It’s been a tough year for the kids in Cicero-North Syracuse High School’s Class of 2012.
In December, popular senior Taylor Fleming was killed in a car accident.
Last month, class advisor Marty Campbell, a social studies teacher, lost his battle with lymphoma.
With the Senior Ball this weekend, the Students Against Destructive Decisions club is hopeful that their classmates will be mindful of those losses and think carefully about what they’ll do to celebrate after the dance.
“We just lost so many people in our class that meant a lot to us, and we don’t want to lose someone else to a stupid mistake,” said club president Sarah Knickerbocker.
In order to provide students with an alternative, SADD is putting on an After the Ball party from midnight to 3 a.m. Sunday, June 10, immediately following Saturday’s Senior Ball, at Drivers Village. The event has been offered for a number of years, according to SADD advisor Sara Villnave.
“I think that Bill Brown, one of our health teachers, started this, but it might have even been before that,” Villnave said. “I know for a quite a few years, Toni Brauchle over at the CanTeen started the grassroots of the community connections and doing all of that stuff. She and her people ran the organization. Then SADD started to do it maybe 10 years ago, give or take. It has always been run by an organization that focuses on prevention and focuses on safe places for people to hang out after the senior ball.”
The event features a number of attractions to draw kids in, including a caricature artist, a henna tattoo artist, inflatables and tarot card readers. The biggest draw, however, is the prize students can win at the end of the night.
“Burdick Toyota has been generously donating a car for more than 20 years to a lucky senior,” Villnave said. “There are no ties to it. They don’t have to pay taxes. There’s no lease on it. All they have to do is basically register it, put insurance on it, and it’s theirs.”
Villnave and SADD expressed deep gratitude to Burdick for the generous donation.
“We are so thankful to them to do that,” she said. “I cannot say enough about them over there donating this car. I’m sure that they’re feeling it in their wallets, and they continue to donate a car year after year after year. Really, with just a phone call from me. And for the past two years, they’ve also been donating to Baldwinsville, too, so they’re donating two cars to area districts.”
Other sponsors include the C-NS Optimist Club, Byrne Dairy, Starbucks and the CanTeen. Everything else is paid for by SADD, which raises money throughout the year. In addition, $5 from each ball ticket goes toward the event.
“It’s kind of like that saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’” said co-advisor Michele Barbagallo. “We’re counting on the help of all of these people in the community, because we cannot do this alone.”
That said, the group would love to see more community support in the future.
“In the future, we’d love to make this bigger,” Villnave said. “As you can see, there’s just a scattering of us, and it’s a lot of work. I know that some other districts do huge events. They have a lot of community support. The parents are the people who do it. If we could get more community support and make this event even bigger, we would love that.”
Though the club is small, its members take pride in the fact that it is entirely student-driven.
“All of our clubs are student-driven,” Knickerbocker said. “We’ve been taught that if you want something, you have to work for it. I think that all of the loss has kind of taught us that we have to be there for each other. We care what happens to our classmates, and we don’t want to see something bad happen because we all have these bright futures ahead.”
So it’s for very personal reasons that SADD puts together this After the Ball Party.
“We want our classmates to have fun,” said club member Anna Doren. “We know what they’re looking for, and we can cater to that.”
And it works.
“I have friends who say, ‘I’ll go to this because there are so many cool things,’ where otherwise they would have gone out partying,” said club member Kayla Ventura. “We know what they want to do, and we have those things available for them to do. And I think that brings them into the ball, too, if there’s this cool after-party.”
In addition to planning the party, the group hopes to set an example to their classmates and let them know that they don’t have to abuse alcohol or drugs to be perceived as “cool.”
“I have a family history of destructive-type decisions, and I see how that’s affected my life,” Knickerbocker said. “I just know that I don’t want that affecting myself or my friends. It’s kind of too late to go back and change that, maybe, but having this club, having that support group around me, I can keep myself from making those decisions and then maybe I can change someone in my class from ruining their life when they have that opportunity.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.