A Night to Remember (Contest Winner)
Special needs teenage girl escorted at prom by exchange student from Indonesia

"A prom for our friends with special needs"

Individuals with disabilities are human, regardless of physical attributes, sex, height, race, and age. As a part of human society, people with disabilities also have human rights that need recognition and action to make their lives easier. Individuals with disabilities are still marginalized and discriminated against by society due to segregation and a lack of accessibility.

Education for people with disabilities is sometimes not the best; disabled individuals attend specialized schools and struggle to earn a higher education because they have to find schools that are willing to accommodate their disability. People with disabilities often don’t fully experience high school—prom night, for example.

During Global Youth Service Day, my host family and I volunteered at the Bridge of Hope Gala at Hope Missionary Church in Bluffton, Indiana. It was a prom intended for people with special needs who are ages 14 to 99. It offered the opportunity to experience one of the best nights in American high schools. At the prom, the guests had the opportunity to be crowned, walk on the red carpet, have a formal dinner, and do other fun activities.

I walked on the red carpet with my prom date, danced, sang karaoke, went on a limo ride, and had so much fun with her.

The Bridge of Hope Gala was one of the best volunteer experiences that I have ever had. There were 235 volunteers and 150 people with special needs who attended the prom. From 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., I helped as a buddy (prom date) for one of the guests. As a buddy, I got the best experience at the event since I got to spend the most one-on-one time with a valued guest. I walked on the red carpet with my prom date, danced, sang karaoke, went on a limo ride, and had so much fun with her. It was such an unforgettable experience to be a part of their best night.

I have always been interested in working with people with special needs. I also volunteer every Sunday at Hope Missionary Church to help with the Sunday school for kids with special needs. I think it is important for us to interact with people with special needs, so that we can build a better understanding of each other.

—Karina (YES, Indonesia), hosted by the Burns family (IN)