Darline Jean-Gilles talks about being taken away from her father due to abuse and neglect, treatment so bad that she lost much of her hearing.
But Jean-Gilles was speaking Friday night as a survivor rather than as a victim. She walked into the Valley Stream Central prom with her date, Spencer Thomas, 22, on her arm, proud of how far she’s come and ready to dance all night long.
“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my aunt taking care of me and even buying this dress,” said Jean-Gilles, 18, of Valley Stream, whose aunt took in both her and her younger brother. “And after what happened to me I plan to go to college and become a social worker or counsel families in a similar situation as I was in.”
Jean-Gilles and her date were among the 360 students and their guests at the Valley Stream Central prom at Floral Terrace in Floral Park Friday night.
“Prom is part of growing up,” Jean-Gilles said. “We’re graduating our youth and going into a new world. I’m happy to be here and I wouldn’t miss my prom. This will be fun.”
Jennifer Buonagurio, student activities director and special education teacher, has known Jean-Gilles for two years and almost teared up seeing her all dressed up.
“It’s hard enough growing up under normal circumstances,” said Buonagurio, of Northport. “These students have grit. I mean, she wears her hardships with such grace and poise. She has risen above it and I think that’s wonderful. This girl is so strong.”