and currently attends Indian Hills Community College. “I just felt like it was my responsibility to support her in whatever she wants to do.”
“I was kind of disappointed they were able to do a graduation and not a prom, but prom’s probably not really a necessity,” Knight said. “I’m really glad we’re able to have a graduation and do our last walk. … but I didn’t want to miss out [on prom] and I didn’t want other people to feel the same way. I feel like it’s something they can cherish. I feel every senior year has been normal until now.”
Despite putting in the time and effort to plan the event, she’s really looking forward to one last chance to celebrate with her classmates.
“I’m ready to have my time in the dress I spent money on and spend time with people, bringing back memories,” she said. “I just wanted to have a time for the seniors because this is kind of like our last hurrah. I didn’t want anybody to feel like we didn’t have a full senior year.”