An emotional Mal Byron, 17, reacts with joy Thursday morning at Crossroads High School when she sees a picture of herself in a prom dress on teacher Tracy Orr’s phone. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

No money, no date, no problem at school’s first-ever prom

GRANITE FALLS — Joslyn Spradley became a mother last month. Andrew Anthony works as a mechanic. His girlfriend, McKayla Olson, looks forward to community college. They’ll soon graduate from Crossroads High School, but not before one special evening — prom night.

The prom Friday at the Marysville Opera House will be a first for Crossroads, the Granite Falls district’s alternative high school. It’s happening thanks to Tracy Orr, a Crossroads math teacher with a kind heart, along with helpers at the school and generous donations from the community.

At the school Thursday, 18-year-old Spradley tried on donated prom dresses while Damion Wilson-Cobbs, 19, held their baby son, Avery. A room in a Crossroads portable was transformed into a makeshift formal wear shop as teens checked out gowns hanging on racks.

“Most of these kids have never gone to a high school dance,” Orr said. She is thrilled that 150 of Crossroads’ nearly 190 students have signed up for prom. Also going will be 10 students from the district’s Open Doors program, 31 guests, 22 chaperones and more than 10 teachers.

It won’t cost students a thing, which Orr said was a big consideration. “We knew going into it that the majority of our kids are low-income, and many are homeless,” Orr said. “We couldn’t charge for tickets, we had to do it fully funded.”

It was February when Orr and her daughter, Kayla Land, a 24-year-old history teacher at Crossroads, began planning for a prom. They listed excuses kids might have for not going to the dance. Finances topped that list.

Orr sent out a letter asking for donations, and shared it on social media. “We just want kids to be kids, regular high school kids, even for just one night,” her letter said. “Our goal is to have everyone attend, which means helping with clothes, transportation, having dinner there, and the rest of what comes with a prom.”

Help poured in — money, dresses, shoes, and donations of flowers and hairstyling services. Crossroads staff will provide dinner at the dance, a taco bar and a baked potato bar. Parents will bring desserts. Major donors include Super Hawk Canopies, Pilchuck Automotive, Granite Falls Eagles, Granite Falls Flowers &Gifts and hairstylist Christina Lehman.

Initial donations totaled $2,445, with $2,240.97 raised through four fund-raising projects, according to Granite Falls School District spokeswoman Melanie Freeman. An anonymous donor gave $4,671.77 in matching money.

Students without transportation will ride to the prom on a chartered bus. Music will be “throwback,” Orr said, with a DJ playing songs from the teens’ middle school years. A photographer and a photo booth will be at the prom, which has a “Roaring ’20s” theme.

Money wasn’t the only excuse organizers figured might keep kids away from the dance.

“Don’t have a date? Who cares,” Orr said.

Many are going without a date. “They’ll hang out with each other,” Orr said. “One of the girls said what she thinks is great, they don’t feel like they’re going to be judged.”

Until last year, Crossroads students could attend the Granite Falls High School prom. Now, they can only go as a guest of a Granite Falls High School student.

Granite Falls High School Principal Kevin Davis said the change was made when Crossroads became its own independent school. Crossroads students still participate in athletics at Granite Falls High.

Anthony, a 20-year-old soon-to-be Crossroads graduate, took Olson to the Granite Falls prom when he was a student there several years ago. “The other prom was $45 a ticket,” said Olson, 18, who’s excited to see friends at the smaller dance.

Seniors aren’t the only ones going to the prom. The Crossroads dance is meant to bring together the whole school. Tetyana Popach and IzSabella Haviland, both 17-year-old juniors, giggled in a curtained-off fitting room Thursday. They tried on gown after gown, sleek to flouncy, in a classroom version of the TLC reality show “Say Yes to the Dress.”

Spradley, who completed her class work before Avery was born April 15, said she and Wilson-Cobbs haven’t had a night out since becoming parents. On prom night, Avery’s grandmother will baby-sit. For others, a child-care center used by teen parents at Crossroads will be open during the dance, Orr said.

“Be a kid again. That’s the whole reason I’m doing prom, so you get to be a kid,” Orr said to Spradley as the new mom found the perfect dress.

“My son went to Crossroads and didn’t go to a prom,” Orr said. She’s sad he missed that rite of passage. “Our dances were fun,” said Orr, a 1990 Arlington High School graduate.

“It’s the memories, so you can look back and laugh at your hair,” the teacher said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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