To Infinity and Beyond! Kennesaw Mountain Hosts Dance for Hundreds of Students with Special Needs

Kennesaw Mountain hosts The Dance of the Year

“I saw Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Bo Peep…Everyone is so happy,” shared junior Adam Soczewka. The Kennesaw Mountain High School student is one of the hundreds of students with special needs who attended his school’s Dance of the Year. 

For more than two decades, Kennesaw Mountain has rolled out the red carpet for the special guests from across the District. This year, the annual dance transported about 800 students behind the scenes of a Toy Story movie through Woody’s Wild West, Barbie and Ken’s Closet, and to infinity and beyond. As the guests arrived, hundreds of Kennesaw Mountain student volunteers lined the walkway and hall, greeting the guests like celebrities.  

For the 300+ student volunteers, the dance is the finale of months of coordination and planning. Some of the volunteers spend more than 100 hours planning and decorating. They spend every day after school for months solidifying the details of the memorable event. Some even sacrificed their winter break to make final preparations. However, the long days do not deter the student volunteers.

“It’s a fantastic experience. It’s not just a fantastic experience for us but also for special needs kids, all the people who participate, and [including] the teachers. It’s just a great experience for everyone,” said Saakshi Singh, a Kennesaw Mountain junior and one of the lead student planners. “I plan on doing this next year and as many years as I actually can.”

Ask any student, volunteer, or attendee, and they will share why the event is not to be missed.

“I’ve never seen a special needs student come who isn’t extremely excited to be here,” Kennesaw Mountain senior class representative Aicha Seck said. “It’s likewise for all the students who volunteer to do this dance. When they’re walking in and wanting high fives and wanting hugs, it’s just the sweetest, the sweetest thing.” KMHS%20Dance%202024-19.jpg

According to the Kennesaw Mountain volunteer, she does not know anyone who would say no to coming to the dance.

“It’s a great opportunity to network with all the community people as well as just be happy, just genuinely happy,” added Aicha.

The annual dance is filled with memory-making moments, but the volunteers have their favorites. 

Saakshi’s favorite moments happen before the special guests even begin dancing. KMHS%20Dance%202024-12-1.jpg

“I love when the students are walking down, and everyone’s cheering them, and you can see the smiles on their faces. Once everyone goes into the gym and, everyone’s just like having a good time,” the Kennesaw Mountain junior declared. 

Aicha enjoys another part of the special dance. 

“My favorite part has to be the one-on-one moments with the students, and we’re actually dancing. It’s what makes it worth it after all the hours and hours of setup and building,” the Kennesaw Mountain senior shared. “I think it’s because you can feel the genuine joy.”

For the special guests, like Adam, the dancing tops the list. Adam even practiced his dance moves the night before the memorable event. 

“I think it’s fun,” Adam added.KMHS%20Dance%202024-37.jpg

Another one of the lead student volunteers, sophomore Mahika Mamidpalli, agrees with Adam about dancing. After all, it is the Dance of the Year!

“I love dancing with them and meeting them,” Mahika said. “I like going between the different students and meeting new people. They all have stories and different dances, and it’s a fun experience overall.”

However, Mahika’s favorite moment comes at the end of the energy-pumping, music-thumping dance.

KMHS%20Dance%202024-162.jpg“My favorite time is definitely the balloon drop. Seeing all of the students’ excitement once [the balloons are] about to start falling, it really ties the whole piece together and brings it to an end,” said Mahika.

A rainbow of balloons showers the attendees, signaling the end of the dance. The balloon finale leaves the students with smiles to carry them through until the red carpet rolls out for the dance next year. However, some of the volunteers could not help but feel a little sad as the balloons rained down. 

“It’s been one of the best experiences of high school,” confessed Aicha. “I’m really grateful that I’ve been able to do this. I’m very sad to leave it next year, but I just think it’s awesome that it lives on.”KMHS%20Dance%202024-1.jpg

Thanks to students from Harrison High School who support the Cobb Schools Events Department, the dance was live-streamed across the District for those who could not attend. Kennesaw Mountain has played host to the dance of the year since 2001. “The Dance” has spurred the creation of Special Needs Coffee Shops, which has transcended the local high school communities, prompting schools nationwide to open similar coffee shops. These establishments foster essential skills and generate employment opportunities for students with disabilities in the broader community. 

“The Dance” also led to the birth of Horizon Field, a world-class special needs baseball field and concession in Acworth. The field has given rise to special needs baseball leagues and other programs, all originating from the students at Kennesaw Mountain.  

And so, “The Dance” lives on.