Twelve months and an ongoing pandemic later, Jalen Bowles finally got the chance to dance at his senior prom.

“It’s cool to have the opportunity to come this year just because everything that happened the past year,” Bowles said.

Manhattan High School senior Brianna Carmack asked the Kansas State University freshman to prom. The two work at Hy-Vee together.

“Going into it, I just asked him,” she said. “I was like, ‘Look, I know you didn’t have one last year, and I think it’d be nice.’ Because I also didn’t have anyone else to ask. And I wasn’t aware of anyone was going to ask me. So, (Jalen and I) are comfortable with each other and, like, have hung out before, and then he said yes.”

Under a blue sky with on a mild spring day last Saturday, April 17, they gathered with their group a few hours before prom at the gardens at the Jardine Apartments on campus.

Surrounded by blooming flowers and trees, couples stood on rocks around the pond for photos as parents, other family members and friends reveled in the sequin dresses and crisp tuxes.

“I was excited for him,” said Melissa Bowles, Jalen’s mother. “He just didn’t tell us till this last Tuesday. It was kind of a scramble to make sure he got everything he needed.”

Will, Bowles father, said he was glad his son got the chance to go.

“It’s kinda nice because he didn’t get to do this last year, so I’m glad someone asked him so he’s able to do this a year later,” his father said.

Jalen, who is studying engineering at the university, said he enjoyed connecting with underclassmen. He wore a gray tux with navy accents to match Carmack’s deep navy dress.

“It’s exciting to be back,” he said.

Carmack, who is the editor-in-chief of The Mentor newspaper at MHS, said she most looked forward to getting ready and gathering with friends.

“To be honest, the dance is not really what we’re looking for,” she said. “But mainly like just going and getting pictures and eating.”

Following pictures, the group hopped on a party bus and headed to UMI Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar for a special dinner.

After that, the went to prom. This year’s theme was “Enchanted Forest.”

While Carmack’s group was getting ready, Manhattan High School junior Anika Nyp was putting the finishing touches on her long curls and make-up as she prepared to don a black sequin Sherri Hill dress she bought in Dallas. She chose red as her accent color with the corsage, boutonnière and her manicured nails.

“This is, like, super exciting,” she said Saturday. “Waking up today, it feels kind of surreal. Like, ‘Oh my gosh!’”

Nyp said she was thrilled that prom was even happening this year.

“I’m just really excited that we get to have it in general,” she said. “It was really up in the air.”

Nyp, a junior, attended prom with her boyfriend, Kelton Poole, also a junior. As a varsity tennis player on the MHS team, Poole had a meet before prom Saturday, so it was a busy day for him, she said.

“I can’t imagine what’s that like,” Nyp said.

Nyp’s mom, Kristy, is the journalism teacher at Manhattan High School. For her, it was exciting to help her only daughter get ready for prom.

“She’s my youngest, and her older siblings are brothers, so they didn’t care about all this,” Kristy said. “It was like a 20-minute prep process. So, it’s been a long time since my prom. It’s a lot more intricate and detailed. My grandmother made my prom dress.”

Kristy said her students were very excited leading up to the big day.

“Every conversation, I think, for the past, what, two weeks has been, ‘What’s your prom dress look like?’” Kristy said.

Nyp and her boyfriend met with several other couples before prom. They gathered for photos at the World War II Memorial on the K-State campus.

Manhattan High seniors Sean Anderson and Colin Hullenberry were part of that group. The duo showed up looking dapper in white tuxes.

Anderson said they’ve gone to school together since pre-school.

“I think it was a really good experience. It was just someone that you could open up to and have a good time with,” Anderson said about going to prom with Hullenberry.

Although Anderson said the overall prom experience was amazing, he thought the music choice was questionable.

“There was a lot of, like, rap, and like really heavy R&B stuff, and it was really hard to dance to it,” he said on Tuesday.

“Overall, it was a great day. It was a great night,” he added.

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