Ask most anyone who survived their teenage years about prom, and a smile instantly comes to their face. Maybe a story is told about finding the perfect dress, receiving a romantic invitation from a dream date, or particular after-prom activities? Whatever the case may be, even decades later, those memories seem just a fingertip away.
For many students, however, the costs associated with prom prevent them from making such memories. With dresses in the hundreds of dollars, then hair and makeup appointments added in, many families struggle to give girls the dream prom experience that they want. Boys don't get off the hook either, with tuxedo rentals running more than $100, on top of limousine and dinner reservations.
Confronting this issue has been the focus of a group of high school students from the Leadership for the Youth of Niagara County. The group, associated with Leadership Niagara, took up the cause of local poverty this year, and chose to make prom dreams possible for their classmates.
"I've been really impressed by how much they wanted to give back to their classmates," said Tasha LeFevre, who served as mentor on the project. "The topic that they were given was a large one, and they could have gone any direction in dealing with local poverty. It was powerful to see how they worked together to gather donations and to get the word out about the drive. They were very motivated to give back to their community; they really have great hearts."
Though some area high schools provide a "prom closet," allowing girls access to free dresses, this project went much further. In addition to collecting 113 dresses, the group also took in shoes, purses and jewelry for girls. In addition, men's shirts, ties and pants were accepted, along with a vast collection of hygiene items, including soap, shampoo, razors, shaving cream, toothpaste, toothbrushes, etc.
The group partnered with Community Missions in Niagara Falls to accept donations, with excess clothes and supplies donated to the Missions' Crisis Services following a "Prom Attire Event" held Saturday, May 18, at the Kiernan Center, on the campus of Niagara University.
"The efforts of these students have been overwhelming," said Christian Hoffman, communications and development manager at Community Missions. "We are always excited to see donations come into the mission, but for high school students to put so much work into not only helping fellow classmates, but also those they don't know in the community, it shows a lot about their character."
The experience has also been eye opening for the students on the team. Bringing together student leaders from across Niagara County, the LYNC program strives to teach leadership to the next generation. A focus on local poverty has made a lasting impact on the group, comprised of juniors and seniors from eight high schools throughout the county.
"People around you may not seem poor, but poverty can touch anyone," said Angela Gallo, the group's spokesperson and a junior at Lewiston-Porter High School. "Prom is expensive, regardless of your financial status, and we here at LYNC just wanted to help those in need."
Anyone in need of the prom attire should contact Andrea Gray at Community Missions by phone at 716-285-3403, ext. 2225, or via email at email@example.com.
Dresses ranging from sizes 0-20 are available, along with men's shirts, pants and ties.