Niles business owner looks to plan outdoor prom for area graduates

NILES — It is a milestone in any teenagers’ life, idolized by movies and photos of older siblings and parents in their own styles. The photos, music, dancing, meeting with friends or arriving with a date are all a part of the iconic experience seen by many as a rite of passage. This event, of course, is the high school prom.

The last day of in-person instruction for students in Michigan, and sharing a classroom with their peers, was March 13. As commencement ceremonies are adapted and announced for graduating seniors, one of the classic moments of senior year has been missing.

Mica Yonker, owner of Oh My LLC at 307 E. Main St., wants to give that moment back to students who weathered a rough end of the school year.

On Tuesday, Yonker posted a GoFundMe page for an Outdoor Prom to include all high school students in the area. “A Night Under the Stars Prom” will be an outdoor event hosted at the Edwardsburg Sports Complex on Aug. 1. The event holds a rain date of Aug. 2, pending weather conditions.

“My daughter wanted to go to prom this year,” Yonker said. “She’s been talking about it since October.”

Seeing there were many students who had already acquired their attire, she wants to make sure the students have a place to gather and have their night.

“There’s a lot of kids in the same position she’s in where they’ve bought their dress, and now they can’t use it,” she said.

Yonker also has another reason for putting on prom: her dress and events business.

“We haven’t been able to secure any funding, so it was time to create an event to help get us back on the ball. I’m not ready to give up and close the doors,” Yonker said.

For a multi-community event, Yonker has secured the gated Edwardsburg Sports Complex. The venue is 102 acres, which will allow up to 500 occupants in the open-air space under the current Michigan COVID-19 mandates.

A live band, a DJ, lighting, finger foods and drinks are all in the works as Yonker seeks to raise funding and partner with other businesses to stage the event.

“We’re trying to make this a multi-community event,” she said. “We are not stopping at state lines. Kids from South Bend are welcome to come. That way, they may meet some new friends and be a little more social that way. Maybe it will help bring the communities more together that way.”

The prom, open to all high school students, will have age limits capped to include only those who are under 21 years old. The exception is special needs students, who may be allowed up to age 25.

Since posting about organizing the upcoming event on Facebook, Yonker has had people reaching out in support of the idea.

“We are looking for volunteers to help chaperone, set up and clean up,” she said. “We have actually gotten quite a few people that have responded just from the feelers that we put out on social media. We did a poll, and we had an 86 percent response saying that they’d come and feel safe coming.”