Dancin' the Night Away
Annual event brings USF students and area senior citzens together
for a "senior prom"
By Daylina Miller
TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 15, 2010) - When the buses started pulling up behind the Marshall Student Center, students - many outfitted in prom dresses and dress slacks - braved the chilly temperatures to greet their senior dates. Each guest was greeted with a lei in a gesture that warmed the second floor ballroom.
USF’s Senior Citizen Prom is an annual event five years running, sponsored by the Center for Leadership & Civic Engagement and the campus service organization, B.L.A.S.T. (Bulls Leading and Serving Tampa). Guided by advisor Christy Burke, a team of seven undergraduate students coordinated the Feb. 10 event, which connected residents of local senior facilities with students for an unforgettable evening.
In the minutes before the merriment began, students were given a pep talk about the importance of making connections with their senior guests. The key message: don’t be afraid to just sit down and talk.
“I did it last year because it’s important for youth and older people to come together and intermingle,” USF graduate student Hiram Ramirez. “Older people can talk about their life experiences and educate younger people and the young show them to have faith in our generation to become great leaders.”
After a quick round of practice salsa dancing, half the students were sent out to meet their guests and lead them to a room decorated with confetti and an inflatable, beach-themed pool toys.
Soon, the new friends were snapping pictures of one another and laughing as if they had known each other for years. The young and the old bridged their generational gap with a night of fun
Lillian Pipp, 92, was quickly befriended b y student Annie Ware, who wasted no time in playing social secretary.
“Did you know him before tonight?” Ware asked Pipp, gesturing to a man sitting next to her.
“I don’t know him,” Pipp said.
“Hi, I’m Harold.”
“See?” said Ware. “Now you do!”
Some seniors used wheelchairs, others grasped walkers and canes, gingerly feeling their way through the throng of students and other seniors. All were hesitant to dance until the Electric Slide came on and students prompted the seniors up and out on the dance floor.
USF student Shauna-Kay Campbell gently urged Bev and Bill Whited from their seats.
“Are you guys ready to...” she said, while shaking her hips.
“I’ve played for a lot of dances but never did learn how to dance,” said Bill Whited, a guitar player who once played local gigs in Ohio roadhouses and radio stations. “My wife, she loves dancing.”
“His music comes out his fingers and mine comes out of my toes,” Bev Whited added.
Later in the evening, a therapeutic dance instructor, Dianne Worrel, grooved her way into the ballroom, adorned head to toe in red and black sequins and a feathered headdress reminiscent of a Las Vegas showgirl. She started a dance train with the seniors and students, weaving in and out of the crowd and the tables, moving to the beat of the music.
One older gentleman had his arms encircled around the waists of a group of female students, enjoying the female company with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. When the girls started fist pumping, he joined in, causing them to clap and squeal with laughter.
But the other seniors would not be out-danced. One older couple did their version of booty dancing, leaning over and bopping their behinds in the air as the crowd cheered them on.
Sophomore Robin Mansour spent most of the night scouring the dance floor and tables for seniors who needed a dance partner.
“This is the first year I’ve had any experience with the Senior Prom,” she said. “I think it’s great because it’s not just one night where you do charity work and go home feeling good about yourself. It lends to your education and helps dispel stereotypes. Look! There’s a senior salsa-ing.”
The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of only 25 public research universities nationwide with very high research activity that is designated as community engaged by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. USF was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2008/2009. The university offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The USF System has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.