UNM steps in to save Highland High School’s homecoming dance

An Albuquerque High School was about to cancel its fall homecoming dance because of delays on its gym renovation. They needed a place where 500 kids could dance, and they couldn’t find anywhere fast enough — until UNM stepped in.

“We actually had to keep it a secret for a month or so,” said Highland High School’s Senior Class President, Sushil Darjee. 

Darjee and the homecoming committee had been planning the dance all summer. They picked out a DJ, song, and theme. 

“Our theme is ‘Coco’ from Disney’s Pixar movie. Our title is ‘Highlands Proud Corazon,” said Darjee. 

Although, they didn’t have a place for their big dance. 

“I was kinda disappointed,” said Darjee. 

Highland’s gym is currently undergoing major renovations. Crews broke ground in Spring 2017. The work was supposed to be finished by the beginning of the year, but it’s still nowhere near done. 

“They’ve just hit a lot of bumps along the way some unexpected twists and turns,” said Justin Landis, the Activities Director at Highland. 

Landis says because homecoming is always held in the gym, the school doesn’t have the budget to pay for an off-campus homecoming venue. 

Landis says he postponed homecoming for as long as he could, hoping at least a portion of the gym would be usable. But with football season winding down, he knew they were running out of time. 

“We didn’t know what we were going to do,” said Landis. 

In a last-ditch effort to avoid canceling the dance, Highland’s Vice Principal called the University of New Mexico, which just so happened to have some spare rooms. 

“The ballroom was just something we didn’t think was a possibility and it sure was actually,” said Landis.

“It is great to help the kids out, especially under the circumstances because they were really not happy,” said Genie Rossetti, the manager of sales and events at UNM. 

This Saturday night, UNM is letting Highland use two ballrooms — usually a cost of $2,500 — free of charge. 

“We’re extremely grateful for it,” said Landis. 

The students will get to decorate the two ballrooms as they please, and UNM staff will clean up after the dance. 

“It is pretty exciting because it’s the big kids school after high school,” said Darjee. 

 Darjee says this homecoming that almost didn’t happen, is shaping up to be their best, and biggest, one yet.

“In our first week of selling tickets we sold over 100 which is really nice,” said Darjee. 

Students expect their Friday night homecoming football game to be packed too. Netflix will be there shooting a pilot for a new TV show. All the students get to be extras.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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