The post-prom party, a relief valve for teens


High school seniors will soon face a potentially life-altering decision only days before they graduate –– to drink or not to drink on prom night.

For decades, the prom has served as a rite of passage into adulthood. It should be a memorable occasion, full of corsages, dancing and joy. Too often, however, the prom becomes an alcohol-soaked blur, and teens — most of whom are unaccustomed to heavy drinking — crawl, rather than stride proudly, into their new lives as young adults.

It doesn’t have to be this way. For a number of years, the Bellmore-Merrick, Hewlett-Woodmere, Long Beach, Oceanside, Rockville Centre and Lynbrook school districts have offered substance-free post-prom parties that provide an alternative to the traditional keg party.

PTAs or community groups run the parties, which offer DJs, dancing, sumptuous feasts, games and loads of prizes ranging from iPods to, in a handful of districts, cars. Some, like the Bellmore-Merrick Community Wellness Council, rent clubs. Others, like the Hewlett High School PTA, hold their parties in tents on school grounds.

It matters not where districts hold them –– just that they do. A post-prom party serves as something of a relief valve for hundreds of students who don’t want to drink or do drugs on prom night.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, produced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2 percent of 12-year-olds report that they have consumed alcohol in the past 30 days. That figure jumps to 55 percent by age 20. Other surveys report that 75 percent of high school seniors have drunk recently. That’s a lot of young people. We should be alarmed by such statistics.

On the flip side, 25 to 45 percent of seniors have not drunk — and don’t want to –– but on prom night, too many of them feel crushing pressure to get wasted. The substance-free post-prom party gives them a fun, safe alternative.

These events are also excellent opportunities for schools and communities to collaborate. Service organizations and chambers of commerce often donate prizes and funds to support the parties. Seniors –– and their parents –– appreciate the help, so they donate to local charities and patronize our downtown businesses.

Post-prom parties take work, but they’re worth it. More districts should offer them.