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Prom Night

The Junior-Senior Class requests the pleasure of your company.

Goals & Objectives

In carrying out its mission to provide quality education for urban, high-risk youth, the Alternative Schools Network (ASN) assumes an instrumental role in violence prevention. After-school and extracurricular programming serve as an effective vehicle for getting youth off the streets and one successful example is ASN’s annual network-wide Prom Night.

Every May for the past 15 years, appoximately 650 students and chaperones from the majority of ASN’s member high schools cross gang lines, territories and neighborhoods to converge at the Chicago Sheraton downtown for a celebratory Prom Night. While bringing together youth from so many rival areas can frequently create opposition, in all the years that ASN has hosted the event no violence or gang issues have occurred.

Methodology

As research has shown, youth who are engaged in their lives have significantly reduced opportunities and desire to participate in destructive interactions or illicit activities. While Prom Night may occur only once per year, the planning, anticipation and preparation for Prom begins far in advance and occupies much time and attention, thus reducing the chance of exposure to violence.

Many of these youth never dreamed they would have a chance to attend a high school Prom. Yet ASN has made Prom Night a reality that is imaginable and attainable. As a result, Prom is considered a privilege, a once-in-a-lifetime, pivotal event with such significance that students are willing to rise above differences and comply with a zero-tolerance expectation of no violence, or even displays of anger, at the Prom.

The appeal of Prom, and the precedent established year-after-year as a violence-free event, sets the stage for positive social interactions. Even as youth travel from marginalized neighborhoods and come into contact with potential gang adversaries, what could normally be a volatile situation is offset by connecting these students in a fun and aspirational setting where they can overcome barriers and conditions, which could trigger violence.

Social & Emotional Learning

Not only does Prom engage these youth in their lives and keep them off the streets, it also provides vital social-emotional learning opportunities demonstrated effective in reducing violence. In the months leading up to the Prom, students create goals for how they can make this a positive and memorable event. Planning is extensive and engages not only peers, but also families and larger support networks. For youth and their families, the activities surrounding Prom contribute to building stronger relationships and provide valuable practice in communication and collaboration.

There is significant peer pressure to adhere to the expected behavior at Prom, which calls on these youth to show respect to others and to manage and control anger toward those with whom they may have issues on the streets. Youth make conscious decisions and commitments to overcome differences and to find ways to resolve conflict without confrontational behavior. The personal responsibility they take for their attitudes and actions builds good character and provides the foundation for youth to improve their ability to socially interact with others.

For the students and their families, Prom Night is not just a celebrated milestone; it also is a constructive social learning experience, a remarkable demonstration of overcoming factors that can lead to violence and an effective violence prevention vehicle. With each new ASN Prom Night, youth will build social and emotional skills and learn how to approach social interactions without violence. Alternative Schools Network Creating Futures Every Day Alternative Schools Network’s Prom Night