Posted on 04/06/2015

Nellie Ramos of Lowell, a senior at Nashoba Tech, greets Donna Pechulis, a resident of Bridges in Westford, at the “Senior Prom” that Nellie planned for Bridges residents.

Nellies prom 4


Edward Selig, a resident of Bridges at Westford, dances with Nashoba Tech sophomores Tia Clark of Shirley, left, and Meaghan Banister of Pepperell during the “Senior Prom” that Nashoba Tech student 
Nellie Ramos of Lowell planned at the school.

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John Stavro of Billerica, a senior at Nashoba Tech, dances with Lorraine McSweeney,
a resident of Bridges at Westford, during the “Senior Prom” that Nashoba Tech student
Nellie Ramos of Lowell planned at the school. John served as the DJ for the event.

WESTFORD — Nashoba Valley Technical High School and Bridges by EPOCH, an assisted-living facility, can’t get much closer. They are, literally, next-door neighbors on Littleton Road.

        But Wilbannelys Ramos brought the two institutions even closer one recent day when she held a “Senior Prom” for the residents in the school’s Viking Forum.

        The idea came about last spring when, before the school’s annual Junior-Senior Prom. Students and staff in Nashoba Tech’s Health Assisting program visit Bridges regularly for their clinical work, helping staff care for the residents and talking with them.

        Before the prom, some of the students visited Bridges to show off their dresses and tuxes for the residents.

        Wilbannelys (or Nellie, as her friends call her), a senior from Lowell, came away from the visit with an idea: Why not bring Bridges residents — all of whom suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or other forms of memory loss — to the school and treat them to their own “Senior Prom”?

        “I decided I wanted to bring them over here, serve them lunch and dessert, and let them dance and socialize,” Nellie said.

        She presented the idea to staff at Bridges, and they loved it.

        Each senior at Nashoba Tech has to complete a senior project, based on his or her technical specialty, in order to graduate, so Nellie took on the Senior Prom idea as her project. She enlisted the help of several technical programs — including Culinary Arts and Hotel & Restaurant Management to prepare and serve lunch; Design & Visual
Communications to prepare invitations and other printed materials; TV & Media Production to record the event; Electrical Technology to hang decorations; and, of course, her classmates in Health Assisting — to help at the event.

        “Nellie did a fabulous job on the ‘Senior Prom,’” Health Assisting instructor Theresa Battaglioli said. “It is an event that the activity director and executive director at Bridges had imagined, but no one anticipated this level of success.”

        Battaglioli said it’s amazing that from a simple pre-prom visit last spring, Nellie was able to put together such a successful event.

        “It was a quick stop,” Battaglioli said, “but the residents loved seeing the girls in their gowns and the boys in their tuxedos. And Nellie picked up the prom idea and ran with it as her senior project.

        “At one point, Nellie was moved to tears to see how much the residents were enjoying their day,” Battaglioli added. “And it really was because she saw this idea through. Some of the residents said it was the most fun they’ve had in years.”

        Abbi Laushine, the life-enrichment director for Bridges, said 27 residents attended the prom, and not one of them wasn’t moved by it.

        “It was really a very powerful event,” Laushine said. “At first, the residents were on the quiet side, but within a half hour, they were dancing and singing. Some people said it was so heartwarming, it brought tears to their eyes. It was an amazing event — much more than I ever thought it could be.”

        Nashoba Tech is now hoping to make the event an annual one, and that’s fine with the folks at Bridges.

        “They were asking, when’s the next one?” Laushine said of the residents. “Family members of the residents loved the fact that their loved ones were going to the event. They brought in dresses and suits and ties for them to wear. And the residents enjoyed getting dressed up. The salon made sure everyone’s hair was done.”

        Laushine said the residents look forward to the day each week when Health Assisting students from Nashoba Tech come to Bridges.

        “They really enjoy when I have them on the activity calendar,” she said. “They enjoy spending time with the young kids, just enjoy sitting with them and visiting with them.”

        Battaglioli agreed. “This has been a great partnership between Nashoba Tech and Bridges, and it keeps getting better. Hopefully, Nellie has started a tradition that we can continue for the future.”