By Julyssa Lopez
Joe and Jay Ellis, two residents of Ward One’s Bernice Fonteneau Senior Wellness Center, use any excuse they can to spend an evening dancing. That explains why they were one of the most energetic couples at the Marvin Center this Saturday during the George Washington University’s 12th annual senior prom.
“We don’t get to dance as much as we’d like to, so we’re having a great time,” Mr. Ellis said. “Everyone has been so wonderful and so friendly—we’ll definitely be back next year.”
“Each year, senior prom allows GW and its students the opportunity to mingle and interact with District residents who otherwise may never visit our campus. The excitement and enthusiasm of our student volunteers is always inspiring,” said Director of Community Relations Britany Waddell.
Even D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray
, B.S. ‘64, stopped by to share a few words—and a dash of Colonials spirit—with attendees.
“I just wanted to say hello to everyone and congratulate you all for coming out—and how about a round of applause for George Washington University?” Mr. Gray said, adding in an extra cheer for GW’s basketball team, who played George Mason University that same day.
Patrick Cero, the evening’s emcee, has participated at senior prom as a student volunteer during each of his four years at GW. He said the celebration is always “heartwarming” and memorable—he fondly recalls one prom, when a senior met several GW students from the sorority she belonged to in her college days.
“The girls got a group together and sang the Sweetheart song to her,” Mr. Cero said. “This is really one of those intangible service events where you get to connect with people you may not connect with on a regular basis.”
Margaret Byrd, a resident from Paul Lawrence Dunbar Apartments, had her own story to share this year: She herself had been a member of the Colonials family after working as a facilities supervisor for more than 20 years. She called the prom somewhat of a homecoming for her, giving her a chance to return to campus.
“This is my first time back for this event. I had a whole table full of GW students and they made me feel really welcome,” she said.
The much-anticipated moment of the evening came when Mr. Cero took the microphone to announce the prom’s king and queen. Every year, the accolade goes to two seniors with standout energy on the dance floor. Hunter and Marie Huang, two members of the Foggy Bottom community and GW neighborhood FRIENDS
group, graciously accepted the honor this year before stepping back out for one last dance.
“My son was a student here at GW. My granddaughter goes to GW. We are both so excited,” said Mr. Huang.
A diverse group of nearly 100 student volunteers helped out at the event, ranging from members of sororities, the rowing team and other student groups. Mr. Cero said senior prom is so popular with students because it offers an opportunity for them to meet locals who understand the city.
“You get to learn a lot about the experience of what D.C. actually is and what came before us,” Mr. Cero said.