Photos courtesy of Plough Towers’ resident photographer, Al Steicher
What do high school seniors have in common with a seniors living at Plough Towers in Memphis? More than either had ever imagined!
Graduation from Germantown’s Houston High School as a member of the prestigious Honors Academy, requires students to complete a senior capstone project. Temple Israel’s TI CHAI high school program participant, Hayley Royal, did just that by helping create a very special evening with residents at Plough Towers. Enter, the very first Plough Towers “Senior Prom.”
Partnering and shadowing with Temple Israel’s Director of Teen Engagement, Marisa Baggett, Hayley spent time learning about non-profits. “I learned a lot about non-profits and how rewarding and meaningful volunteering and working for one can be,” said Haley. “Because of this, I decided I would really love to create a project for the members of my community. The prom was a way to connect the Jews in Memphis, even with a generational gap. Marisa put me in contact with Leigh Hendry and Emma Hobson at Plough Towers, and we began to plan the event. Marisa, Leigh, and Emma were so helpful and supportive throughout the process. The night would absolutely not have been successful without them.”
Plough Towers executive director Leigh Hendry was delighted with the concept. “We loved the idea! Marisa did a wonderful job listening to what Hayley was thinking and really helped make this a reality,” she said. “The students made posters to publicize the event and hung them throughout the building and invites were sent.”
Over 30 TI CHAI high school students signed up to volunteer and were thrilled to take part in something so unique. “This was such a nice, intergenerational opportunity to blend all ages involved,” said Leigh. “It was very encouraging for everyone to be together. At first, there was some hesitation between the generations, but soon, the ice melted. The TI CHAI students began serving up the food, and then the music and dancing began!”
Residents were treated to beautiful donated corsages and boutonnieres. They danced with high school student “dates” who even showed up at their doors to escort them to the dance. The TI CHAI high school program at Temple Israel and Kathryn Feinstone, owner of Elder Care Consultants, LLC, donated to the project and played an integral part in the evening’s success. The dining room was transformed into a real “prom” feel, complete with streamers, balloons, and a festive photo booth. The snacks and desserts were chosen and made by the teens and were a great way to get the evening started. Everyone was able to dance along to music ranging from 1950s classics all the way through today’s top 40 favorites.
“Some of our residents really dressed up for this,” said Leigh. “One of our residents told us that they were unable to attend their own senior prom as a high school student, so this was very special for them.”
When asked if she thought that this could be an annual event, Hayley said, “I hope so! I am very sad I will not be living in Memphis next year to help make the Senior Prom happen. But there are lots of awesome high schoolers in the Jewish community that (with the help of all the incredible people at Plough Towers) I know have the ability to recreate the prom again! I will be cheering them on from Baton Rouge and will be happy to do anything I can to help!”
Hayley will be studying Child and Family Studies at Louisiana State University next year.
Plough Towers is a senior, high-rise, independent living community subsidized by HUD (Housing and Urban Development) and receives generous funding from Memphis Jewish Federation.