Dancing Through Time: NHS Valentine’s Event a Success


Jonathan Bacdayan

Joey Paiva dancing with Finn Helgesen’s grandmother at the NHS Valentine’s Day dance.

There are no age boundaries on the dance floor of the Dartmouth Council on Aging. As hits old and new play out, Dartmouth High’s National Honor Society seniors dance with others seniors: the kind old enough to be their grandparents. This event, the Valentine’s Day Dance, has been a fixture for over a decade, and this year was another successful entry in the log. For the afternoon, nearly 60 well-dressed students danced and mingled with, served food for, and shared the love with tables full of happy senior citizens.

If the event seems odd to you, you are not alone. Most of the Honor Society’s events, like the volleyball tournament, Spring Fling dance, or teacher talent show, try to raise funds for charity through activities aimed at high schoolers. This event showcases a different role of the organization, the service aspect which focuses on bettering the community. The elderly are a valued part of that community, so the NHS works annually to ensure they have a special Valentine’s Day.

The work does not go unnoticed. Amy Depietro, the director at the Council on Aging, was incredibly appreciative. “You guys really do everything,” she said. The food, decorations, and entertainment are all the result of Honor Society planning, with barely any work needed by the council. This certainly means the NHS had quite the task. Committees focused on different aspects, from dessert to sponsorships to decoration, and held weekly meetings in the months leading up to the event. These committees were chaired by members of the board of students elected to run the NHS. 

Senior Abi Chase, NHS co-secretary and head of the food committee, had her work cut out for her. At last year’s dance, food and water shortages detracted from the event, so special attention was paid to meeting demands. “No one could visualize the whole thing,” she said, so when things never came together, that’s just how it happened. This year, to avoid that, careful accounting was kept of who committed to bring in food, and the advisors added the option that, rather than cooking their own dish, students could bring in money, which helped finance dishes from Riccardi’s. Committees also reached out to local businesses to ask for food donations. These methods were so successful that there was enough food leftover to be donated to a local shelter, as well as to police and fire stations. 

Co-advisor Stephanie Church was overjoyed at the level of participation.  “I was honestly worried we weren’t going to have what we needed, but boy was I wrong!” she said. Along with fellow math teacher and NHS advisor Marcia Vieira, they also did plenty in preparation for the dance. Vieira, who is only in her second year of advising the NHS, kept careful notes last year, and starting in December, the two met multiple times a week to plan. Items such as securing the DJ, making sure the space was available, getting ads for it in the newspapers, and keeping the committees on task had to be done. 

It all culminated in a day that, as event DJ Gene Daniels promised, “[the attendees] will remember for the rest of their lives.” Perhaps among the kids, uncomfortable at the prospect of dancing with old folks, there were skeptics, but some came around. Honor Society member Aidan King, who danced with friends young and old during the event, ended the day with the thought, “I do think I will remember this, and fondly.”

Senior citizen Sue Heaney, the grandmother of NHS President Finn Helgesen and recent attendee of Council on Aging events, said the dance was a blast. In Depietro’s estimation, many of the older attendees would agree. Many of them enjoy any opportunity to dance (luncheons they host that have a dance floor are among the best-attended events), and to do so with a young folk can be quite heartening. The best music of all generations (from Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” to Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart”) had couples and intergenerational pairs dancing slow-dancing, and though the kids demonstrated the Cupid Shuffle, when the Electric Slide came up, it was a group of old ladies laying the moves down. In a society that often forgets the valued world of the old, it is good to spread love from the young on up.