At a typical North Royalton High School After Prom event, a few lucky seniors go home with prizes donated by the community, but as we all know, this year has been anything but typical.
Prom may have been canceled, but After Prom, the fun-filled event held afterwards at Strongsville’s Walter F. Ehrnfelt, Jr. Recreation Center that features games, music, catered food and loads of prizes, went on in a much different and most impressive fashion, thanks to one mom who makes it a point to always find the positive.
With the help of her fellow committee members and the generosity of the community, After Prom Committee Chair Isabella Starkey was able to award every senior with a prize – all 366 of them.
“After Prom is always funded solely the parents and the community, but this year, we didn’t feel comfortable going out to businesses asking for donations, so we brainstormed and started focusing instead on collecting donations,” said Starkey, who drew inspiration from social media posts about sponsoring seniors. “It was absolutely amazing the amount of support we received. We raised about $12,000 in cash and checks and we raised about $3,000 in gift cards. We assigned a number to all of the prizes then drew numbers as we alphabetically went through each senior down the list.”
On June 13, Starkey and other volunteers gathered at Memorial Park to give gifts and delivery routes to parent drivers – routes came from the transportation department’s school bus routes. Over the next few hours, they hand-delivered the individual prizes to every NRHS senior living in North Royalton and Broadview Heights. Prizes ranged from flat screen TVs to microwaves to gift baskets to luggage to headphones to gift cards to Amazon Fire Sticks, Echo Dots and everything in between. The donations came in from parents, school groups, businesses, members of city government, teachers, civic members and many others.
“We never gave up hope and we talked about what we could do to make sure the kids still had an after-prom experience,” Starkey said. “You know, how can we take this in a positive direction and what can we do to replace these events? I’m always looking at the positives. With so many things out of our control, instead of being upset, I try to be as positive as I can for my kids.”
North Royalton High School English Teacher and Activities Director, Jonathan Dietrich, said staff focused on making memorable moments for this year’s graduating seniors. Math Teacher Matt Ciha organized the distribution of senior shirts.
“Students were asked to provide three teachers who made an impact in their lives. After organizing the distribution, a teacher from the top three delivered the shirt to the student at home. In addition, the other teachers wrote letters to the senior, which were delivered with the shirt. It was super special,” Dietrich wrote in an email to the Royalton Recorder. “I was blessed to go to 28 student houses and deliver so many letters and shirts. It was so awesome to see the seniors one more time before summer. Matt Ciha and the entire staff really made an unforgettable senior moment.”
Starkey, whose daughter Martina is a member of the class of 2020, said she never chose to focus on what the seniors lost.
“We could have easily given up, and while many did back out, I still wanted to have that hope,” Starkey said, who also has a daughter, Liliana, an incoming sophomore. “I really have noticed throughout this virus how a lot of goodness has come out of it. You can make something great out of something really bad.”

Contributing Writer