An opportunity for all

How one senior project brings the state together



Every year thousands of students across the US attend proms and homecomings, but some students with physical and mental disabilities aren’t always able to participate in the fun.

One senior at North Smithfield High School, Alyssa Narodowy, has set out to change that by organizing Rhode Island’s’ annual Unity Ball as her senior project.

In the state of Rhode Island, the Unity Ball has been a staple for years now, and is open to both students with special needs as well as partner students without disabilities. This year’s ball will take place in just over a week on March 15 at the Kirkbrae Country Club in Lincoln, Rhode Island and will have additional activities including a photo booth.

“I attended the ball when I was in the 8th grade and I knew after leaving that night that [organizing the ball] is what I wanted to do for my Senior Project. I had so much fun and it brought together two things I love: event planning and special education,” Narodowy, senior, said.

In addition to the 15 students invited from NHS, Narodowy has invited the 37 other schools in the state that boast a Unified Athletics program and she said she hopes to have over 150 students in attendance.

The ball itself is fully funded and free for all students to attend, save for transportation covered by each individual school. Narodowy and her mentor Joanne Forti, who has helped organize the ball for the last four years, have been fundraising since August in order to make the ball free and accessible to all students.

“The ball is 100% free! I have raised and collected  money all year long. I have had three fundraisers and sent out letters to local businesses,” Narodowy said.

Narodowy has been fundraising, promoting, planning with Kirkbrae, and decorating for the ball for over six months now and said she hopes that her hard work will leave students with a sense of inclusion that they will be motivated to bring back to their schools.

This idea of inclusion, however, won’t be all that new to NHS. With Unified Volleyball and Basketball teams and a new unified club as Kallie Bonneau’s senior project, the Mariners have been able to see inclusion firsthand and will bring this experience to the Unity Ball.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to learn that inclusion isn’t really something that’s learned, it’s more or less built upon. I’m hopeful that everyone who attends will be able to do the same,” Bonneau, senior, said.

Ms. Cagnon, special education, said the idea behind the implementation of many unified programs, including the ball, is to help build friendships in our own school communities and help students realize we are all more alike than we are different.

The ball will afford students the opportunity to relax and enjoy the moment by creating a stress-free and comfortable atmosphere where students can have fun.

“For students with disabilities it allows them to have a fun “prom” experience with people who are accepting and understand them (and their disability).  It promotes a comfortable environment with little pressure for those who may be nervous in a regular prom/dance setting,” Cagnon said.

The Unity Ball, in addition with the Unified Athletics program and Bonneau’s Senior Project, provides a great opportunity to expand a sense of inclusion within the school’s walls.