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Below a halo of swirling lights and amidst the pulsating bass of Top 40 songs past and present, about 1,100 students celebrated a rite of passage during Columbus’ combined high school prom.

Some could hardly wait for the doors of The Commons to open at 9 p.m. Saturday, arriving as much as two hours early to head up the stairs into the Nugent Custer Performance Hall, decorated with blue and taupe tulle and bubble balloon arrangements in keeping with prom’s nautical theme, “Set Sail for Prom.”

At the top of the stairs, each student paused underneath an archway of blue balloons for a photo that captured the moment they entered Prom 2014.

Music boomed from speakers flanking either side of the stage. Students danced in groups, pairs or alone. A line snaked around as students queued up for light snacks — which included blue-frosted mini cupcakes and other baked goods from Gramz Bakery — and water and punch.

Knees and heels

From her perch on a boat being towed by a truck, Columbus East senior Mallory Myers glowed under the street lights as her ride — fitting the event’s nautical theme — did its lap around the Commons building before she and her friends went into the prom. The senior had five complex knee surgeries related to sports injuries during her middle and high school career. With her last surgery in February, Myers made it her goal to attend her senior prom — in heels.

As much as she could, Myers scheduled her surgery — which included a donor knee cap inserted in her knee, and rehabilitation to follow — around the prom date.

“I’d gotten my heels before my surgery,” she said. “That was part of my goal through rehab.”

For the evening, Myers donned a pair of nude heels — “just regular pumps,” she said — with three-inch heels.

At the end of the evening, Myers was pleased with all of the work she had put into her physical therapy and began to look ahead to the University of Indianapolis, where she will major in athletic training and pre-physical therapy.

“It was definitely worth it,” she said. “It was a good way to end my senior year.”

Long day

Columbus North High senior Trendha Hunter’s day got off to an early start. Up at 6:30 a.m., Hunter had a presentation to give for her National History Day project in Indianapolis. Hers was a group exhibit on the Tennessee Valley Authority.

As the clock pushes past 10 p.m., Hunter bopped and shimmied to the music. She and her date, Tushar Chandra, also a senior at Columbus North, stood near the escalators, waiting to enter the dance floor.

“I’m so excited to get out and dance,” said Hunter said, wearing a floor-length gown of deep plum, embellished with crystals.

After the dance floor, and graduation, Hunter will head to college at Columbia University in New York and will possibly major in urban studies.

Homecoming

Katelyn Bevis returned Columbus to attend prom with her childhood friend, Mason Day, a student at Columbus North.

Bevis, formerly a student at Columbus East High School, moved to Chicago in 2013, opting out of her senior year at East to take online classes and perform with a contemporary dance company in Chicago. Although Bevis planned to come home for prom and for a dance performance, she came home earlier than expected after her grandfather’s death earlier in the week.

“It was really hard to go to the funeral and then go and dance at a show,” she said.

Bevis, who sparkled in a deep blue gown from David’s Bridal and high-heeled silver shoes, noted that after having spent the better part of a year navigating big-city life, her style and perspective have changed. One side of her hair is cropped closely in, almost shaved, a style that isn’t seen on many other Columbus high school girls.

“Everything looks so small,” she said. “The atmosphere is so different. I get the weirdest looks because I have a very different style now.”

Bevis was excited to see all of her friends she hadn’t seen, along with dancing throughout the night.

Planning role

Jameson Harris, a junior at CSA New Tech and a prom committee member, saw this party through from the beginning.

In his second year on the committee, Harris said the group, composed of eight students from each school as well as adult sponsors, decides the theme and oversee the logistics of prom.

“It’s not a lot of work, per se,” Harris said. “The hardest part is collaborating well. It’s focusing on sharing everybody’s ideas and making compromises — but also not being shy and getting your point across.”

This year, Harris said, the committee was able to tie in the prom theme with greater success.

Although he’s a host of sorts, and the person to introduce his school’s prom court, Harris said he does get to enjoy the party.

“My favorite part is just that I came from a different school that would have gone to East or North,” he said. “I like seeing all of my friends in one place.”

Smooth sailing From an adult stand- point, prom went off without a hiccup.

Alison Wold, prom committee adult sponsor and North High School English teacher, said no students were turned away at the door for violating prom policies. Among them is that prom-goers must be juniors and seniors.

“Now that we’ve been here at the Commons for several years, things seem to run really smoothly,” Wold said.

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