The afterprom scene greeting students. (Courtesy of Maria Pownall)

By Maria Pownall
For the Daily Times

Like many high school students, members of the Upper Darby Class of 2024 have likely spent a lot of time thinking about their prom.

The senior prom is all about the proposal, the dress, the suit, the transportation, the hair, the makeup, the flowers, the photos and the memories.

For many Upper Darby students, senior prom planning began months before the actual event took place. But where did everyone go when the Upper Darby seniors took that final spin on the Drexelbrook dance floor?

This year, about 300 seniors attended the afterprom.

Afterprom, a long-standing community tradition, is held at Upper Darby High School from 11:00 PM to 3:00 AM on prom night.

It gives seniors a safe place to continue the fun into the early morning hours. Afterprom is a free event for seniors and their prom dates.

Even seniors who don’t go to prom can attend the afterprom.

Like the senior prom, the afterprom requires months of planning.

In early spring, volunteers come together to reflect on the Afterprom experience. Funding is provided by the Upper Darby High School Home & School Association and generous donations from parents, community members, local businesses, elected officials and the Upper Darby Arts & Education Foundation, as well as a grant from the Attorney General’s Office -general.

The afterprom committee draws up a budget, chooses a theme (but keeps this secret from the students) and gets to work. The 2024 afterprom theme was Hollywood.

Led by senior parents Steve Sarti and Alison Dobbins, volunteers built backdrops, painted signs and created decorations that reflected the Hollywood theme.

Vendors were contacted to offer refreshments, video games, music and more.

On the Wednesday before the prom, volunteers came into action after the prom.

They took over the high school and tried to transform it into an entertainment pavilion. They took the decorations out of storage and decorated the gymnasium, the extra gymnasium and the surrounding areas of the school.

On Saturday afternoon, movie posters adorned the school walls, a life-size Barbie photo box was set up outside the gym, the hallways were filled with balloons and photos of award-winning teachers and staff, and the school entrance was decorated with red carpets, velvet ropes and paparazzi
lighting, with a huge Hollywood-style afterprom sign on the roof.

The afterprom started as soon as the first students arrived, sometime after 11 p.m. The senior center staff welcomed the students and checked them in. Volunteers were everywhere: at the baggage check, where students stored their belongings for the night; in the cafeteria, preparing cheesesteaks, pizza and fries; in the gym, where drinks and snacks are served; and in the movie and games rooms, where we made sure the students had everything they needed for a great night.

The large gym had food, music, a 360 degree photo booth, mini golf, a rock wall and an inflatable obstacle course. There was also a free raffle booth where students could win gift cards, dorm supplies, TVs, gift baskets, activewear and more, all donated by parents, local businesses or community members.

More than 140 seniors went home with prizes!

At 3 a.m., tired students and volunteers began to leave for home. And a few hours later, high school was back to normal.

On Sunday morning, many of the same volunteers returned to the school to take down the decorations, clean up, say goodbye to Hollywood… and hello to a restful Sunday afternoon after four days of hard work.

Many volunteers return year after year to keep this tradition alive, even though some of us no longer have children in high school.

Afterprom is a spectacular example of how Upper Darby comes together to give students a special evening together before the pomp and circumstance of graduation begins.

We can’t wait to celebrate next year with the Class of 2025.

Maria Pownall is one of those volunteers who do all that hard work and stay up late – for the kids.