Webbies gather for a night at Webb’s own “Enchanted Forest” during Prom 2021

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Nichola Monroe

Emily Wang (‘22) and Sharon Xu (‘22) dance together.

Prom in 2021, who would have expected that?  

Walking up to the loop in the setting sunlight, seeing the big white tent, the outfits, the faculty, the campus, felt like coming back to school after a break when energy is high and everyone is excited to see each other. All this excitement heightened with Ms. Baron’s classic “Oh my GOddddd!” to students she had not seen in a while as she administered rapid Covid-19 tests. Everything seemed so natural yet so different, as students and faculty settled back into Webb’s lower campus for the evening.  

“I thought ‘wow this is really pretty’ as I walked up,” Liz Bowman (‘22) said. 

Indeed, the white tent featured a floral archway entrance, a photobooth with gold lettering spelling “Prom 2021”, and sparkly LED balloons marking six feet of distance on the five separate dance floors. All the decorations helped create the ambiance of Webb’s own enchanted forest.   

“They were moving the stuff [to prepare for prom] into Hooper on Friday so we kind of saw the plants and decorations, but it turned out way more extravagant than I expected” Yvonne Kan (‘22) said.   

Inside Hooper were more decorative plants, another photobooth with a forest at twilight background on the big TV screen, and even a caricature artist drawing groups of students.  

“I was kind of shocked by how much effort was put into it,” Sharon Xu (‘22) said. 

 Indeed, the departments involved in helping to make a prom possible for the upperclassmen were numerous.  

“I think it’s important for everyone to know how many people played a role in planning it,” said Ken Rosenfeld, Dean of Campus Life. “This year there was this common misconception that the school is saying no to everything and that we, the upper admin, are basically just trying to be restrictive. There has been nothing but support in every way to bring a prom to the students.” 

As it turns out, it was even a feat to allow juniors and seniors to not be separated at prom. It was only two weeks before the event that the decision was made to allow a joint prom.  

“That was why we had two selfie stations and two hybrid hangouts,” Mr. Rosenfeld said. “Initially we had two dessert and drink distributions, and Hooper was divided. It was actually Dr. Smith who kind of at the last minute was like ‘this is what I am suggesting [having junior and seniors together]’ and I was like yes.” 

“There were so many people who wanted the juniors and seniors to have a great prom experience because we care so much about you guys and want you to have these memories,” said Mr. Rosenfeld.  

“We just wanted to make an event, especially for the seniors who have not gotten anything this year,” said prom committee member Nick Lee (‘22). “Prom is one of those points in your high school career that people look forward to.  

“We knew it was not going to be the same, but we wanted to create an event that would make people say wow,” Nick said. “And honestly, I hope that the seniors and the upperclassman who have not gotten much this year felt like they were a community for the night and could have fun together and enjoy their final moments at Webb.”   

In addition to being the first major event Webb hosted on campus for a larger group of students during the global pandemic, prom was also the first hybrid dance ever thrown at Webb.  

While many students have returned for study pods or athletics, the campus still lacks our full community and Prom 2021 was planned to create an inclusive environment for all. The night featured virtual hybrid hangout locations, a virtual concert presented by Tropic, and opportunities for involvement of a virtual attendee.  

Despite the prom planning committee’s valiant efforts to create a virtual experience by providing multiple screens and couches to sit in and chat, it was difficult for students to hear and interact with the Zoom call.  

I didn’t see too many people online or from campus interacting with me,” Jimmy Feng (‘21) said.  

“Because of the loud music. it was hard for people to hear me and I had trouble hearing them as well,” Hank Sun (‘22) said. “It was hard to talk with people on a screen when many [others] are around them, so I didn’t get a chance to really participate.” 

The turnout of virtual attendees was very low. The lack of virtual participants highlights the largest challenge Webb has faced during the year — creating online programming that students want to attend. 

For the few virtual students that did attend, the night provided its own positive experiences with virtual attendees highlighting the concert.   

I was tuning in from Shenzhen, China,” Jimmy said. “The local time was 10am when prom started, by the way. I logged into Zoom and watched the whole concert by Tropic. The musicians are fantastic and their songs were so excellent.”  

“I was participating from Montreal, Canada, through the virtual Zoom meeting,” said Charlie Sun (‘21). “My favorite part was the two performers singing.” 

Creating connections across Zoom to a space where hundreds of people gathered was still challenging but the virtual students appreciate the clear thought and attention that went into planning the event with them in mind.  

“It was the best we could have done in the current situation, so despite not being ideal, it was better than nothing,” Hank said.  

“For what it’s worth, prom was as great as I thought it would be,” Nick said. “Obviously, we could not have danced as close together as we wanted, but I think everyone had fun and I think the ambiance was beautiful. I thought the teachers were great chaperones and it turned out better than I had hoped for.”  

“Although we couldn’t have that normal prom experience it was really nice to see everyone dressed up because that hasn’t happened in so long,” said Madeline Lilley (‘22). “Just having an actual get together with so many people in the community was good.” 

Though social distancing was not incredibly well enforced, students were vigilant about wearing masks, everyone had negative rapid tests, the dancing was outdoors, and LA County was in the yellow tier. 

Unlike any event to occur at Webb, Prom 2021 will be remembered, not only for the ambiance or the dancing, but simply because it was the first-time students had some piece of normalcy.