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Islip High School post-prom party is a Throwback Thursday celebration

Islip High School students Jessica Busch, Samantha Woodrick

Islip High School students Jessica Busch, Samantha Woodrick and Aiden Sweeney changed out of their prom outfits and into more #tbt-related costumes of their favorite childhood television shows for the post-prom celebration at the school on Wednesday, June 24, 2015. Credit: Amy Onorato

To get to Islip High School's post-prom celebration, you had to travel back in time.

As they walked past a clock with hands that spun backward and down the "path of life," students passed images of classic pop culture that defined their youth -- Nintendo, Hannah Montana, Power Rangers and more -- to enter the Throwback Thursday (#tbt)-inspired celebration that served as a fun reminder of all the things that happened before senior year.

Standing next to a human-sized box of Crayola crayons while wearing a black Pokemon T-shirt over a skirt, Islip senior Jessica Busch cradled her post-prom date -- a stuffed Pikachu doll.

"A lot of us still feel a very strong connection to the things we loved as kids," Busch said.

The nostalgic setting brought back other fond memories for students as they reminisced about their favorite times at Islip High School.

"One time, I came into school and there was spaghetti -- angel hair pasta -- all over the place," said senior Aiden Sweeney, who attended post-prom in a Batman onesie. "No one knew where it came from or how it got there. Definitely one of my favorite memories."

Senior Jordan Powell remembered one student who had a unique way of getting to class.

"In ninth grade, there was this kid who would do somersaults all the way down the hallways between classes," he said, laughing. "We called the move 'the evade.' "I cracked up every time."

Islip's post-prom celebration was started in 2001 by members of the Islip Drug Education Awareness task force, a community group which delegates programs and initiatives to promote drug and alcohol awareness. According to IDEA program director Barbara Vouris, the idea was sparked after homeowners in the Fire Island community complained about excessive noise coming from rowdy after-prom parties held at rental houses.

"Back then, prom would happen on the weekend, so kids would go out and party afterwards," Vouris said. "We wanted to create a safe and positive environment for kids to go to instead."

The after-party began as a simple raffle and Bingo night in the school gymnasium, with the grand prize being a used car for one lucky student. Though the raffle and grand prize of a used vehicle remained part of the school's annual tradition -- a 2008 Kia was raffled off this year -- the post-prom celebration blossomed into a full-scale event, with the school lobby being transformed in accordance with the chosen party theme.

Even members of the Islip High School Post-Prom Committee (an IDEA subcommittee) had some #tbt memories.

"Prom was nothing like this when I went to high school here," said April McDonald, who graduated from Islip in 1990. "We didn't have anywhere to go."

The mastermind behind the design layout of the post-prom events is Ken Phalen, an architect for the Suffolk County Public Works Department and proud parent of an Islip alumnus. Phalen joined the Islip Post-Prom Planning Committee in 2007 when his son Michael was in his senior year.

"This is by far the furthest we've gone with prom decoration," Phalen said. "But we have done some pretty cool stuff in the past. I think my favorite was in 2009 when we had an Egyptian theme -- we built a Sphinx head for the entrance and even brought in sand."

For senior Samantha Woodrick, who dressed like her favorite childhood cartoon character, Sailor Moon, the trip down memory lane during the post-prom party was meaningful.

"We wouldn't be here today without our childhood experiences," Woodrick said. "As we leave Islip, it's important to remember how we got here."

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