Q&A with Assistant Principal Amy Skeens-Benton and Prom sponsor Katie Kelly on senior celebrations

Ally Horwitz

Assistant principle Amy Skeens-Benton

What are the plans for senior celebrations this year?

The senior celebrations include the Top Scholars Banquet, the Distinguished Grad ceremony during school, and the CEF Scholarship ceremony. We’re doing all of the usual celebrations, some may just look a little different. And then, of course, culminating in the end with the huge senior celebration that’s going to be on May 28 from 8-11 p.m. at Murray Stadium. 

How will graduation look different this year as opposed to last year and prior years?

Well, it won’t look different from what we’ve done traditionally, except for (the fact that) it’ll be smaller. So we’re going to have four ceremonies in order to meet the COVID-19 capacity restrictions for the fairgrounds. It’ll be the traditional graduation ceremony that everybody wants; students will still walk across the stage and get a diploma. A lot of schools are doing different things because of the capacity (restrictions) at the coliseum. One school is having one ceremony for the graduates but absolutely no parents are allowed to be there. We feel that graduation is really an accomplishment for parents as well as for the kids, so we wanted to make sure to provide a ceremony that both students and parents can attend.

Why are prom and Gradfest combined this year?

(The celebration) is essentially prom with prizes that you win, and you get to celebrate graduation all at the same time. Another reason why we are doing that is that we have to pool our resources, and we can throw a much bigger and better party with a combined prom and Gradfest. So, this is a win, especially because last year we didn’t have any fundraising. Putting these together will really provide something awesome. 

Will other grade levels be allowed to attend prom? Can students bring a date?

No, only seniors (may go) because we have a capacity limit. I’m hoping that that may change by the celebration. If by May 15 nothing has changed, it will be seniors only. If things do change and restrictions are lifted, we will allow seniors to bring a date, if they would like, but we will have to charge admission to those that are not Carmel High school seniors, because we are offering this free to seniors. This is because much of the funding (for prom and gradfest) is coming out of donations from senior parents and it’s solely just for our seniors. 

Will graduation have speakers? If so, how will that work with the four graduation times?

Yes. All of the speakers are coming to all four (ceremonies). We have elected leaders that really believe in service and leadership, and they all said they want to be present for every single graduation because they want to be present for everyone in their class, and I think that’s an awesome message. The speakers will be the Distinguished Grad, the Student Body President, the Speaker of the House and the new Student Body President and Speaker of the House. 

Why are senior celebrations so important in your opinion?

Well, when you work really hard and you’ve accomplished something, I think celebrations are extremely important. And this is K-12. You’ve worked and you’ve accomplished something. You’ve received your diploma, and it’s kind of a goodbye. 


Prom sponsor and social studies teacher Katie Kelly

How have you been preparing for prom?

Yeah, so we have been kind of playing the waiting game for most of the year. And then about a couple of months ago, Mrs. Skeens-Benton and I started talking about the potential for an outdoor prom, because we didn’t feel comfortable with having an indoor prom, not knowing what COVID would do in the spring. So we started talking and collaborating, and what we’ve done so far is we’ve got our date set and we’re really excited that we’re combining with grad fest to create this awesome senior celebration. And now what I’m doing is I’m starting to coordinate a lot of different people. I booked the DJ and I’ve already started to figure out the logistics of sounds, lights and stages, and I’ve had meetings with the ladies who put on Gradfest. We are starting to talk about how to combine the two events, and I’ve contacted our photographer. We’re working on getting the photography set up and I’ve also been in contact with an organization that might help us do decorations and so a lot of what I’m doing is starting to coordinate.

What would you say to someone on the fence about going to prom/gradfest?

I would say that this is your last chance to be with your class. You’ll never get that night back. And I think that sometimes people don’t realize that, and so this is just an awesome chance to be together and have fun as the Class of 2021. 

What advice would you give to the Class of 2021?

I graduated in 2001 from Carmel, so I went to my own Gradfest and my own prom and all that good stuff, and I would say two things. One, with the end of senior year, people tend to want to move on and they’re super excited about moving on. But I would encourage them to enjoy every bit of the last of high school. Because, once it’s done, you never get to go back again, so I would just tell people to not be so hurried to move on to the next step but just to enjoy the last moments they get to be Carmel High School students. And then I would just say go out and just explore, explore the world, because there’s so much out there.

Is there anything else you would like readers to know?

One thing that readers should know is that while we’re not allowed to have any stiletto heels on the turf field, we are going to provide flip flops for all the seniors so they can wear something on the field during the event. Also, that I’m really looking forward to this night. I know that the Class of 2021 has had so many things changed and taken away, so I think this will be something special that nobody else will ever get to say they did. And I think it could be a really cool event.