John Heller, Post-Gazette photosGrace Frankenberg, center, with her escort, Bill Vogel, right, lead the way to the PAT bus stop along Wood Street as they and other students from City High head to their prom at Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland yesterday.
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These students from City Charter High take public transportation to their prom at Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland yesterday. The 13 boarded the 61D bus at Fifth Avenue and Wood Street, Downtown.
Click photo for larger image.
On a typical prom night, couples dress up, pose for parents, then hop in a limo.
But at City Charter High School, Downtown, they do it a little differently.
Last night, 13 students in tulle and tuxes piled onto a 61D Port Authority bus at Fifth Avenue and Wood Street and rode it to their prom at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland.
The students took public transportation to conserve fuel and raise awareness about current environmental issues.
"We take the bus everywhere, so we were just going to do that anyway," said Macy Lucas, a senior, referring to herself and a friend from Schenley High School, Cecilia Stolarski, who she brought instead of a date. "But we had done a global warming symposium at school, so it became more about that."
Seniors Branden Plesh and Grace Frankenberg organized the event as their Senior Action Project, a project required of all City High seniors for teacher Heather Bossert's "Ideas in Action." The project must better the community in some way.
For Mr. Plesh and Ms. Frankenberg, the idea started as a joke.
"In our science class, we discussed global warming and what we can change in our own lives," said Mr. Plesh. "Somebody joked that taking the bus to the prom would be an extreme measure. Grace and I thought it was funny and said 'Why not?' "
The project is about more than being environmentally friendly. It's also about taking action to effect change, rather than passing on responsibility and blame.
"It's not that people don't care," said Mr. Plesh. "They just have a learned helplessness where they think they can't do anything."
Their message is that little things add up, and small actions can make a difference.
"It's not about exactly how much fuel we are saving at this particular event," said Mr. Plesh. "But if everyone has a mentality of 'I could take the bus to that,' it will work toward changing the world."
This year, only 13 students of the 136 prom attendees rode the bus. Mr. Plesh and Ms. Frankenberg hope to establish taking the bus as a school tradition, gaining more participants through the years.
Meghan Williams, a junior, said she would definitely be willing to take action to ensure that it happens again next year.
"All my friends are taking Hummer limos, which is so cliche," she said. "Riding the bus to prom is cool, plus it's for a good cause."
The City High prom is unusual in other ways: Maxine Klimasara, the school's chief executive officer, requires students to clear any outside dates with school officials first. Girls must also bring their prom dresses to Ms. Klimasara in advance for inspection and approval.
"We wanted to be tasteful, and our students wanted to be tasteful," she said. "They are very proud of themselves. They are gorgeous on prom night."
Standing on the sidewalk waiting for the bus on Friday night, the bevy of students was indeed both tasteful and gorgeous. One of the environmentally conscious students even wore a green gown.
Laura Yao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1878.