Post Prom provides closure for seniors after unprecedented year


Bella Valdes-Houghton

Seniors Olivia Eisenberg (left) and Lily Robinson (right) enjoy the festivities at Post Prom. The Calleva Farm party consisted of a variety of carnival game booths, a haunted trail and snacks for seniors to enjoy.

By Jamie Forman

A slick limo — or, more aptly, a charter bus — rolled up to Calleva Farm last Friday night. As seniors donning paper event bracelets in lieu of traditional floral wrist corsages made their way from the buses to the venue, they showed off their most elegant sweatpants and rain boots. Flickering chandeliers — in the form of bonfires — set the scene for a one-of-a-kind Post Prom to celebrate the senior class.

The PTA finalized this year’s Post Prom after MCPS announced in March that high schools couldn’t hold traditional prom dances due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Determined to take student safety into account and follow CDC guidelines, Post Prom committee chair Nicole Riso decided to “shift gears” and hold a celebration that wouldn’t be affiliated with Whitman or the school’s annual prom dance. 

In planning this event, Riso’s top priority was public health, she said.

“We wanted to design an event to celebrate the seniors and all of their accomplishments, while also following Covid guidelines,” Riso said. 

This past fall, Riso noticed that Calleva’s annual autumn event — Markoff’s Haunted Forest — safely hosted hundreds of visitors every night, making it the perfect location for Post Prom, she said. Riso contacted the facility in September and obtained a letter of approval from the county, and the event became official.

The Calleva party consisted of a variety of carnival game booths, a haunted trail and snacks for seniors to enjoy. During the festivities, the PTA mandated that students wear masks and maintain social distancing guidelines at all times.

Buses leaving from the Whitman parking lot transported students to the venue at 8:00 p.m. and back at 1:00 a.m. Parent volunteers ensured that students followed social distancing rules throughout the bus rides, Riso said. 

After arriving at Calleva, students walked under a balloon arch to an open area lined with carnival booths and food huts. Two large bonfires and an array of colorful string lights glowed against the dark sky, highlighting the carnival theme that the PTA worked to make a reality.

Although rain threatened to cancel the festivities in the early afternoon, the weather cleared just in time for the event. Fortune telling, personalized caricatures and Markoff’s signature haunted trail — among other activities — were popular with students, senior Ian Garton said.

The party was free and welcomed all seniors. Around 400 members of the senior class attended Post Prom, senior Maayan Harris said.

 “I enjoyed reconnecting with my friends, especially those who I don’t have classes with and haven’t seen in a long time,” Harris said.

Around 12:30 a.m., the seniors boarded the PTA-organized buses to return to Whitman. Senior Willo Sheldon returned home from the event covered in airbrush tattoos, she said.

Though many students found the PTA’s Post Prom exciting, however, some seniors also remained undeterred in organizing their own gatherings over the past few weeks in an attempt to keep the traditional prom spirit alive. 

Senior Margot Su and her friends dressed up in colorful floor-length dresses and took Ubers to the National Mall. The group took pictures with the sun setting just behind the Washington Memorial, and they finished their night off with a delectable dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. 

“Once we realized that the normal Whitman Prom was canceled, my friends and I organized our own get-together,” Su said. “We wanted to get the best out of what we had left of our senior year.”

Other seniors sought closure by visiting their elementary school and reminiscing about how far they’ve come since spending their recess on the playground. After a quick trip to Five Guys, senior Richard Qin visited Burning Tree Elementary School with some of his childhood friends. 

After four years of high school — and 14 months of virtual learning to wrap up the seniors’ time — Sheldon will remember the PTA’s unusual prom event fondly for years to come, she said.

“This Post Prom exceeded my expectations,” Sheldon said. “It offered a sense of closure to our unconventional junior and senior years.”