Prom was different this year for Chatfield High School junior Hally Burns.
Dressed to the nines and meticulously groomed, Hally arrived at the dance looking as glamorous as a trendsetting musician attending the Grammy Awards.
“We’re going to make her like Taylor Swift tonight,” said stylist Shauna Morris, as she ironed Hally’s hair into thick strands of loose curls. “That is who she picked out.”
In fact, for several of the special-needs students in Sharon McManus’ class, the April 30 prom was extra-special — a local salon provided three of the young women with free makeovers, giving VIP attention to their hair, makeup and nails.
“I like it. It’s special,” said Hally, who selected Swift’s image from a celebrity magazine at Tanglz & Co., a Lakewood salon. “I like her music.”
For senior Rachel Nikolas, the evening was her first prom.
“I feel happy for her. This is great,” said her mother, Bonnie, who watched proudly as her daughter patiently sat in a salon chair, looking like a young socialite as her hair was curled into an elegant up-do.
“She’ll have a great time. She loves to dance. She’s going to go with a friend of hers,” Bonnie said of her energetic student, who tries at every opportunity to make people smile, giving high-fives to everyone she talks to and performing when cameras are trained on her.
“She loves people. She’s really social,” Bonnie said. “I’ve always called her ‘little actress’ since she was about 2 years old.”
With bright turquoise nails and a stylish blue dress, Rachel was ready for the prom, even if, as Bonnie said, she didn’t spend the entire evening on the dance floor.
“She usually only lasts about two hours at a dance, and then she’s ready to go,” she said.
But McManus, who sees the young woman in class every school day, said Rachel would likely dance her heart out.
“She’s going (to be) nonstop for those two hours,” she said.
For Hally, whose look was finished with a cream-hued dress and ornate gold earrings, the prom was not her first — though it was her initial experience with two dates.
“This is actually Hally’s third time going to prom,” said her mother, Toni. “The funny story about this is that she actually was asked by two boys and said yes to both. … Long story short, she said, ‘I didn’t want to hurt their feelings.’ So they’re all going in one big group.”
To help balance the group’s ratio, Hally invited her friend Amy Brack, a senior at Castle View High School who was also treated to a makeover. Having already attended four proms at her own school, the evening was the fifth such event for Amy.
“It’s all about them not hurting each other’s feelings,” Toni said. “That was the main thing. And the logistics of everything else didn’t matter. … We bought two boutonnieres, one for each boy.”
Knowing her male students, they would be awe-stricken by their dates’ polished appearances, McManus said.
“I think the boys are going to be speechless for the first time in their lives,” she said. “And I’ve got a group of boys who talk nonstop.”
And indeed, meeting at student Jaime Fiedorowicz’s house for pictures, the young men were impressed.
“I thought it was kind of cool,” Jaime said, noting that the prom night was special for him, too. “This is my only senior prom. I don’t get any other senior prom.”
After exchanging corsages and boutonnieres, the group of seven was eager to head off to their dinner at Dixon’s Downtown Grill, and eventually the dance at Invesco Field at Mile High.
“The reason it’s cool is that you get to party all night,” junior Shawn Chase said.
For McManus, who coordinated the free makeovers with the Tanglz manager, the opportunity to help make the students’ night memorable was rewarding.
“I wanted to do something special for the girls that I see on a daily basis — make them feel extra-special for prom this year,” she said. “You really don’t hear about the special-needs kids. They just look forward to prom as much as anybody else. … I love these guys. I want them to have a fabulous night. I want them to just have the time of their lives and remember this day forever.”