CHARLOTTE, N.C. — More than 300 teens from more than 50 area congregations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered in uptown Charlotte for an early spring prom last March. The Room with a View venue on West Hill Street was packed with teens ages 16 and older, who kept the dance floor and balcony full of energy.
A large poster board stood in front of the elevator detailing the standards for the event, with such requirements as clean language, respect for each other and the adult chaperones, modest dress, and avoiding full-body-contact dancing. Teens from the North Carolina areas of Charlotte, Gastonia, Hickory, Winston-Salem and Greensboro participated in the March event.
Some came alone, others in groups, many with dates, and several attended who are not members of the LDS Church. This latest gathering drew the largest crowd in the 10 years since the first event of this kind in the Charlotte area.
"It's cleaner," said Jorge Fuentes, a senior at Hopewell High School, when asked why he would attend a Mormon-sponsored prom.
Tweet McLean, a senior at Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology who also attends Central Piedmont Community College, shared that, “It’s more of a relaxed setting. You can completely act like yourself, without anyone judging.” This is the third LDS prom she has attended.
Ty Tousa, a junior at Providence High School, said, “It’s a really good environment.” His date for the evening, Leah Thornock of Nations Ford High School said, “It’s not awkward (like a school dance).”
One larger group rented a limousine and met at a student’s house prior to the prom for a dinner hosted by several of the parents.
“It was a really nice dinner,” said Josh Tompkins, of Fort Mill, S.C.
“(The prom) is a lot of fun," he added. "A whole lot of energy is here. Everyone gets involved with dancing and having fun.”
Christien Coombs, a senior at the Central Academy of Technology and Arts in Union County, said, “This is my last (prom). I love the atmosphere and the location and the enthusiasm of the whole crowd.”
“I was just so impressed with the kids and how polite and thoughtful they were. I didn't see anyone in a corner by themselves or not dancing, and so many youth came up to us afterward and said, 'Thanks so much. We had a wonderful time,'” said Brenda Cheney, adult leader of the young women organization of 10 South Charlotte congregations.
The central Charlotte congregations of the LDS Church will host the 2014 prom and look forward to continuing the tradition into a second decade.
Heather Jenkins is the director of public affairs in the Charlotte, N.C., South Area of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.