Jaquanda Pugh considered skipping her senior prom.
Although she had dreamed of capping off her high school days by showing up to the Naples Beach Hotel in a shiny SUV surrounded by friends, the 17-year-old Lely senior knew the night would be costly.
After encouragement from her grandparents, Pugh — who had been voted to the prom court by her classmates, and was in the running to be prom queen — decided to go. Her family dropped $800 on two tickets, a high-end rental SUV and a new dress.
Now, more than a week later, all Pugh has to show for prom is a stack of glossy photos — shots her grandmother took of her modeling the new dress in their Naples Manor home.
“She wanted to rent a (Cadillac) Escalade, and that was her dream, so that’s what we did,” her grandmother, Laverne Pugh said.
That dream turned sour after Lely High School Principal Ken Fairbanks didn’t allow Pugh and her friends into the event after arriving 40 minutes late to the May 21 prom.
“They said ‘you guys are too late,’” Pugh said while thumbing through the photos. “They said, ‘we’re not letting you in.’ I thought they were kidding.”
Pugh said she and a group of a dozen to 15 other students arrived after 8 p.m. and were turned away.
“When students signed up for the prom they received an information form/sheet containing the rules and regulations,” Fairbanks said in a statement. “It said, right at the top, that students ‘must arrive by 7:30 p.m.’ because dinner was to be served by the Naples Beach Hotel at that time. Each student signed the form.”
Fairbanks said school administrators closed the doors at 7:45 p.m.
“Some students arrived after 8 p.m. and they were turned away and not allowed to attend the prom,” Fairbanks said. “During the entire week prior to the prom, announcements were made on the morning news on the school’s closed circuit TV channel reminding students that they must arrive by 7:30 p.m., and reminding them that if they don’t arrive in time they will not get in.”
Her party arrived around 8:10 p.m., she said.
“I never heard from anyone that we wouldn’t be able to come in late,” Pugh said.
Pugh, a varsity basketball player with a 3.8 grade point average, said she plans to attend graduation ceremonies June 3. But she will always look back on her high school years and think about missed opportunities.
“I felt like a prom would have been a reward for working hard,” said Pugh, who plans to study nursing at Florida A&M. “I’ll never have a senior prom again. I won’t have a story to tell my kids when they ask me what my prom was like.”