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Formal dance May 10 for special needs teens
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Photo contributed Participants enjoying themselves at last year’s formal.

When Christina Arcos came up with the idea of a special needs formal for her Manteca Youth Focus advocacy project four years ago, she had no idea that it would eventually mean so much to so many people. 

And even now that the past Miss Manteca has moved away from Manteca for college – graduating later this month from Sonoma State University – there’s nothing that will keep Arcos from doing her part to keep the tradition that she started right after she graduated from high school alive and well. 

The dance this year will be held on Friday, May 10, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Manteca Senior Center, and is free to all who attend. 

“I started this event four years ago for my Manteca Youth Focus advocacy project and I never knew this event would mean so much to me,” Arcos said. “Now, as a MYF alumni, I want to continue this for many years to come. 

“I was fresh out of high school when I started planning this dance and now I will be graduating from Sonoma State a week after the dance, but no matter what I hope to continue this dance because I want all of my special friends, new and old, to have this experience where they are treated more alike than different.”

Arcos was initially motivated by the experiences of her cousin Benny Rodriguez who has Down Syndrome and always had a hard time feeling comfortable participating in the normal high-school rites of passage. 

And while the 2015 East Union High School graduate – who earned a pair of associates degrees from San Joaquin Delta College before transferring to Sonoma State – wanted to make sure that the event catered to the local community, the event quickly caught on outside of the city limits as well.

Last year special needs high school students and adults from Tracy and Stockton joined those from Manteca to participate in the festivities – the night of which requires careful planning but always manages to give Arcos a wide smile when everything comes together. 

“Each year I have done this I can never describe what I am feeling the night of – as I look at a room of these special friends, I am so happy and realize that I can make a difference,” Arcos said. “It is great knowing that they are able to experience a dance because many may not get the chance. 

“Just seeing the attendees’ smiling faces makes it all well worth the stress of planning.”

With ongoing support from Fagundes Meats and Catering as well as Anaya Landscaping, Arcos has been able to raise the funds necessary to host the dance every year, although she will be accepting food donations the night of the dance – on Friday, May 10 – from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Manteca Senior Center, located at 295 Cherry Lane in Manteca. Those wishing to make a donation can drop off their items during that two-hour window. 

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.