All dressed up with nowhere to go: Seniors feel sting of no prom

  • Sam Ginzburg and Adia Bennett, co-presidents of the Northampton High School senior class, worked hard to raise money for prom before it was canceled. They posed in front of the school last week. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 5/19/2020 10:50:33 AM

Editor’s note: Over the past four years, the Class of 2020 has made their voices heard, advocating for women’s rights, against gun violence and for action on climate change. They’ve also shone in the classroom, on stages and on playing fields. And then, just as senioritis was supposed to set in, along with a season of celebration, the global pandemic struck. As former President Barack Obama put it in his recent speech to seniors around the country: “All those adults that you used to think were in charge and knew what they were doing? Turns out that they don’t have all the answers. A lot of them aren’t even asking the right questions. So, if the world’s going to get better, it going to be up to you.” For the next few days, the Gazette is spotlighting students in the Class of 2020 — congratulations to all the graduates and their families. 

NORTHAMPTON — Sam Ginzburg started planning prom “the second” she and Adia Bennett became became co-presidents of Northampton High School’s senior class nearly a year ago.

They set the date of May 26, put down a $500 deposit at the Log Cabin in Holyoke, picked out navy and silver color swatches for the linens and planned to give out glow-in-the-dark Silly Bandz as a surprise to their fellow seniors.

And then, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, forcing the cancellation of the event.

“It’s scary because we had planned so much for this,” Ginzburg said. “Just one day — May 26 — one day of the year. We’ve worked really hard and people care a lot about it, and now it’s not happening.”

Ginzburg, 17, planned to go to prom with friends and wear a long red dress she stumbled upon while shopping in New York City on a family trip.

“I was lucky enough to have been before,” she said of prom. But, she added, “there’s something special about >italic<our>res 1< senior prom and the pictures that you have … and the prama — the prom drama — that goes on,” she said.

Senior prom is the “culminating experience in American high school,” as she put it.

For months, the student government raised money for a variety of senior events, with a large portion dedicated to making prom tickets less expensive and covering or lowering the ticket prices for those who receive free and reduced lunch. To raise funds, they organized a homecoming event and put on a dodgeball tournament. “We did I don’t even know how many car washes over the summer,” Ginzburg said.

Though prom is canceled, Ginzburg hasn’t given up hope there will be, at some point, a special event  for the senior class.

Principal Lori Vaillancourt told the Gazette that seniors want to hold prom over Thanksgiving break. But Ginzburg and Bennett aren’t convinced that students will want to come back in the fall just for prom; they said they may have a one-year reunion event instead.

As soon as social distancing guidelines relax, “we’re going to mobilize and have some sort of celebration,” Ginzburg said. “No matter what it looks like. We can plan another prom, we can plan another formal thing.”

Right now, they have other things to worry about. It’s a “stressful” time to be a high school senior, Ginzburg said. “People are really upset that the year isn’t ending the way they expected it to.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at

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