Gateway Academy students dancing their way to prom night

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Gateway Academy students dancing their way to prom night. (KTRK)

Students at Gateway Academy, a school for students with learning differences, have been preparing for prom one dance move at a time. Helping them along the way has been the Houston Ballet.

"We put together six lessons of social dances through time and different places so kids would get exposure to dancing with a partner or dancing in a group line dance," said Jennifer Sommers, associate director of Education and Community Engagement at the Houston Ballet.

For the last six weeks, students have been building up their dance moves as well as their confidence. The Houston Ballet provides lessons as part of their Education and Community Engagement Department's adaptive dance program.

"I think the benefits of a program like this are physical and cognitive. Dance is really special in that way," said Sommers. "Yes, they're going to get a workout today but we're going to challenge them cognitively in making that brain body connection."

This year marks the third time Ginny Best, 14, will attend prom. She finds the dance lessons help with more than just preparing for the big day.

"Cardio activities that will help me get my jitters out and it's great. Dancing is both a great way for that and a great way to express myself," said Best.

Prom is a rite of passage for high schoolers. However, for students at Gateway Academy it is an event most never even planned to attend.

"Everybody remembers their prom. They either remember what happened or they remember why they didn't go," said Scott Adams, principal at Gateway Academy. "And for our kids it's an open invitation to go and participate in something that most of them really haven't thought about."

Jackie Plesnicher's son Avery has attended prom twice since enrolling in the school. She has been involved in preparing the school gym for the big night.

"Prom is an enormous deal for our students," said Plesnicher. "We cater food and also have a professional photographer and a DJ so they have a wonderful prom experience like everyone wants for their child."

In addition to dance classes, Gateway students receive social coaching on how to ask someone to the prom, as well as how to behave at a social event.

"For a moment you forget we're a school for children with differences because these children are completely in their element," said Adams. "They're completely themselves. They're joyous and that's why we do it."

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