May 25, 2016 / 2:41 PM / 4 years ago

Big night for blind Massachusetts high school teen

BOSTON (Reuters) - Precious Perez slipped into her full-length strapless prom gown and said it made her feel like story book royalty, an experience shared by many of her peers at high schools across the United States.

Precious Perez, 18, who has been blind since birth, dances with her friend Maddy Wilson (R) at the Chelsea High School Prom in Boston, Massachusetts, United States May 21, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Blind since birth, Perez, could not see the dress’s mint green color, but said that did not limit her ability to enjoy the formal dance, a common rite of passage for American teens.

Perez, 18, described the gown she would put on in the small, comfortable apartment she lives in with her mother and four year-old brother J.J. as “kind of like a more toned-down version of a Disney princess dress. It makes me feel all elegant and special.”

The practical teen with a bright laugh attends the same public high school as her sighted friends and was eager for the experience.

“I always thought that I might end up going. I didn’t really know though,” she said.

Asked about her prom date, Perez says she and Maddy Wilson are “like step-sisters, best friends who grew up together.”  The two were inseparable at the prom, held in the ballroom of a nearby hotel in Boston, from dinner to ice cream sundaes and, of course, packing onto a small dance floor with hundreds of her classmates.

“All of the Spanish music was my favorite,” said Perez, whose mother is of Puerto Rican descent. “It’s in my blood.”

Her mother, Jennifer Alvarez, took Perez for a manicure, pedicure and hair straightening and cut in their working-class hometown of Chelsea, Massachusetts, just outside Boston, a few days ahead of the prom and admitted to some jitters about her daughter growing up and heading out on her own.

“I wanted her to go to prom because that’s a big experience in someone’s life. You only get one time,” Alvarez said, months before Perez is to head off to a new life at Boston’s Berkeley College of Music, where she will study vocal performance and face new living arrangements at the school’s downtown dormitories.

“She’s going off to college.  There’s going to be parties. She’s going to get invited out to a bar or out to a club, and it’s terrifying,” Alvarez said. “I’m ecstatic for her because this is what I want for her.”

Reporting by Brian Snyder; Editing by Scott Malone and Alan Crosby

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