On Friday May 3, Latin’s doors stayed open later than usual. Its gym was not locked, but decorated instead. A group of students stood near the school’s entrance, waiting in anticipation. Their faces, gleaming with excitement, let on that something special was about to happen. Indeed, something was. In only a few moments, Misericordia’s bus would arrive. With it would come the center’s residents. The residents of Misericordia all live with some type of developmental disability; with the help of Misericordia, however, each resident is able to live their life to the fullest. And on that Friday, Latin got to do the same. By hosting a party for Misericordia residents, the school opened itself up to a community that had as much to offer us as we did them.
The bus arrived at Latin at 7 o’clock. Immediately, students and teachers rushed to their places. Some were at the entrance, holding open doors for residents. Others were standing by the stairs. Still more were mobilized in the lobby, guiding guests into the gym. The Misericordia residents and staff must have felt truly welcomed. Everywhere they looked, there were friendly faces.
Once everyone was in the gym, the celebration started. A DJ played classic party songs. At first, the Latin students were a little shy. They stood in huddles, talking with friends. Many wondered if they should start dancing or not. Progressively, however, everyone became more comfortable. While some of the residents preferred going solo, most were eager to dance with their new friends. Some of them began dancing in groups. The teachers and staff smiled and laughed. Two beach balls were taken out, allowing Latin students to play and interact with their guests. Some party-goers went all out. One Misericordia resident, decked out in a leather jacket, made impressive Elvis impersonations on the dance floor.
The volunteers also had a blast. Some went from group to group, mingling with everyone. Others stayed put, preferring to bond with only one buddy. Either way, not one person felt excluded. Some Latin students even held hands with the residents as they danced! It was a truly eye-opening experience.
For many students, volunteering at the dance had begun as a way to get service hours. All that changed, however. During the event, a true bond was formed between the Misericordia residents and Latin volunteers. Both sides discovered what they had in common. Overall, Latin students and teachers were able to make a deep connection with people they did not know before. But the dance was more than just an opportunity for the residents and their new friends to bond. Latin teachers and students made lasting impressions on each other. They danced together, and were able to relate to each other. In the end, every person left the dance happier and more complete than they had been when they arrived.