Get ready for a middle school dance June 10

SOUTH ORANGE / MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Maplewood and South Orange are full of opportunities to engage and enhance children’s lives — sports, art and music opportunities abound. However, most of these activities are either solitary or competitive; many are focused on younger children and they are often are segregated by gender.

As children get older their needs for enriching opportunities change; they need to engage one another on a social developmental level. At one point in time our schools provided such opportunities in the school dance. However, as time has passed, these regular school functions have been reduced to larger events at the end of a young person’s time in school; here in the South Orange-Maplewood School District, these events are the eighth-grade dance and the senior prom. But these events have become very high stakes with elaborate “promposals.” These activities are fun and exciting, but the high stakes nature of them puts pressure on boys and girls who worry about how to ask, being asked and whether the “ask” was an adequate enough gesture.

In a article from May 15, 2013, teens discuss the pressure and judgment related to prom, an event they feel is quite overrated. Many of the positive benefits of such an event are lost in this current landscape where dances are few and stakes are high.

Alissa Gardenhire, social scientist, entrepreneur, life coach and parent of a rising middle school student in the SOMSD, observed trends and came up with the idea for the Middle School Dance in partnership with her young son. The pair has planned their first event to be hosted by internationally known DJ Banky Hype — a product of SOMSD himself — on Saturday, June 10, from 7 to 10 p.m. at The Woodland, 60 Woodland Road in Maplewood. The event welcomes all SOMSD middle schoolers to participate in the party. The event is LGBTQ, race, ethnicity and gender friendly. All are welcome.

The event will be staffed by a minimum of six adult chaperones with experience working with young people. The event will also benefit the Achieve Foundation, which will receive 15 percent of net ticket sale proceeds. Tickets can be purchased online at Contact Alissa Gardenhire at 862-205-3114 or