FREEPORT — It wasn’t the prom he had hoped for, dancing with his date, Zeita Gastel, but Micah Morrison, a junior at Aquin High School, spent his first prom alongside his date writing words and drawing pictures in chalk as the two were part of an “Act of Kindness Day” at Presence Health Nursing Home on Friday.


The two students were paired for their prom date during the traditional drawing held this year via Zoom. All of the couples knew they would not be able to attend a traditional prom this year, so they opted for the next best thing by doing good for others on a day that would have been filled with dressing up and preparing for the dance.


“I can’t say one is better than the other, as this would have been my first prom,” Morrison said. “It feels good to do something good with my date, to be with others and help spread some kindness during this time.”


Gastel, a senior, said not having the traditional prom was a disappointment, adding, “It’s nice to give something back with my date.”


“It’s different, as many things are different this year as we end the school year, and losing the dream of the traditional dance of my senior prom is hard,” Gastel said. “What we are doing as a group for our community feels good. We just want to make sure that others feel that you are not alone going through this trying time.”


Laura Diemer, director of communications for Aquin Catholic Schools, said coming up with the “Acts of Kindness Day” was a way to have the students who would pair up for the prom get together as couples to celebrate the day in a different way. The Aquin Prom Draw was held on April 7, where the tradition of a lottery for dates was held via computer.


The school decided to still have the prom draw, which has been a tradition at the school since the late 1920s, when nuns who ran the orphanage across the street from the school decided to give every student the opportunity to go to prom. Their solution was holding a prom draw, where the guys drew the name of a girl to ask to prom.


“We proposed the idea of performing an act of kindness to the Aquin Student Board as a great way to give back to the community that has given them so much,” Diemer said. “Aquin's prom has always been unique, and this was just one more way to continue the prom draw tradition, give the students an opportunity to support their community — all while making unique memories with their prom date.”


While Friday would not have the students posing in their best dress for pictures, they did fan out across Freeport to do a variety of things to help their community. Some sorted food in the pantry at FACC; others picked up trash at the parks; some sent flowers and thank-you bags to their teachers; others placed kindness rocks, donated blood, picked up and delivered groceries to elderly residents, took cookies to the Freeport Police Department; and others put positive sticky notes around the city.


KK Bald, a senior, and Ty Stykel, a junior, spent part of their day at FACC. Donning protective masks, the duo helped sort donated food. Both said the day was different than they had planned for prom, but collectively embraced the idea that helping others was “the Aquin way.”


“I was sad at first when I knew I would not be able to attend prom like last year, but Aquin is all about community, and today my date and I are doing what we can to help out our community,” Bald said. “I’ll remember this prom as a senior in a different way, but it feels good to give back, be part of service.”


Dean Wright, executive director at FACC, said, “I see these kids holding their prom in a different way. We can always use the help at FACC, and I applaud Aquin to come up with an alternative way for the kids to remember their prom while helping others.”


Jane Lethlean: jlethlean1210@gmail.com; @DOGWMN2