Due to the new coronavirus, schools across southern Colorado have cancelled end-of-year events like prom and moved graduation services online. One organization in Colorado Springs has shifted their annual prom for LGBTQ youth into the digital space on Saturday, May 16.
Inside Out Youth Services, an LGBTQ youth center in Colorado Springs serving students in El Paso and Teller counties, has hosted a queer prom for over a decade. This year, in lieu of cancelling the event, the organization made the gathering virtual and opened it to people of all ages.
Development Director Joy Armstrong said hosting a virtual prom was a natural extension of the organization's move to offering virtual services over the past few months.
"If we can remember that we are together throughout this, that we're really not alone, and we can still connect to another human being, then that is what is getting a lot of us through this challenging time right now," said Armstrong.
Armstrong said making space to celebrate is essential during a pandemic.
"I think having the chance to come together online, to listen to some music, to see some performances, to maybe give a shout out to friends, but just to know that there are other people out there, and that we can still celebrate," said Armstorng. "There are a lot of things in life where we can have fun."
Before needing to move online, the plan was to host the prom in the gymnasium at Palmer High School. Anton Schulzki, a history teacher at the school, has worked with Inside Out over the past ten years. He said he's seen how important events like queer prom are for the community.
"We provide the resources, the support, for the kids and the parents," said Schulzki. "That's the biggest thing that we've done and the biggest impact I think we've had in the community. And you know, queer prom is just a celebration of the whole thing."
He said he's encouraged Inside Out is still holding the event, as Palmer High School's own prom was cancelled due to coronavirus concerns.
Armstrong said one advantage of moving queer prom online, along with the organization's services and support groups, is the opportunities to reach LGBTQ youth all over southern Colorado who might not otherwise be able to access the physical location in Colorado Springs.
The success of digital events and programs has inspired Armstrong and others from Inside Out to reimagine future fundraising events online as the state slowly eases restrictions around gatherings of more than ten people.
The event will take place from 7 - 9 p.m. on Saturday, May 16. It features a DJ and drag performers from the United Court of the Pikes Peak Empire. Information and registration for the event can be found on Inside Out Youth Service's website.