Southwest Tennessee Community College Students Celebrate Diversity, Inclusion

by Melissa N. Reyna | photos by Julie Lester

On March 29, the Nabors gym at Southwest Tennessee Community College was transformed from drab to fab by LED lights, a rainbow balloon arch, and a live DJ. To the casual observer, this scene resembled any other prom, but it was quite special: this night marked the first ‘second-chance prom’ hosted at Southwest.

Second-chance proms offer LGBTQ+ individuals the chance to bring their partners and express their gender authentically, all in an environment that is safer and more accepting than most high schools.

Dustin Williams, faculty sponsor of Southwest Pride, first pitched the idea at a group meeting.

“Their faces lit up,“ he said. “They were so excited. I knew we had to make it happen.”

Events like second-chance proms “promote diversity,” said Nikki Jackson, a Mathematics faculty member. They “make students feel welcome no matter their background or preferences.”

Julia Rhea, Mental Health Counselor, added, “it helps kids who feel so alone to form bonds and have experiences outside the typical academic environment.”

Nearly 100 students and allies took advantage of the opportunity. Papa John’s pizza beckoned students, some of whom sat quietly on the bleachers while others danced. They enjoyed performances by drag queen Bella DuBalle and drag king Will Ryder and cheered on a runway competition to determine prom king and prom queen.

At the same time, OUTMemphis employees offered free HIV testing and the Outflix Film Festival committee members promoted upcoming showings.

When asked why they came to the second-chance prom, several students replied they wanted to have fun while another referred to it as a “redemption prom.” They stressed the importance of hosting LGBTQ-friendly events at Southwest, not only to provide support for students who have experienced bullying but also to help the larger college community come together.

Williams thanked the Southwest Diversity Committee and Vice President Jacqueline Faulkner for sponsoring the second-chance prom. He hopes it becomes an annual event.

“Second-chance prom was a resounding success,” Williams said. “I am so proud of everyone who attended and made the night their own.”

For more information about Southwest Pride and how to support LGBTQ+ students, contact Dustin Williams at