This year marked the 10th year that volunteers and supporters have organized a prom for the students who attend Willis Peters Exceptional School. Located in Dover, Willis Peters Exceptional School is a Hillsborough County Public School that serves students, ages three through 22, who have limited intellectual functioning and other disabilities such as deafness and visual, language, speech and physical impairments.
The prom was held at the Brandon Elk Lodge #2383 located at 800 Centennial Lodge Dr. in Brandon on Saturday, April 21.
The prom is made possible thanks to the tireless efforts of Dorinda Rountree, a 14-year member of the Brandon Elks Lodge and an Administrative Secretary at the Area VI Hillsborough County School Office. For the last three years, Rountree has requested a grant from the Elks. The $2500 grant she received is enough to cover the cost of the prom, including prom dresses and tuxedos, and to obtain tablets for the teachers at Willis Peters Exceptional School.
The purpose of the prom, according to Rountree is, “To have a night where the children, their teachers and the families can celebrate together. The children are unable to participate in any activities that a traditional school would have due to their profound disabilities.” Rountree added, “This is an amazing event that the students look forward to every year. Our students do not often get a chance to dress up and feel like the center of attention. However, at prom, that is exactly how they feel, and it shows in their glowing smiles.”
This year’s theme was Masquerade. Approximately 130 attended the prom. This year’s King is Jeremy Plummer and the Queen is Lydia DiClemente. The King and Queen are selected through a Prom Court campaign. Rountree explained, “Posters, pictures and sometimes treats are given out to persuade the vote. After the campaign is over, high school and transition students vote to choose the Prom King and Queen.”
This is the seventh year that Rountree has organized the prom. “I do it for the children,” said Rountree. “I have worked with Willis Peters Exceptional School and Area VI for over 20 years. When Elk Don Morris passed away unexpectedly, I made it my mission to continue this tradition of providing a prom. Don’s wife, Leslie Morris, was once the principal at the school,” said Rountree.