Can We Make Prom Great Again?


At Isidore Newman School, there is one essential part of the standard “high school experience” that is lacking: prom. In fact, it does exist, but the excitement that surrounds the event is dwindling by the year and has been on a path of exponential decay for a long time.

The unpopularity of school dances is so intense among Newman students that the Homecoming dance was permanently canceled in the early 2000’s– now it appears that prom is heading in the same direction.


“No one at Newman takes prom seriously because it’s so.. cliché, you know? It’s time we leave it in the 80’s,” explained a senior that asked to remain anonymous.


Although prom has been an annual tradition at the school since its beginning, its growing unpopularity is rising with every class. Especially in recent years, teachers are even struggling to gather enough students to come to the dance.


What is depicted as the most important day of the school year in teen books and movies like High School Musical is ironically one of the biggest jokes among students at Newman. In 2010, students dressed in morph suits, neon tights, and space buns for their “Alien” theme—far from the classic image of prom that usually comes to mind. A limousine, corsage, finding a date–typical features of prom– are not a part of Newman’s equation.

However, it seems like this nonchalant, joking attitude has always existed at Newman. “No one asked each other to go as their date, that’s just not Newman,” insisted Missy Sutherlin, a graduated student that went to Newman in the 90’s.


Prom wasn’t always a joke; 30 years ago, the dance was held in a beautiful building downtown, with “fancy lighting, elegant decorations, and great food.” “When I went to school here in the 90’s, prom was definitely more popular than it is today. Everyone looked forward to it back then because it was important to us and if you didn’t come you were kind of a reject,” said Missy Sutherlin.


Now, the virtual opposite is true: attending prom is described as an obligation instead of a party. Prom is held in the commons of Newman, a smaller room than previous years, in order to mask the decreasing amount of people that show up.


“I mean, prom wasn’t very fun but I just went for an hour and a half to support the people that planned it; I’d feel bad if no one came,” said past Newman Student Jamie Hawkins. A large majority of students are simply indifferent to the idea of a prom or attend as a polite gesture. Jack Reynolds mirrored this opinion when he admitted, “I could honestly care less about it.”


“The culture of Newman has always been different from the other schools around New Orleans like Jesuit and Mount Carmel. Not to be insulting, but I feel like students here have that “too cool for school” arrogance and don’t want anything to do with dances.” The culture and attitude of Newman students is far different from other schools and is likely to remain this way. Some suggest that the students don’t want to dress up for prom because they attend so many balls before Mardi Gras.


But is this change necessarily a bad thing, or just a sign of healthy progression? As the new generation of teenage interest and lifestyles are changing rapidly due to technology and the emerging “hook-up” culture, it seems less and less likely for students to want a traditional prom and ask a date, like it used to be.

Although the “prom hate” seemingly outweighs its supporters, do not be mistaken: there is a coalition of students quietly longing for a traditional prom. “I get sad when I think about it because when I was younger I always used to imagine myself going with a guy like Zac Efron, getting a corsage and limo and everything. In a way I feel like I’m missing out on the high school experience,” said senior Adele Reynoir.


Is it possible to revive excitement for prom or is it too late to change people’s perception? As grim as its future looks, a group of students are making strides towards changing prom back to an enjoyable experience that people are actually willing to attend. Senior and member of the prom committee, Daeja Richardson, is passionate in this pursuit: “I feel like our grade and the grades below us are open to change more than other grades were; we have the opportunity to turn things around.” Daeja has been pushing for a serious prom since she came to Newman and hopes to “change decorations and move the location,” to revive the dance; she also recommended the Hollywood theme last year, which was greatly successful. “It’s going to take time, but if we show the current classes that prom is fun and start a new cycle now, we can change it. People at Newman follow the popular, mainstream opinion so if we get everyone on the same page, there’s hope.”


It will take the effort of the students themselves to transform prom’s negative stigma and make it something that student’s want to go to. It’s difficult to predict if the disapproval can ever be reversed, but what’s clear is that a group of students are passionate about making their efforts a reality. It’s up to you, the future classes, to make prom great again.