Students with special needs at the Watson Institute’s Education Centers in Sewickley and Bridgeville recently dressed to impress in preparation for the 6th annual Prom.
The Prom, a tradition for many high school students, started at Watson in 2011 when Katie Patterson, Program Coordinator at the Education Center Sewickley, along with a few other staff members decided to give the high-school age students at Watson the same experience as their typically-developing peers at other schools.
“I have always felt that Prom is a kind of rite of passage for any teenager, so I thought our students should enjoy that too! said Katie Patterson.
Watson’s Prom started modestly with few students and their families attending. It was hosted at the Watson Institute’s Friendship Academy in the gym as a more casual dance event. Over the years, Prom has grown into a dressy celebration for the teens at Watson, hosting around 25 students and their families as well as staff members.
“The students love the dancing, being able to get dressed up and hanging out with staff outside of school. Parents love it because it is an event that they get to share with their entire family,” said Katie of the significance of this event to Watson families.
The theme of this year’s Prom, which was held on Sunday, April 29 at the Chartiers Country Club, celebrated the Watson Institute’s 100th Birthday! What began as D.T. Watson Home for Crippled Children in 1917 has grown to serve more than 1,300 children with special needs from age three to 21. Students danced the night away and closed out the evening by singing “Happy Birthday” to Watson while enjoying a birthday cake and Centennial cookies decorated with the Watson logo.
Every year after Prom, Katie and fellow Watson staff hear from our students’ families how thrilled they and their child were to attend Prom. “A comment that sticks out to me from a parent was when she told me she hadn’t slow danced with her husband since her wedding and Prom gave her the opportunity to do that” shared Katie.
This year, Watson students and staff had a blast celebrating this important rite of passage while also sharing in the birthday celebrations of the organization.
Follow Watson on Facebook to see photos from the 2017 Watson Institute Prom!