New after-prom option aims to draw large crowd

Erica Miller / Gazette PhotographerErica Miller / Gazette Photographer

By Kristin Schultz

Gazette Reporter

NISKAYUNA — In a little over a week, Niskayuna High School juniors will participate in a time-honored tradition — the prom.

Students will don their dressy best and parade their carefully coiffed dos across the auditorium stage to the delight of parents and grandparents in the audience. Then, they will head to the Albany Marriott for an evening of dining and dancing.

This year, when it’s all over, students can take their aching feet and boundless energy to ViaPort Rotterdam for an after-prom event. It’s the first time the after-prom will be held at the venue, and organizers think it will be a successful and safe end to the evening.

“N-CAP and the PTO have partnered for the last 15 to 20 years to make sure students have a safe way to enjoy after-prom,” said Student Activities and Scholarship adviser Vince Bianchi.

Bianchi also reports very few, if any drug or alcohol incidents at the prom, but acknowledges that substance use can be a draw for some students on the festive night.

“We are trying to avoid private parties,” said Bianchi. “The after-prom is a safe, enjoyable place to be with friends and build camaraderie.”

While Bianchi and social worker Allison Nunes report that attendance has steadily declined in recent years, they hope the new space and its numerous offerings will attract a larger crowd this time.

Included in the price of the prom ticket is admission to the post-prom party where students will have access to more than 30 arcade games, Skee-Ball, pool tables, air hockey, 10 bowling lanes, a DJ, dancing, indoor fire pit and more.

In addition, ViaPort has ample parking and is easily accessible. The mall’s management is excited to host events like Niskayuna’s after-prom as it fits with the organization’s mission to be a part of the community.

“We’ve been trying to get involved in the community,” said Alan Fanitzi, ViaPort’s marketing and PR manager. “It’s great to have the after-prom here. We want to be a destination and a place people want to go.”

More than just the post-dance festivities, safety is built into every aspect of the prom experience. On April 6, N-CAP hosted an informational forum for parents and students during which officials, including police officers, reminded the audience of the penalties for drug and alcohol violations, including minor possession and parental procurement of alcohol for minors.

Also, in order to purchase tickets, students and parents must sign the Contract for Safety, which outlines in no uncertain terms the school’s expectation of a drug- and alcohol-free evening. Students also check in at multiple times during the night. If a student fails to check in, his or her parents will be called and notified that the student is not where he or she promised to be.

“It’s important to communicate with your kids and have a plan,” said Nunes. “Know who your kids are with. Talk about substance use. Know where they’re going. Kids should be open with their parents, too.”

Many parents attended the prom themselves. According to Time magazine, prom is short for promenade, originally a college tradition of being introduced at a graduation banquet dating to the 19th century.

By the 1940s, high schools across the country were hosting proms. The idea of an evening of dressing up and dancing has even crossed the pond in recent years. Nunes reported that schools in her native Scotland have proms, only the boys wear a kilt in lieu of a tuxedo.

While the details of prom traditions may vary, the concept of prom as a rite of passage is universal.

“Prom is very special,” said Nunes. “There’s the expectation that one day, you’ll do the walk-in and go to prom. It’s a tradition.”

Thanks to the hard work of the high school’s PTO and N-CAP, a successful after-prom is also part of the tradition of safety and fun.