COLUMBIA — There seemed to be just one question Friday morning on the minds of students and teachers at Douglass High School:
"Are you excited for prom?"
It would be the school's first prom in seven years.
Themed "Hollywood Nights," Friday's prom was held at the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center at MU. A serendipitous series of events was the reason there could be any prom at all.
In early fall, counselor Symone Thomas picked up a call from the president of the campus chapter of the NAACP.
"They asked us if they could put on a prom for us," Thomas said. "I thought 'Wow, what a gift from God.' "
In addition to sponsoring the event and providing a venue, the NAACP also held a drive to help girls find prom dresses.
The Prom Closet, an organization that provides recycled dresses for students at Rock Bridge and Hickman high schools, heard about the drive and donated a few dozen dresses.
Then, Thomas paid a visit to New Beginning, a consignment clothing store on South Tenth Street.
"The owner just kept pulling dresses off of the rack to give to me," Thomas said, still in disbelief.
In the weeks leading up to prom, three clothing racks in the school's student center were packed with dresses of every color, size and style.
"The girls just love coming down here and trying on the dresses," Thomas said. "We'd have to shoo them back to class."
The high school also received donations of shoes, accessories and formal wear for the boys. Styliztics Salon on Old 63 provided full makeovers for three Douglass students.
"There's people in the community that love and care for them so much," Thomas said. "It's a huge blessing to the students."
Assistant principal Kerry Hesse said the last prom Douglass held was in the school gym, and fewer than 10 students showed up.
"We ordered 40 pizzas," Hesse said with a laugh. "We were handing them out as party favors."
In the days leading up to the dance, Thomas said she could feel the excitement build in the halls.
"It's a special memory going to prom," she said. "And we wanted to ensure they had the same opportunity other kids have."
Eryca Neville, Columbia Public Schools' director of alternative education, said prom had been canceled during the last half-dozen years as the result of coordinating and supervising issues.
She said she is hopeful that prom will be held consistently in the years to come.
"It's just a piece of the high school experience," she said.
Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.