With a student body of less than 85, it would be tough to find many high schools as uniquely close-knit as the one on Shelter Island.
The student body shows that off every year on prom night, where seniors and juniors share the dance floor with freshmen and sophomores for a combined, rip-roaring celebration of their school and community.
Ninth through 12th graders showed up at Gardiner’s Bay Country Club Saturday night dressed like movie stars at the Oscars. They strolled down the red carpet and chatted, smiled and posed for “paparazzi” on the way to the VIP ballroom. Cutouts of film cameras and clapboards decorated the walls and dining tables, and glittery stars hung from the ceiling.
The theme of the evening was “A Walk on the Red Carpet,” and it revolved around the glamour of Hollywood. It was chosen by the school’s junior class, which traditionally is in charge of planning the prom for the graduates.
Because of the small number of students at Shelter Island High School, underclassmen have always attended. According to senior Joshua Green, this makes for a more enjoyable event.
“I love it and I’m so glad they get to go,” Green said. “In a larger school, you might not know everybody, but here, it’s so small that you can’t not be friends with everybody. It’s more or less a family at Shelter Island and so it’s a lot nicer to have everyone here.”
Green added with a laugh, “And, also, obviously prom would be so tiny if they weren’t here.”
Freshman Grace Olinkiewicz, who danced the night away in a blue dress, said it makes all the difference in the world to be able to go to prom with the older students.
“It’s so exciting — I’ve been dreaming of this prom for, like, ever,” Olinkiewicz said. “We all have such a strong bond and this gives us a chance to hang out with everybody.”
Senior Madison Hallman said that upon leaving high school, what she’ll miss most is attending prom four years in a row.
“It’s a blessing,” Hallman said, laughing.
Her classmate, Francesca Frasco, agreed, saying that other schools would benefit from having group proms.
“For me it has been an amazing and extremely fun event to go to every single year," Frasco said. "People might think that going to prom four years in a row might get really boring or old, but for us, it really doesn’t. It’s such a well-known tradition here and everyone looks forward to it... I can’t imagine only going one time because the memories we’ve made over the last four proms are unforgettable and you can’t really ever remake those again. It basically seems normal to us.”
The family element of the night was driven further by siblings Matthew and Emily Strauss — a freshman and senior, respectively — whose father, Robert Strauss of Shelter Island Party Rental, has been providing the prom with a popular photo booth for years so the students can get pictures of themselves holding up signs or wearing goofy hats.
“The kids in the school are like one giant family,” Robert Strauss said. “The older kids nurture the younger kids and really watch out for them. They know each other so well because most of them have been together since preschool. They just have a connection to each other that really doesn’t exist in a lot of other places, certainly.”
His daughter said, “I’m definitely going to miss that closeness after I graduate.”
But the seniors in attendance said they couldn’t have asked for a better sendoff.
“From the decorations to the setup, this is by far the best prom Shelter Island has ever had,” Frasco said.