The cafeteria at Islip High School was packed early Wednesday morning with seniors celebrating at the school’s post-prom party, and vying for a chance to win a car.
Shortly after 3 a.m., as the party drew to a close, the room fell silent as the students waited to find out whose raffle ticket would be drawn. And when Bailey Feiler’s name was announced, some of her classmates jokingly cried foul.
“She’s not really a senior!” one student quipped.
But Feiler, who only turned 17 a few days ago, is graduating this week with the Class of 2014 even though when she entered Islip High School as a freshman she was a member of the Class of 2015.
“I decided in the middle of 10th grade that I wanted to graduate early,” she said.
Feiler said she already had a head start since she took some high school-level classes while still in middle school. To further accelerate her education, she said she “doubled up” on a few courses during her junior year.
“I want to be a surgeon, so I wanted to get ahead in college,” she added.
Although her goal is to attend Stanford University, she said she is going to first study at Suffolk County Community College for a year to knock out some required liberal arts classes. Since she will be commuting, she said the car she won -- a 1999 Honda CR-V -- will come in handy. She’s been driving a Lexus, but she said it’s her dad’s car.
“I can’t believe I just won a car,” she said. “I’m still shaking. I never win anything.”
Although the car was the grand prize, about 250 other prizes -- from gift cards and dorm-room essentials to televisions and an Xbox One game system -- were raffled off throughout the night. Some were donated, and others were purchased using funds raised throughout the year by the Islip Drug Education Awareness Task Force, which hosts the event.
The party, now in its 14th year, is free to seniors and their prom dates. About 290 of them attended this year’s event, which had a ’50s theme complete with a “malt shop” and a “drive-in movie theater” with classic cars. There was also a DJ, a photo booth, games, food -- and chaperones, of course.
“It’s a relaxed, fun and lively atmosphere, “ said Ken Phalen, of the Task Force’s post-prom committee. “They can enjoy the company of their friends and kids they have known all their lives who they may not see again. “
But Phalen, 53, a father of three and a volunteer firefighter who has seen his fair share of DWI crashes, said the main motivation for hosting the party is to deter seniors from engaging in other post-prom plans that could be destructive. As an incentive, the seniors have to be present to win one of the many prizes.
“We don’t want them to go out drinking and get hurt or sick,” he said. “We want to make sure that every kid is at graduation.”