When Christina Arcos was searching for a way that she could serve her community as the reigning Miss Pumpkin Fair, she didn’t have to look very far.
She’s simply continuing the same special needs high school dance endeavor that was drawn to last year in order to give students like her cousin the opportunity to have an inclusionary high school experience.
Arcos, who will run again for Miss Manteca this year as a Manteca Youth Focus participant for the second time, is currently putting the finishing touches on her advocacy project which will allow students with special needs and disabilities the chance to attend a high school formal before they complete their secondary education.
“I have a cousin that has Down Syndrome and they were lucky enough to be able to go to their prom but I know that a lot of parents aren’t comfortable with letting their children go to events like that,” Arcos said. “So I wanted to come up with something where those students could still have that memory but in a safe environment where they’re accepted and they can enjoy themselves.
“Last year it was a great success, and hopefully it grows this year as well.”
With sponsorships from United Way of San Joaquin County and Fagundes Meats and Catering as well as local families and non-profit organizations, Arcos was able to invite not only special needs students from each Manteca Unified high schools, but also students from some Stockton and Tracy schools as well as the Manteca C.A.P.S. program and others that serve the developmentally disabled in the community.
The event will take place on Saturday, May 6, at the Manteca Senior Center starting with photos at 5:30 p.m. A DJ will begin playing music at 6 p.m. and the party will continue until 9 p.m. – an event that will include dancing as well as food and drinks for those who attend.
Arcos said she isn’t sure the number of students that will attend – between 40 and 50 were present last year, and that success, she said, should raise the numbers this year – but she’s looking forward to seeing the smiling faces when the group that is often not openly accepted in most school settings get the opportunity to enjoy a rite of passage.
“Last year when it first started everybody was kind of hanging out and seeing what it was all about and getting used to the new environment, but it didn’t take long for everybody to be on the dance floor,” said Arcos – who went around and met every single one of the attendees last year. “When you see them having like any other student and getting the chance to be a part of something like that you can’t help but smile and be happy that you have the opportunity to be there and witness that.”
The event is free to those who have been invited, and Arcos is asking anybody in the community that wants to donate food or drinks for the snacks to stop by the Manteca Senior Center – located at 295 Cherry Lane – on Saturday, May 6 from 3:30 to 5 p.m.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.