Gracie Johnson, a 2018 graduate of The Center for Rural Development’s Rogers Scholars program and a junior at Casey County High School, organized the first-ever Sunshine Prom for students with disabilities.

The excitement of attending a formal school prom is one most students will remember forever.

Gracie Johnson, a 2018 graduate of The Center for Rural Development’s Rogers Scholars program, wanted to give this experience to students with disabilities.

With a little help from school and community members, she organized the first-ever Sunshine Prom in Casey County for her Rogers Scholars community service project.

“This is the first time that The Sunshine Prom was held, and I was so glad to be able to host it! The girls attending the prom were able to get their nails, hair, and makeup done for the big day,” said Johnson, a junior at Casey County High School. “The students dressed up in semi-formal attire, and some even attended the prom with a date. Food and drinks were provided as the students danced.”

Johnson reached out to the cosmetology and nail technology students for help to get ready for the prom; acquired decorations from the school’s Prom Committee; asked for volunteers from the boys’ basketball team to serve as dance partners; and had the school kitchen staff (lunch ladies) help with food and refreshments.

“As soon as all of the attendees started dancing, tears came to my eyes,” Johnson said. “I had never felt so blessed in my life. Seeing the happiness beam from their faces was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. When I heard a girl say, “This is the best dance ever!,” I knew that I had done what I had intended to do.”

Fifteen middle and high school students attended The Sunshine Prom, which is expected to become an annual event.

“If it were not for the Rogers Scholars program as well as The Center for Rural Development, I quite possibly would have never thought that I was capable of doing a project like this,” said Johnson. “The excitement that they exhibited made every ounce of effort that was put into the prom worth it. I have never had a greater honor than that of being able to put a smile on the faces of those beautiful people.”

Johnson is the daughter of Kim and Leo Johnson of Windsor.