Boy Scout plans special education prom for students
by: Jaime Valdez, Codie Snow is planning an end-of-the-year dance for special needs students at Tigard High School next weekend.

Codie Snow's house in Tigard is filled with paper fish and sunken treasure chests.

A gigantic paper octopus lies disassembled as Snow and his mom dig through boxes of supplies.

Snow pulls out a cardboard treasure chest.

'We're going to fill this with chocolate coins and jewelry,' he said, showing it off.

Snow has nearly everything he needs for next week, when he will throw a party for students in the Tigard High School special education department.

For more than two months, Snow has been hard at work planning the 'Unified Dance' at Tigard High School, a semi-formal dance Saturday, June 9, for the school's special needs students.

Like any school dance, it has a theme: 'Under the Sea.'

Many students at Tigard High School are used to attending school dances, Snow said, but for the students in the special education department, many don't get the opportunity to go to a dance.

That is, until now.

The dance will give special needs students a chance to boogie down with friends in a safe environment, Snow said.

'People with special needs may feel forgotten at times,' said Snow, 17. 'This will help make the special needs students feel wanted.'

The Tigard High School sophomore has worked with special needs students since elementary school, volunteering in classrooms and forming lasting friendships with students.

When it came time for Snow - a Boy Scout - to work on a project to earn his Eagle Scout rank, he knew instantly that he wanted to help the special needs community in some way.

'I have a thing for helping special needs students,' Snow said. 'I asked them if there was anything that I could do for them.'

Teachers suggested hosting some kind of event, like a dance, and Snow set to work, getting local businesses to donate supplies.

'I was expecting him to build bookshelves or paint the walls,' said Snow's mother, Sue. 'We were just like, 'Wow,' (when he decided to do a dance).'

Every student at the dance will receive a corsage or boutonniere, and volunteers have donated their time to help chaperone and teach fun dances during the night.

The Unified Dance is the first of its kind for Tigard High. Last year, the special education department put on a small dance in its classroom, but this will be the first formal dance specially for special education students.

It's a welcome addition for Jackie May, a mother of a Tigard High School special needs student.

'For them to be able to have their own prom is great,' May said, whose daughter Devon is a junior at the school. 'This is a very fun idea.'

Devon and some of her friends were able to attend Tigard High School's prom in Portland last year with supervision, but May said many special education students don't attend large school dances.

'They love music and love to dance like anyone else, but maybe they don't feel comfortable doing that when they are not among their peers,' she said. 'I don't see Devon being able to go to another school prom so this is going to be really nice.'

The dance is by invitation only, and Snow said he expects nearly all of the school's special education students to make an appearance during the night.

The dance is tailored to suit the students' specific needs, he said.

'Starting in elementary school, I used to help teachers watch a special needs student who was autistic, and loud noises and things like that always bothered him,' he said. 'There are some special needs students who don't like crazy lights or really loud music, so this will have slower lights, quieter music.'

The idea is to have a more family-friendly event, where everyone can feel accepted, Snow said.

He would like to see the Unification Dance become an annual event.

'We'd do it again, it doesn't have to be for a project,' his mother Sue said. 'It's just a good thing to do.'

May said she would also like to see the dance become a tradition. She was glad to see someone stepping up to do something nice for the students.

'For a young kid to think about doing something like this is just wonderful,' she said. 'Maybe it will encourage other people to give back any way they can. It's a really positive thing.

'I'm just impressed with this kid. He just has such a great project, he ought to be commended, he's the star of their show.'

Snow disagreed.

'It's not about me,' he said. 'It's all about them.'

The Unified Dance begins at the Tigard High School cafeteria at 7 p.m.

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