with gallery: Skyline High's first graduating class marks milestone: school's first senior prom
- Images from Michigan softball's eighth inning Super Regional win over Louisiana Lafayette
- Skyline girls soccer goes from inception to league title in five years
- Skyline wins first SEC Red girls soccer title with 1-0 win over Huron
- Rolling Hills Water Park to open for Memorial Day weekend with $4.5M in upgrades
The courtyard outside the Michigan Union was quiet Saturday night as girls in sequined ball gowns and one-shoulder, empire-waist dresses that brushed the floor as they walked meandered their way through the lush landscaping to the entrance.
The boys, generally sporting ties or vests to match their dates’ dresses, were equally as quiet.
It was prom night — the night high schoolers dream about for four years.
Butterflies, jitters and a nervous excitement are the only words to describe the slight tension that hung in the air at the start of Skyline High School’s first senior prom.
The students' feelings were mirrored in a line of about five Skyline coaches, waiting to greet their senior athletes and welcome them to the Moroccan-themed event.
As the two parties neared one another — teacher and pupil, mentor and apprentice — the tension melted amid hugs and the smiles and chatter that followed.
“We were excited,” said senior Richa Saran, who later in the night was crowned Skyline’s first prom queen. “But I think a lot of us didn’t know what to expect with it being the first one. It turned out very well, though, and everyone (was) having a good time.”
The road to prom
“All the planning and the worrying has been well worth it to see the kids all dressed up and looking so nice,” said assistant principal Alberta Britton. “They’ve come so far since freshmen... It’s hard to believe it’s all finally here.”
The school sold 415 tickets to Saturday’s affair — roughly the same number expected to graduate in June as part of Skyline High School’s inaugural class of 2012.
Skyline opened in the fall of 2008 after a long, arduous planning and construction period, and following a $123.4 million bond, which voters approved in 2004 to help fund the school.
Its structure varies from the other three high schools in Ann Arbor in that it offers four magnet programs — business, engineering, communications and health — for students who want to focus their studies.
Additionally, Skyline’s approach to education rewrites the three Rs to be relationship, rigor and relevance — in that order.
Skyline tennis coach and teacher Tom Pachera said the school’s commencement ceremony will be similar to a college commencement where students march to their the seats behind a flag that is being carried for their area of study.
Four years ago, senior Lydia Klein had a choice between Skyline and Huron High School. She chose Skyline and does not regret it, despite calling the first few years “weird.”
“It’s fun, but different. The first couple of years were really hard because it was only us, really,” she said, adding that the entire fourth floor of the school was not even used.
Not having any upperclassmen has shaped this senior class, said Martin Morales, the former police liaison officer who was stationed at Skyline. Because the students did not have anyone to look up to or to turn to as mentors, they turned to the staff, he said.
“There was no school culture when they got there,” Morales said. “The had to develop it by being mentees and then eventually transitioning into mentors themselves to the grades below them.
“We really got to watch them grow up. And now, it’s complete — the culture is fully developed with four full classes.”
Morales said the class and staff became really close because of how much they leaned on each another in the early days.
Morales, who recently retired from the Ann Arbor Police Department, now works in security at the University of Michigan. He was working Saturday but knew it was Skyline’s prom, so he popped in for a quick visit and was greeted by shouts and hugs from the student body. Morales spoke with students about their prom attire and asked where they would be going to college.
Morales has worked at each of the three primary high schools in Ann Arbor (excluding Community High) and said Skyline students are by far the best behaved.
Another milestone awaits
Pachera said the staff did a significant amount of research for prom and graduation to see how other schools have conducted them.
“There is a lot of energy in the school about this being the first class to go through these milestones, but there is also some uncertainty,” he said. “We’re not sure what to do... We don’t have the tradition established of other schools.”
School leaders have researched how to make prom and graduation special as well as how to keep everybody safe, Pachera said.
One thing the prom committee did: postion Skyline's coaches at the entryway to welcome students. Pachera said the idea was that a coach usually is the last person a child wants to disappoint, so students would be less likely to be disruptive outside the Union, arrive intoxicated or sneak alcohol outside the dance.
As the school gears up for its first graduation ceremony, it also will take safety precautions.
Former Superintendent Todd Roberts, who resigned in 2010 to take a job as chancellor of the North Carolina School of Science and Math in Durham, N.C., will be the guest speaker at Skyline’s June 11 graduation ceremony.
“We wanted to have someone special, someone who understood who we are as a school,” said Skyline Principal Sulura Jackson. “(Roberts) was there with us through the entire start-up process... Without him we might have never gotten it done.”
Because it was Skyline’s first prom, community assistant Cheryl Haller wanted all students to be able to participate. Haller, who has been at the school since it opened (she described her role as a cross between a hall monitor and dean of students), said a couple of girls approached her about not being able to afford or to find a dress for the event. One of the girls was a foreign exchange student who desperately wanted to experience an American prom.
Haller began collecting dresses and set up a mini shop on the first floor of Skyline. Teachers brought in their old gowns and Men’s Warehouse also made a donation, Haller said.
In the end, she only had about five girls select dresses from her makeshift department store.
“Now that we’ve started it, though, we’ll hopefully be able to keep it going for next year and can help out more girls It was fun for me to be able to do,” she said.
Haller said she serves a number of roles at the school but most often she is “mom.”
“I am there to deal with bullying or when a student breaks up with their boyfriend or girlfriend,” she said.
Pachera said Skyline believes in maintaining and building relationships first and that the rigor and relevance will follow if students' needs are being met.