Prom for Virginia

Prom for Virginia

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Vincent Nurmi started this petition to Governor Ralph S. Northam

Governor Northam, 


We, the Senior Class of 2021, are writing to ask you to allow an exception to your cap of 25 at social gatherings, just for one night to allow us to have a safe celebration, such as prom. After losing the last year and half of our high school experience, this would allow us to gather at our local high schools and safely celebrate our much-deserved prom during the month of May. Please consider a one-time safe event with a larger capacity in our schools that matches what schools are already safely doing during the school day. 

This time last year, the world seemingly came to a stop. When it became abundantly clear that quarantine would last more than two weeks, and would impede on the celebrations of the Class of 2020, we scrambled to compensate for their loss. Celebrities did all that they could, hosting virtual proms and graduations, giving speeches in which they promised the feelings of loss would fade with time. While the pandemic was new and people did not fully understand the gravity of the disease spreading, parents prioritized the execution of graduation parties, pseudo-proms, and beach weeks - only done to support and celebrate their children. Schools went out of their way to reach out to seniors and to empathize with them.

The Class of 2021, has been met with a much different response. We have struggled through the difficult and painful parts of senior year with no reward for our efforts. The Class of 2021 completed the infamously horrific junior year standardized testing online, with little to no guidance in the wake of school closings, without complaint. We completed the entire college process without visiting campuses or any idea as to what admissions would look like this year, and many of us are still waiting on decisions as universities continue to push back dates. We have watched every last “last” moment go by without any recognition – our last pep rally, homecoming, winter formals, and much more have slipped away. All the while, students have been devoid of social comforts, and perhaps even lost loved ones. The empathy and condolences the Class of 2020 received are nowhere to be found – we are meant to accept without recognition the unacceptable end to our high school experience. The silence has been deafening. And the toll, short and long term, on our mental health, is monumental. While bigger and better things may lie ahead, for indeed it seems there could be nothing worse than the loss we have suffered this year as a community, it would be impossible for the Class of 2021 to move on to those things without some closure. Each senior has lost something specific to their high school journey that would have offered such a feeling – their last performance, last game, last debate. However, there are in fact two universally American experiences that offer closure and indicate the end of a long four-year journey; prom and graduation. Suffice to say, the Class of 2021 has been relieved to hear there are plans to have in-person graduations. The decorated grad caps will have their day in the sun after all, and proud parents can look on and realize how much we have accomplished in the face of adversity. 

This sense of relief of graduation in person was mitigated by the news that we would be deprived of prom. Though the Class of 2021 has acknowledged that nothing will look normal this year, the hope for some sort of prom, some kind of last dance, became a sort of light at the end of a very dark tunnel. Truly, graduation is for the parents – students look forward to prom as our last celebration. For us, it represents more than just another social event. It is the culmination of four years of hard work, a single evening in which we had the opportunity to feel like the young adults we all strive to become in high school. Because we have worked so incredibly hard to get here. The stress of senior year is normally balanced by celebrations throughout the year – for the Class of 2021 that stress was only compounded by the stress of living through a pandemic with no discernible end in sight. 

Logistically, allowing high schools to hold prom is in everyone’s best interest as a community that would like to prevent COVID-spreader events from occurring. If high schools are not allowed to sponsor proms, events in which adults could supervise students obeying social distancing and mask mandates. Additionally, we would not allow food to be served at the event.  We do not want students to make plans of their own and celebrate their prom in an unsafe manner, which they will in the void of a school-sponsored prom. Isn’t it better to let us all celebrate safely under the school’s strict safety measures than risk many private and potentially unsafe parties? Given reasonable guidelines, schools could hold proms to satisfy those desires while ensuring students’ safety. And, many seniors and their parents are starting to get vaccinated, with more vaccinated by May and June.

The ability to host prom at a school also becomes an issue of equity. Although some students have developed COVID-bubbles that they may be comfortable holding their own proms with, many students do not. Whether this is for safety reasons or simply because of typical high school social life, this would leave those students without an opportunity for closure. Moreover, it would worsen the mental health component of this issue for those seniors, as they watch peers pursuing either unsafe or non-inclusive behavior and events.  

Finally, schools have been allowed to return in-person with far more than 250 students at a time, why should students be deprived of such a milestone event using the same facilities? In-person school has been prioritized because it has been made clear the effect virtual school has had on our education and mental health. A lack of prom, for seniors, would have a far more detrimental effect on our mental health than virtual school has. The latter, we have collectively grown numb to. The former has been one of the few hopes we allow ourselves to have regarding celebrations this year and put us mentally on a better path to successfully navigating the change from high school to college.

The Class of 2021 is asking you to reconsider. To take into account the life-altering circumstances under which we have been forced to surrender what was meant to be one of our most memorable years. We ask that you put yourself in our grad caps and imagine our devastation. Governor Northam, you are in a unique position to ensure that the Class of 2021 is not forgotten. You have the power to reinvigorate schools, parents, and seniors, and offer the Class of 2021 the love, support, and recognition last year’s graduates received. 


Kind regards, 

The Class of 2021 

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