Students from Paw Paw Schools, one of four remaining K-12 schools in West Virginia, celebrate prom season

By Vanta Coda III, RealWV

28 stylish juniors and seniors from Paw Paw Schools, one of only four K-12 schools left in the state of West Virginia, congregate outside Landfall Lodge in Winchester, VA for prom photos. For Paw Paw Prom Committee parents such as Jaime Smith and Tammy Kerns, this event was especially exciting, as they had helped the students plan the occasion. 

“We have been planning since August for this and now it is finally here,” said Smith. “It’s bittersweet, ‘ya know. Knowing that this is Miah’s last event like this.”

The theme for Paw Paw’s 2024 Prom was “Neon Disco.” Photo by Vanta Coda III, RealWV.

Since this year’s theme for the prom was neon disco, Smith and the other prom committee parents planned out the decorations, while students searched for a venue for the prom to be hosted. 

“The students either choose from a list of venues, or in the case of this year, report a place that could be a venue, that is within the drug and alcohol standards set out by Paw Paw Schools and the Morgan County School district,” said Smith. 

The Landfall Lodge venue sits on 200 acres that feature a variety of natural areas and even fields of horses. The venue is most commonly used as an event space for weddings, and features a reception space, as well as natural photo backdrops. 

“This venue has never held a prom before, but due to only 28 students attending we were able to book it,” said Kerns.

Kelsey Hayes (front), starts a TikTok video with her friends Karynn Kerns (right) and Miah Smith (behind). Photo by Vanta Coda III, RealWV.

The venue, Landfall Lodge, is a 30-minute drive south of Paw Paw Schools. Many of the students carpooled with their friends and family, like student Andrew Gilberto. 

“I drove down with some of my friends. It was a great time,” said Gilberto. “I am excited to walk around and check out the venue this year.”

Miah Smith and Donovan Tanouye hold a water lily flower that Tanouye plucked from one of the nearby ponds on the property. Photo by Vanta Coda III, RealWV.

Paw Paw Schools K-12 program has 160 students enrolled, and only has a handful of seniors graduating from the high school this year. With such a condensed student body and teaching staff, the Paw Paw Schools community is a tight-knit group.

A group of boys pick up their friend Andrew Gilberto, for a pose for the event photographer, while Greyson Corbett looks out the window. Photo by Vanta Coda III, RealWV.

“Luckily, I have photography experience and every chance I get, I try to photograph as much as I can of the students during school events,” said Smith. “When they see someone taking notice, in either photographing, or even just attending these events, they notice and it brings them joy.” 

This was Smith’s first year planning the prom for Paw Paw High School and she said it certainly wouldn’t be her last, even after her daughter’s graduation.

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