Mohonasen High School senior Jade Sardos has long dreamed about her senior year prom. She watched as a slew of older siblings dressed up, snapped pictures and headed off to something mysteriously exciting.
“Prom has been the event I looked forward to ever since I was a little girl,” Sardos said in a recent interview. “I have always dreamed of going to prom.”
Last spring she was set to attend her junior prom, with the dress in hand, before it was canceled under pandemic restrictions. This spring wasn’t looking much better: school officials only allowed a drive-up photo opportunity at the school.
But Sardos insisted, the prom must go on. So she hosted one herself.
“What if I host prom? I can plan it. It shouldn’t be that hard, right?” she said of her initial thoughts on the idea. “It was a little more work than I was anticipating.”
She floated the idea on social media and saw that classmates were interested, so she set out to make it a reality. She studied the state event guidelines, tracked down a local caterer and photographer and booked Friday night at the large, covered pavilion at the South Schenectady Fire Station.
“It went pretty quickly from an idea to a booked event,” Sardos said.
Sardos invited all of her fellow Mohonasen seniors, capping the event at 100 first-come-first-serve tickets under the venue’s capacity limits. She said she was ultimately able to sell tickets to all interested students and set the $35 price at a break-even level after paying off the D.J., and the cost of food, decorations and event space. She said her classmates immediately took to the idea, excited by the opportunity to hang out in person and celebrate a tradition, the first time many will have seen each other in person since last year. In two weeks, she had sold all 100 tickets.
“We’ve already missed out on so much between junior and senior year, this is one more thing none of us wanted to miss out on,” she said. “I have people from all cliques in the school coming, it’s really nice.”
Sardos, her parents, and a handful of other parents arrived at the fire station at 9 a.m. Friday, spending hours setting up. Sardos had also spent countless hours preparing decorations and organizing the prom’s details in recent weeks. Balloons filled with lights hung above picnic tables with rose-filled centerpieces. Sardos hand glued over 400 fake roses onto large cutouts of the letter P-R-O-M, which awaited arriving students as a photo spot in front of the red carpet welcoming them to the event.
By 6 p.m., the first guests started to arrive. “I’m going to go say hi,” Sardos said. “I’m technically the host.”
“You look so good,” a pair of Mohonasen students told Sardos in unison.
The early-arriving students beamed with excitement and said they were impressed by what Sardos had pulled off.
“This is better than a real prom,” said Mohonasen junior Sophia Brown
“At first I was a little, um,” Mohonasen senior Caitlyn Breen said of her first reaction to the student-organized prom. “I talked to some other people and we thought let’s just go, now it’s happening… Thank (Jade), she took the time, because she did not have to.”
“Everything looks great and I’m really glad she put the work in for everyone,” said Michael Jurgelon, a fellow Mohonasen senior and one of the first to arrive Friday. “People have been talking about it for a while, and the tickets sold out real fast.”
Before her classmates arrived, Sardos acknowledged that her dreams of prom never included the part where she planned it. But she also said she understood that the school leaders operated under different constraints.
“I definitely never expected to be planning and hosting my senior prom, but you know, it happens, I guess,” she said. “In normal circumstances, in a normal year, I would have said it’s definitely not ideal for one of the seniors to be planning the prom. But I understand it’s difficult and there are things out of people’s control.”
Jane Sardos, Jade’s mom, was watching over the platters of finger foods and desserts as the first guests started to arrive. She said she wasn’t surprised her daughter put the event together.
“When she wants to do something, and she’s determined, she’s going to do it,” Jane Sardos said. “And she wanted to have prom and wanted her friends to have it, too.”