This Saturday night, New Trier High School – after a one-year hiatus – returns to the downtown Hyatt Regency Chicago to stage its junior and senior prom. It’s a return to a traditional venue, after last year's prom was moved to Rosemont for financial reasons.
More than 1,200 tickets have been sold for this year’s gathering, according to Gail Gamrath, an adviser to the girls of the junior class. This represents a sharp increase of about 100 additional tickets compared to last year's attendance at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center.
Some said that the heightened interested can be traced to the new opportunity for students to get into the city. It was only in 2010 that New Trier students were last at the Hyatt, and so with a better rate offered in 2012, the Hyatt once again became the location of choice.
“The kids seem really excited to be down there and to see each other in that different setting,” Gamrath said, as she works on her ninth New Trier prom. “We’ve gone downtown every year except for last year."
The 2012 prom has a “red carpet” theme, as voted by the junior class, with students entering through ropes and stanchions, straight out of a Hollywood awards show.
Students pay $70 a piece to the event, which features buffet dining, a professional photo, and a T-Shirt. The school is bringing back a popular DJ, and the event is scheduled to go from 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
So those are all the happy parts associated with any prom. But the realities of having teenagers out on a Saturday night in the third largest city in the U.S. means a lot of things can happen, and not all of them good. New Trier officials said they are taking whatever precautions possible to prevent certain situations from occurring.
“Like any other school function we want them to have a good time in a safe environment and then go home,” said Nicole Dizon, director of communications and alumni relations. “We are very clear with our students with our expectations for prom. We send out a letter to parents that outlines expectations and the consequences for not following school policy.”
Dizon said various disciplinary actions can be taken against students who are charged with violating school policy, such as seniors jeopardizing their opportunity to participate in graduation ceremonies in May.
One measure that the school takes to lower the risk of alcohol or drug use is its agreement with Hyatt not to rent rooms to the students. “Parents are told there are consequences for them if they rent out a hotel room with the knowledge that it could be used for consumption of alcohol by minors,” Dizon said.
All junior class advisers are scheduled to be at the Hyatt to serve as chaperones with 10 security people, the Winnetka police officer assigned to New Trier, and the school’s head of security.
After 11 p.m.
But it is a Saturday night, and once the students leave the hotel, the school is not responsible for them. “You hope that they are communicating with their parents with what they are doing after the prom,” Gamrath said.
New Trier student Jack Boehrer will be escorting his girlfriend of two years to the Hyatt as part of a 32-student entourage renting a bus to get to the prom.
Boehrer does not believe drinking will be a situation at the prom. “It’s pretty rare that people try and drink and then go to the prom because they breathalyze people,” he said. “The real drinking problem is at the parties afterward.”
According to Dizon, students are subject to a random breathalyzer, and if there is a suspicion of alcohol use, organizers have the equipment available to test for alcohol.
Cautionary notes aside, Boehrer said he looks forward to a rare night in Chicago during which he will don a tuxedo, pin a corsage to his girlfriend’s dress and take lots of pictures as he celebrates his four years at New Trier. He didn’t go last year as a junior, but this year he and all his male friends agreed that there wasn’t much choice in the matter.
“I have a pretty close group of friends,” Boehrer said. “It was a group decision. Last year the guys didn’t want to do it, but this year there was no option. The girls would have been hysterical.”