It's prom season for schools across Massachusetts, and this year it's a welcome release after pandemic restrictions, national tragedies and turbulence.

For students at Ivy Street School in Brookline, their enchanted forest-themed prom happening tonight is especially exciting. The small school works with a diverse community of kids and young adults who are neurodivergent.

Natasha Kaufman, the school’s director of strategic initiatives, says that for many students at Ivy Street School, prom wasn’t always a good experience for them. “Often associated with prom for our students is this feeling of not belonging,” she told Morning Edition hosts Jeremy Siegel and Paris Alston. “Here we get to take back prom for all of our students. And we get to give them an event that's designed for them.”

At Ivy Street, students have been involved in the prom planning process from the beginning, getting a preview of the event so they are prepared. The school's plans also include sensory adaptations, such as music that’s not too loud and making sure there are outdoor quiet spaces.

A highlight of prom is always the fashion — and Ivy Street covers that as well, allowing all of their students to be outfitted by the school.

“We have probably 200 prom dresses in a closet upstairs, generous donations collected by members of our board — everyone has a few prom dresses sitting at home in their closet that they're happy to donate to our students at Ivy Street,” Kaufman said. Men’s Warehouse donates suits and tailoring services, and “gets them into a suit that they feel fantastic in.”

Students like Faith Bruce say they have been looking forward to prom for years.

“Prom is definitely going to be something that I am most definitely looking forward to … and it's pretty cool that I'm going to be going to my first ever prom feeling pretty. They have everything sorted out for us, and it's going to be a good time. I'm excited,” she said.

The Morning Edition team visited a recent planning meeting, where Kaufman discussed plans for the enchanted forest-themed prom and invited students like Jack Groves to contribute ideas.

“I think we should have lights around,” he said. “And maybe flowers all around.”

“The good news, Jack, is we ordered maybe 100 rolls of string lights, because that's going to be very important for our enchanted forest,” Kaufman said.

Bruce talked about her plans to do makeup for fellow students.

“Especially this new trend, like if you want to look enchanted and you can put glitter, maybe some fake diamonds, something that makes you feel beautiful, make everyone feel welcome and pretty cool,” she said.

"[At] Ivy Street you get to really express who you are and not feel judged in any type of way."
-Faith Bruce, Ivy Street School student

Kaufman said other activities will include limbo, hula hoop and an arts and craft center where students can take polaroid pictures and decorate them — and an area to pet animals.

“I'll probably be with the animals the whole time,” said student Zelina Torres.

Torres shared that she is shy and gets nervous dancing around big crowds. Her fellow students reassured her.

“We'll be dancing together. I know for sure. I know you got moves. I would love to see you dance,” Bruce said. “Even if you don't want to, we can just sit down together and talk.

Groves loves ‘80s music and plans to request Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” from the DJ. “I’ll definitely dance,” Groves said. “I’ll dance to ‘80s music and sing and clap, and it will be great.”

Bruce is looking forward to a night where she can be her true self.

“I've been to other schools where you definitely cannot be yourself — you can’t stand out,” she said. “[At] Ivy Street you get to really express who you are and not feel judged in any type of way or feel like someone's going to say something rude. Ivy Street makes you feel like you're important.”