Since her family moved to the United States from Israel in 2010, Ofri Vardi, 16, has experienced life as an American teenager by attending Lawrence Woodmere Academy in Woodmere.
Vardi, now a sophomore, is preparing to return to her hometown of Beit Aryeh, Israel, in August with her family, who had been in the United States on a temporary visa.
Before she returns home, she wanted to experience one more teenage milestone a going to the prom.
"Everyone told me it [going to prom] was a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Vardi said.
The Lawrence Woodmere Academy prom -- held at The Sands Atlantic Beach Thursday night -- is an event exclusively for juniors and seniors. But Vardi petitioned the school board and was granted an exception to attend as a sophomore, given her circumstances.
"We have a very diverse group of kids," said Lawrence Woodmere Academy Head Master Alan Bernstein, who noted that the school attracts many international students and that allowing Vardi to attend the prom is the kind of personalized attention Lawrence Woodmere tries to provide to them.
"When I first came here, I didn't know much English, but from the beginning everyone was so helpful," Vardi said. aI feel very comfortable talking now."
Vardi joined her junior and senior classmates celebrating with the prom theme "A Night Out in New York City." The dance floor filled up quickly, and students spent the evening taking pictures, both at a professional photo booth and on their phones.
After this evening, Vardi will return to Israel with a few more farewell memories.
"I love it here [at Lawrence Woodmere Academy], and I'm so grateful for this experience," Vardi said. "I met so many incredible people I will never forget."