Not your mother's dance

High school students say they love non-school-sponsored dances, making them a popular option for students looking to raise some quick cash.

"School-sponsored dances are a little more formal," said recent graduate Katie Wishart. "There's so many teachers and cops everywhere. Non-school-sponsored dances are more fun, more relaxed. They're cheaper, too. It's an easy way to have a fun night for five bucks."

Wishart hosted the "Sex Dance" at Mojo Rising along with Carolyne Augsburger as part of their senior project last year, raising awareness about teen pregnancy and $1,000 for Planned Parenthood.

Three or four students on average host fundraising dances for their senior projects each year, according to Ashland High School Principal Jeff Schlecht. The experience can teach them organization, advertising and communication skills among others, he said.

Students who opt to host a dance are not allowed to post fliers at school.

They rely on word of mouth, handouts and social networking Web sites. Some dances hosted by high school students are not connected to senior projects at all.

Eliah Prichard hosted three dances at The Grove last year to raise money to attend a national leadership conference this summer. Prichard, an incoming senior, earned $1,500 for the trip. Like Wishart, Prichard said students seem to enjoy her dances better than those hosted by the school.

"There's not a cop standing at the door to frisk everyone, and people aren't going to get hassled about the way they're dancing," she said.

Between 150 and 350 students attended Prichard's dances, with titles like "Office Hos and CEOs" and "Housewives and Pool Boys." Her parents and family friends chaperoned, and she said there was never a problem with keeping the parties under control.

"The kids are pretty respectful," she said. "Getting really rowdy and rambunctious wasn't really a problem ... of course, I wasn't going to let anyone walk in with a bottle of alcohol in their hands."

An End to Parties?

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Not all parties are so easily controlled. The ensuing problems caused owners of once-popular venues for high school dances, such as Mojo Rising and the Mobius, to close their doors to students.

"We love teenagers," said Mobius owner Beryl Jacobson. "We think that they're amazing beings and incredibly creative. We love having teenagers come and get turned on to really cool music."

But after one party was crashed by a group of intoxicated teens two years ago, Jacobson said the rentals had to end. Instead, he offers internships to allow teens access to music in constructive ways.

Donella Evoniuk, owner of Mojo Rising, stopped renting to both high school and college students after one too many parties got out of hand.

"The biggest challenge I see is that the kids cannot control the kids," Evoniuk said.

Wishart said that although she felt the party she hosted at Mojo Rising never got out of control, she and Augsburger did have problems with supervision during their dance.

"Some of our chaperones flaked out on us," Wishart said.

Instead, she had some friends in college serve as security.

"It wouldn't be like a big authority figure, but just some older guy. That's better than two seventeen-year-old girls trying to do it," she said.

Evoniuk said that even some adults have trouble controlling their parties once alcohol becomes involved, even if they start out with the best intentions.

"I want to support the kids, but in the end I can't support what's going on," Evoniuk said. "It's really a shame because kids need something to do and somewhere to be, but it isn't your mother's dance."

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or .

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