Burgundi Stevens and Shanissa Baker decorate the furniture at Sands Chevrolet on Saturday. Shadow Ridge, a high school only in its second year, opted to have its prom at the car dealership when Sands Chevrolet offered the space for free.

Dave Martinez/Today staff

Shadow Ridge High School and Sands Chevrolet in Surprise have always had a close relationship.

Since the school opened in 2009, Shadow Ridge and Sands have worked together on a variety of projects and fundraisers. Still, Robert Donlevy, a salesman at Sands, said the most recent idea for collaboration came as a bit of a shock.

“Someone came up with this idea for us to host a prom,” Donlevy said. “I wasn’t sure if the owner would go for it but he flipped. He said he thought it was the greatest idea he’d ever heard.”

Stephanie Harper, a biology teacher and volleyball coach at Shadow Ridge who is also serving as prom coordinator, said the idea actually came from a parent.

“The idea was presented to us from a booster club parent who had been working closely with the Surprise Sands Chevrolet staff,” she said. “When (Sands) heard the junior class wanted to throw a prom but due to our funds our options for location were sparse they gladly opened their doors for free.”

Saturday at around 2 p.m., Sands Chevrolet in Surprise closed down and transformed into a swanky prom destination. While it might sound strange at first, Donlevy said the dealership proved surprisingly fitting for the occasion.

“If you ever come out to the dealership you can picture it. It is perfectly suited for valet parking,” he said. “And if our service center is shut down, the place is just perfect.”

Harper said the prom is for the junior class, as Shadow Ridge does not yet have seniors. The students embraced the prom as well as its unorthodox location. Jessica Gregory, a junior and member of the prom committee helped set up for the Midnight Romance-themed prom but left early to get her hair done before coming back later that night for the dance.

“It’s really awesome because there’s never been a prom in a car dealership,” Gregory said. “I’m excited because we’ve been planning it for so long.”

The students put up red and silver tinsel streamers on the windows, which they partially covered with brown paper to block out some of the light, took down the dealership’s “Spring Fling Clearance Sale” signs and balloons, replaced with their own red, black, and silver balloons, and moved furniture.

At the end of the night, they tried to put everything back in place as much as they could.

“They gave it to us for free so we have to be generous,” Gregory said.

Dominic Orso, a junior who was also helping decorate before coming back for prom later that night, was grateful for Sands help with this event and their general support of the school. Orso was excited for the dance, and thought the dealership setting made it unique.

“I like being a part of helping because we know things that no one else does,” Orso said.

The decorations included vintage Corvettes, Impalas and Bel Airs on the showroom floor, a surprise for other students that Orso said was “like a car show at the prom.”

Sophomore Burgundi Stevens didn’t get to go back Saturday night after setting up for the prom festivities, but that didn’t stop her from enjoying it.

“We don’t get to go, but we have fun setting up,” Stevens said.

When she first heard about the plans to have prom at a car dealership, Stevens said she thought it was a “little weird” but when she got to Sands and started putting up decorations, she could see it coming together.

Donlevy said students and staff did all the hard work, though Harper is quick to give credit to the staff at Sands Chevrolet for providing the opportunity.

“Using their space and being the first school to have a prom in that sort of location is not only exciting but also such a privilege,” she said.

This is not a case of making the best of a difficult situation, either. Harper said the students were really looking forward to it.

“The showroom is perfect for prom,” she said before the event. “The floors are so beautiful and the ceilings are high. With the decorations we are bringing in, the DJ and photographer set up and the students showing up dressed to impress, the space will be excellent.”

Without Sands stepping up, Harper said the prom likely would not have happened.

“To be very honest, prom might not have been an option,” she said. “Without Sands, ticket prices would have been sky high and many students would have missed out.”

Donlevy said even before prom night Saturday, people were talking about doing it again next year.

“We told them yeah, no problem,” he said. “If they want to do it again next year we’d be happy to be a part of that.”

Jeff Dempsey may be reached at 623-876-2531 or

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