Dorothea Esposito was one of the many senior citizens waiting to enter the Mepham High School cafeteria for the 9th annual Senior Citizen Prom on Tuesday night.
"I've come about five or six times," she said. "Every student I meet is just tops and the teacher who runs it is a doll."
That teacher is Barbara Gai, health instructor at Mepham and Students Against Destructive Decisions (S.A.D.D.) adviser.
Busy with last-minute preparations, Gai said, "this program was the idea of a student nine years ago and it's just gotten bigger. Senior citizens are invited free thanks to the S.A.D.D. treasury and the generosity of local merchants, especially to Piccolos, who provided most of the food."
Gai, who recently announced that she will be retiring next year, added, "every year we have a theme. We've had Mardi Gras to a cruise ship theme. This year we have an Earth Day theme. The chandeliers were created from bottles."
Once seated, Gai and Principal Michael Harrington welcomed the guests and thanked the students for all their help in making the evening both successful and fun.
S.A.D.D. President Allison Balogh was doing some last minute rehearsing with the choir, but later said, "I just like seeing all the senior citizens get up and dance and make the most of what's given to them." Balogh, a high school senior, will be attending Washington University in St. Louis in the fall.
Eleventh grader Irum Hasan was enjoying mingling with the senior citizens. "Nowadays there seems to be a disconnect," she said. "We need to bridge that gap and this is one way to foster the communication. From older to younger, there needs to be a linkage. We need to appreciate what these people have done in their lives."
Josh Haimson, who is in tenth grade, donned a top hat for the occasion.
"I'm interested in hearing their stories," he said. "They've seen a lot and it's always fun to talk with them about it. And, I plan on dancing with them."
Zelda Feig of East Meadow has been attending senior proms that are hosted in a variety of places for about 10 to 12 years.
"I always look forward to dancing," she said.
Later, she found her partner thanks to Haimson with music provided by the school jazz band and led by Brian Neiderman. Some of the songs played for the 87 guests who'd signed up to be a part of the evening were "In the Mood", S"hiny Stockings", "Georgia on My Mind" and "The Girl" from Ipanema. In addition, the choir performed a selection of songs, including the favorite, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," led by Michael Mitchell.
"Wherever there is a prom, we're there," said Kay Ray of Merrick.
Her dance partner, George Sfiroudis from Long Beach, agreed as the two danced across the floor, validating Abraham Lincoln's quote that was included in the evening's program: "And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."