They spun, dipped, and dropped to the floor in splits. They waved their hands in the air with smiles from ear to ear because it was back! Yes, The Dance of the Year was back! Hundreds of students with special needs once again returned to Kennesaw Mountain High School for The Dance that keeps them smiling all year long.
The red carpet and hallway were filled with cheering Kennesaw Mountain students as they recently welcomed 500+ students with special needs from across Cobb County.
Last year during the pandemic, the annual dance was scaled down. Only a limited number of students attended. Most watched virtually. However, this year the cheer line was back. Hundreds of student volunteers were back. The yellow buses filled with the VIP guests were back, and more importantly, the smiles were back.
Kennesaw Mountain student volunteers coordinate the annual dance. “It helps us build relationships with [students with special needs] and makes them feel included. I feel that a lot of people are not aware of the special needs community and what they deserve and what The Dance means to them. It means a lot to me to hang out with them, dance with them, and just be there for them,” explained Anjali, Kennesaw Mountain senior and student body president.
The Kennesaw Mountain students start fundraising and planning for the dance months in advance. Some of the student volunteers, like Anjali, end up recording 200+ community service hours preparing for the dance.
“It is a lot, but it is worth it in the end,” Anjali said.
Anjali and her fellow student volunteers coordinate all the details that turn The Dance into a memory-making experience for hundreds of their special guests. There’s even a calming room to help those guests who need a break from showing off their dance moves. Each year, a new theme sets the excitement for The Dance.
“I loved the theme this year, Classic Hollywood Cinema, because it really makes the kids feel as if they are in Hollywood,” Anjali explained.
There is one part of last year’s small dance that the students chose to keep this year. The Dance was broadcast live to schools at all levels throughout the District. The live broadcast opened up participation to special needs students in elementary schools and those in middle school and high school who could not attend in person.
The live broadcast featured Cobb Schools leaders, like Board Member Randy Scamihorn, and community members, including Acworth Mayor Tommy Allegood; Kennesaw Mayor Derek Easterling, who came dressed ready to dance; and Lauren Ham, Acworth Horizon League.
“It helps get the word out about more opportunities for special needs kids, and that is something that is really important to me,” added Anjali.
Although The Dance was back this year, there were not as many special guests or student volunteers as before the pandemic when the Kennesaw Mountain gym was filled with 800+ special needs students and 400+ student mentors.
“Hopefully, next year, we will have more kids and more mentors from our school,” Anjali said. “When COVID hit, a lot of [students] were not aware of what the special education dance really was. It’s an amazing experience!”
For those who have never been to the dance, look at the photos and watch the video to see why It is The Dance of the Year. For many, the finale is the best part.
“I’m excited for the balloon drop,” Anjali revealed. “That has always been my favorite thing at the dance every year. Seeing their faces is priceless!”