The Van Vleck House & Gardens dressed up on Tuesday, June 20, as dozens of seniors from Montclair High School arrived wearing their prom outfits. The gardens welcomed the seniors, their families and friends for a pre-prom celebration from 4 to 6 p.m.

The Van Vleck House & Gardens played host to Montclair High School’s pre-prom event.(MARIA MONICA FERNANDEZ/STAFF)

The architecture and blooming plants provided an ideal setting for the Class of 2023 to reunite, take pictures and preserve the memories of the seniors’ big celebration before heading to prom.

“I am very excited; I am just glad it’s over,” senior Isabel Ginns said about celebrating prom and finishing high school. Ginns shared that she will attend Tufts University in Massachusetts and play field hockey there.

“They’re just lucky that they’re going to college and have a normal experience and like the kids, too,” said Jennifer Johnson, mother of a student in the Class of ’23, whose students were in ninth grade when New Jersey schools were forced to operate remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “She might have done chemistry from her bed, but at least she’s going to have a real college experience,” Johnson said of her daughter.

Montclair High seniors Josh Modinao, Abby Price, Kaira Kapila and Leon Brower arriving at the event. (MARIA MONICA FERNANDEZ/STAFF)

Many of the seniors dispersed in mid-May when they joined the Community Internship Program (CIP), in which they gained “real world” experience by interning for five weeks with local companies, government, faith-based organizations, schools or other community entities within a 50-mile radius of Montclair High School.

“The classes are looking for opportunities to come together,” said Sarah Otazo, a volunteer at the pre-prom event.

“The idea of having this time and having prom together and rehearsal this morning, it’s all about just having those precious moments,” Otazo said. “They’re all becoming more precious moments now.”

As part of the event, the Montclair police closed Van Vleck Street between North Mountain and Upper Mountain avenues. The street was reopened around 6 p.m., when the event ended and the seniors headed Westmount Country Club in Woodland Park for the prom.

Montclair High seniors Cecilia Martinez and Eric Pitman, who shared that after a trip to France, he will join the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. (MARIA MONICA FERNANDEZ/STAFF)
Montclair High seniors Edie Kehlert, Alana Flynn, Sylvie Wurmser and Ami Pellerano posing for a picture at the pre-prom event. (MARIA MONICA FERNANDEZ/STAFF)
The central garden at Van Vleck House & Gardens as the pre-prom festivities got underway. (MARIA MONICA FERNANDEZ/STAFF)
Montclair High seniors Sarah Rabner, Lina Turner, Lizi Gelenidze and Briana Sampson. (MARIA MONICA FERNANDEZ/STAFF)
Jaimee Keys, a Montclair High School senior, and Bryce Anderson. (MARIA MONICA FERNANDEZ/STAFF)
Pinning the boutonniere is a longstanding prom tradition. (MARIA MONICA FERNANDEZ/STAFF)
The central garden at Van Vleck House & Gardens welcomed family and friends of the Montclair High Class of 2023. (MARIA MONICA FERNANDEZ/STAFF)
Shirley Guame posed while her friend Arlene Medina snapped a photo. (MARIA MONICA FERNANDEZ/STAFF)
The pre-prom event provided lots of time for laughs and photos. (MARIA MONICA FERNANDEZ/STAFF)
Montclair High senior Caitlin Foung and sophomore Mackenzi Finluy. (MARIA MONICA FERNANDEZ/STAFF)
Montclair High senior Isabel Ginns and Andrew Raymon. (MARIA MONICA FERNANDEZ/STAFF)