Pop-up prom in Sherman Oaks gives high school seniors a sense of normalcy

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High school seniors this year haven’t been able to participate in most graduation traditions, but local businesses in Sherman Oaks collaborated to bring them a prom that featured acrobatic dancers and live music — even though attendees could only stop by for photos.

Students got glammed up for the pandemic prom, held across three hours Friday evening on the 13800 block of Albers Street, a residential area.

It was originally created for students at Viewpoint School in Calabasas and Buckley School in Sherman Oaks, but organizers opened it up to students across the region. Some came from Santa Monica and other parts of the San Fernando Valley.

The free event was described as a “drive-by” or “parade” celebration. But students got out of their vehicles to take pictures with the décor and performers that included a DJ and drummer.

There was also an area for refreshments and a dance floor, though at most two attendees were seen dancing on it at a time. One decorative feature bore the message: “It was written in the stars the celebration must go on.”

Kessa Thurman, a Viewpoint School senior, said she didn’t get to go to homecoming due to a fire in Calabasas. After coronavirus restrictions shut down school events, missing prom was the part she was “most sad about.”

“But I am going to have quite the story to tell my children,” she said, adding that she was blown away by the décor. “It’s crazy, there’s balloons everywhere.”

Annabelle Polak, who attends Valley International Preparatory High in Chatsworth, said she was thankful to the organizers for helping her and her classmates find a sense of normalcy.

“Things like proms generally aren’t at the forefront of what’s most important,” she said. “But to see that people know how tragic this is for a lot of us, that they’re still trying to make things better, is really nice.”

Inside the event, distancing guidelines weren’t very strict. Students were seen hugging to take pictures, many without masks — although there were signs telling attendees to have masks and gloves ready.

The bash was put on by out-of-work-events companies, including Sterling Engagements and Artists Creating Entertainment.

Masha Berenboym, founder of Artists Creating Entertainment, said people were leading the students around to ensure the event was safe, but she felt it was necessary to give local teens a prom.

“We all need to come together and create this experience for them, because we all got it and it got taken away from them,” she said.

Berenboym said it made her emotional to think of the experiences high schoolers were missing out on.

“It was just a great time to get together with your friends, and you looked more beautiful than you ever have,” she said. “It’s the last memory that you have with your friends.”

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