STERLING – Justin Richards, a student at Bi-County Special Education Cooperative, was dancing by himself Friday right before the DJ began playing “Teach Me How to Dougie.”
Once the dance song started playing, Richards, 18, lit up, dancing like there was no tomorrow as his classmates made a circle around him.
“This is a great time,” Richards said, catching his breath, sweat dripping from his face. “This is awesome.”
For the first time, Friday afternoon was prom day for Bi-County’s 24 students.
Because most of their classes are at the Whiteside Area Career Center, most of the kids don’t have an opportunity to attend prom.
“They have watched other students go to prom, and it’s something they have wanted to do for a while,” said Kim Martin, who, along with fellow life skills teacher Taylor Breedlove, organized the event.
Students got dressed first thing in the morning at the career center. The clothes the students wore were donated, and Hair Gallery, located in Sterling, did the girls’ hair.
Once dressed, the students took a ride in a limousine to the Candlelight Inn in Rock Falls for lunch.
After they ate, the students attended the prom at the Rock Falls Community Building.
The theme was “Candyland,” with candy decorations throughout the building and miniature pieces of candy on the tables.
Students laughed, posed for pictures, and danced to popular songs such as “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift and “Turn Down for What” by Lil Jon and DJ Snake.
By random draw, Richards was named the prom king and Alexis Sleck the prom queen.
“We drew names from a hat just to keep things fair,” Martin said.
Members of the community had chipped in. Candlelight owner Matt Prescott provided food, Breedlove Automotive in Dixon donated money for decorations, and photographers from Jody Lynn Photography donated their time to take pictures.
Brent Martin, owner of American Family Insurance in Sterling, rented the community building for the students.
“I always thought these kids went to prom with the other schools,” Martin said. “Every junior and senior should get a prom. I was more than happy to donate the building and help out anyway I can.”
Kim Martin said the prom will most likely take place again next year.
“Everything turned out so nice, and the kids have been so happy,” she said. “We could not be more thankful that this happened.”
Marneesha Glover, 20, said she had never been to a prom until Friday. Wearing a puffy blue dress, she rarely sat still.
Even thought she did not have a date, she danced to almost every song that played during the 2-hour prom.
“I’m having a blast,” she said. “I love doing this and I can’t wait to do it again.”