“See the lights, see the party, the ball gowns, see you make your way through the crowd to say hello,” Taylor Swift sings in her record hit “Love Story.” Images of prom night can easily be related to this simple line.
But there’s a lot to know before sending teens out to dance their prom night away — with safety in mind. Catching up with prom goers from Gulf Coast High School before the extraordinary evening this past Saturday, their parents had a lot to say about arriving safely to the evening soiree at the Hyatt Regency in Estero.
“Mom is driving me up to prom. My car broke down, and we had to rent a car,” Catherine Verga of Gulf Coast High lamented, as her mother, Vera, put finishing touches on her beautiful updo.
“There’s no drinking allowed tonight — we’re having a safe slumber party after the prom at our house as a safe alternative. We didn’t want them to be a part of any of that — we want them safe,” explained Lucia Dillard, of her daughter, Bianca’s preset plans prior to prom night.
While Gulf Coast High has already held its prom, many other parents of local high schoolers still have yet to send their children off, such as those who attend Barron Collier High School, which holds its prom tonight.
Some Gulf Coast prom goers were stepping into limousines to be whisked away to prom. And Sue Scott, owner of Elite Limousine, in operation for the past 16 years, saw her share of car accidents through years of many prom nights.
“As an ex-driver of a limo myself, I’ve seen it all. Sometimes kids were racing home from prom, and it curdles me to see accidents. We want to get them there, and get them home safe. We treat them like our own. Me, being a woman boss, we know what to expect, and we look after them,” Scott said.
Before rolling out on the town, Scott gathers signed contracts from parents and guardians. “We mostly speak to the parents first about where they want their children to go, and the driver gets a cell phone number of the parents to ask any questions during the trip. There’s no extra stops in between, unless it’s approved first.”
A check of limousine and driver credentials prior to making reservations is recommended by Scott.
“If the event is at a Collier school especially, they will have Collier County sheriff’s (deputies) checking trunks of cars and limousines, and code enforcement will be present to check to see if the limo service is licensed to chauffeur in Naples,” warned Scott. “Sometimes other companies will take advantage of last minute reservations, and try to slip by Collier County licensing regulations.”
“I’m trusting my daughter, that she’ll go with friends, and I have a lot of faith in her to know right from wrong,” said Karen Knapp, as she posed for photos with her daughter Sierra, a senior at Gulf Coast at Vineyards Country Club of Naples.
Filling in the gaps in how to keep young adults safe at parties, both before and after prom night, the Collier County Sherrif’s Office offers the following tips for prom goers and their parents:
• Communicate with your teens regularly and openly about alcohol and drugs.
• Communicate with other parents about your expectations and theirs.
• Discuss your expectations and rules for prom and graduation outings.
• Know who will be driving and what your teen’s plans are.
• Make sure your teen has a cell phone. Have pre-established times when your teen calls in to check in with you.
• Remind your teen not to use alcohol or drugs, or ride in a vehicle with anyone under the influence.
• Never provide alcohol or drugs to your teen or others.
• Remind your teen to buckle up when riding in a vehicle.
• Get involved by volunteering to supervise prom or graduation events.
• Don’t rent a hotel room for teens.
• Stay up until your teen gets home.
The Collier County Sheriff’s Office also reminds parents and graduating seniors in Collier County of another safe alternative to a house party following graduation. This year’s upcoming 26th Annual Project Graduation at the YMCA of the Palms, is slated for June 3rd, from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m., and all graduating seniors in Collier County are invited. Tickets sell for $20 and are available at area high schools.
To learn more about keeping teens safe on prom night in Collier County, go to www.colliersheriff.org.
To learn more about attending Project Graduation at the YMCA of the Palms, or to volunteer, visit www.ymcapalms.org.