Saturday, May 10, 2008

After-Prom Party

Now that the Ojai Valley News finally ran my story yesterday on the After-Prom Party, I can put it on my blog. It happened two weeks ago, but it was such a neat event that I still wanted to blog about it. I was there all night as a chaperon, and it was a blast! So, if you live out of town (or don't get the paper), here's the unedited scoop:

Alcohol-Free After-Prom Party in Ojai
By Christine A. Hodge

About 115 Nordhoff High School juniors and seniors were found partying at The Village Jester and Ojai Playhouse Saturday night, and not one drop of alcohol was served.

Young Life Ojai, a youth outreach program, together with Ojai youth groups, hosted the event. Young Life rented The Village Jester and the Ojai Playhouse from 11 p.m. Saturday to 3 a.m Sunday to host the free party for prom-goers. With help from a generous food donation from Jersey Mike’s Subs and many other businesses, the party was designed to give teen-agers a fun place to go without getting into some of the post-prom activities that might lead to unintended consequences, such as drunk driving arrests, fatalities and pregnancies.

"We wanted to give students a fun alternative after prom this year," said Danielle Sloneker, Director of Young Life Ojai. "It not only provided a safe place for students but also showed that you can have a great time without drinking or drugs."

There was a variety of activities for the students to participate in, including karaoke at the bar, My Space laptop stations, video games and a movie in the theater next door.

"Seeing two girls in their prom dresses standing on top of the bar singing karaoke at the top of their lungs, with a rowdy crowd behind them, having a great time with nobody was drinking alcohol, that really said it all," said John Hasbrouck, business owner and supporter of Young Life. Hasbrouck volunteered his time at the party.

Besides the entertainment and food, students also had the opportunity to get a free DVD/CD case engraved with their name, a "green screen" photo with their picture on the front of a magazine and a chance to win everything from gift certificates to a custom-made Cory Coffey Specialized-brand bicycle.

"It was totally awesome! I had tons of fun," said Dash Walczak, a junior at Nordhoff who won the bicycle. "I think everyone had fun. It was a really cool set up. There was a lot of different things to do. I hope it happens next year."

Nordhoff junior Nicole Collier gave it a "two thumbs up," as she displayed her thumbs in front of her prom dress. Junior Nick Biava also said he enjoyed the party. His favorite part was being with his friends. Many students said they enjoyed the free food and prizes.

"It was exciting," junior Tanner Starbard said. "I won three things!"

Many Ojai business donated gift certificates and clothing to be given away in a free raffle throughout the night. Sandwiches from Jersey Mike’s Subs, soft drinks, ice cream, and cookies were plentiful.

Leading the way, Jersey Mike’s Subs owner and Ojai resident Dan Burrell was eager to help with the After-Prom Party.

"We’re all about community and helping," he said. "I hope our participation will encourage other local businesses to do this type of thing." Jersey Mike’s Subs provided more than enough sandwiches to feed the entire crowd.

The Ojai Playhouse, which was under lobby renovation until a day before the event, generously provided an almost free rental of the theater, Hasbrouck said.

"The Ojai Playhouse was more than accommodating, adjusting their construction to meet our needs," said Ryan Smith, Associate Pastor of Youth at Ojai Valley Community Church.

When Jester owner Nigel Chisholm was approached about renting out his business for the evening, he also was eager to help, despite the risks.

"I think it’s great to be able to provide a fun place right here in the middle of town where kids are safe", he said. Chisholm surrendered his liquor license during the private event, which was approved by the Alcohol and Beverage Commission.

Several Ojai youth pastors, volunteer youth leaders and Ojai residents came together Saturday night to make the After-Prom Party unforgettable for the teen-agers who attended. Ryan Connel, Youth Pastor at Church of the Living Christ, was pleased with how everyone worked so well together to accomplish that goal.

"People notice when unity is in operation and so serving our community united has made a very clear picture that we are here to serve the teens of the Ojai Valley," Connel said. "We’re so relational people and so anytime we do anything together it’s better than doing anything alone. Ojai is a small town and all of the leaders are friends anyway. It’s fun doing life together and serving teens together."

The party lasted into the into the early hours of Sunday morning with the event that most of the teen-agers had been waiting for--the bicycle raffle, which took place in the theater. Walczak was sitting in the front of the theater and, at first, couldn’t believe that his name had been drawn.
"I’m so excited! I’m so stoked!" he said as he lifted up the bicycle and posed for a picture.

Sloneker said the event was a success, and not only in her estimation.
"It’s the buzz of the school," said Sloneker, whose husband, Jeff, teaches chemistry at Nordhoff. "Everyone is talking about it."


heidibelle said...

Great Article Christine. And what a great option for teens after prom.

frisky said...

That is so awesome! What a great party! I hope they're still doing it when my kids are in high school.

Kari said...

Great job - xo