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West Zone students enjoy seventh annual Spring Dance

By Staff | Apr 26, 2016

It was started seven years ago when Mariner High School teacher Carla Jerdan discovered that many of her students had never been to a school dance.

Today, it is one of the most awaited events of the year for many West Zone high school students and more than 200 from five high schools packed into the Mariner gymnasium on Friday for the seventh annual Spring Dance.

The theme, as chosen by Jerdan’s students, was a Hawaiian luau, and many of the students wore leis and grass skirts.

Other classes came in toward the end to make the event more special, forming a circle so the best dancers could show off their moves.

For Jerdan, a life skills teacher at Mariner, that’s what makes the dance so special.

“That’s my favorite part because the general kids and connect with our kids, dance with them. This is an opportunity for them to build that relationship and awareness of being part of the same team,” Jerdan said.

The dance featured lunch, dancing, photos and the crowning of the king and queen, where one senior boy and girl from each school was nominated by their peers, then chosen at random.

Christian of Cape Coral and Erica of Island Coast were crowned at this year’s dance.

The Mariner Mentors, volunteer students who helped put the event together, served lunch to all the students before going out and joining the fun.

A Mariner Mentor is someone who partners with students who may need some peer support, said Justin Irizarri.

“We always try to be there for them,” Irizarri said.

This dance is a great thing for Beth Beller, a teacher at North Fort Myers High School,who was attending her first dance. She brought 30 students with her.

“The kids love it. They love music and they love to dance and this is awesome for them. These kids went to elementary school and middle school with these kids and to come here and see their old friends is great,” Beller said. “There are things our zone gets together for during the year, so they get to see them four times a year.”

From this dance, the event has grown, with Estero to the south doing something similar, and some of the teachers in their zone are putting on annual events, such as Gatorama at Island Coast and a Swim Day at Cape Coral.

“We would love every zone in our county to do that, but it has influenced others, and it’s nice because these kids may have gone to middle school together, but separated, so it’s neat to see them come back together,” Jerdan said.

Manasa, a junior at Ida Baker, was having a blast.

“It’s fun, very exciting. I don’t have a favorite dance. I love them all,” Manasa said. “I always do it at school.”

For D.J., a senior and a Mariner mentor, it has become a crucial element in many students’ lives.

“I’ve been going for all seven years. I can’t believe how big this has gotten. Just being with friends I don’t get out to see every day and the new people you meet,” D.J. said. “It’s become a community service project.”

Among the sponsors lending a hand were Chick-Fil-A, McDonalds, Jason’s Deli, Perfect Cup, Publix, Papa John’s, Il Primo Pizza, Marco’s and Cici’s.