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The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

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May 21, 2024

Project Prom Dress: Montgomery County Recreation Center works to eliminate financial barriers at prom

Montgomery+County+Recreation+has+organized+%E2%80%9CProject+Prom+Dress%E2%80%9D+for+the+last+three+years%2C+working+to+eliminate+financial+barriers+and+make+prom+an+achievable+reality+for+all.
@MoCoRec
Montgomery County Recreation has organized “Project Prom Dress” for the last three years, working to eliminate financial barriers and make prom an achievable reality for all.

Students stream into the Marilyn J. Praisner Community Recreation Center expecting the usual setup but instead find the space filled with carts containing dresses and suits and tables displaying glittering shoes, jewelry and bowties. Visitors peruse the carts, picking out their favorite items and walking to the pop-up tents to try them on. As they gaze into the mirror in their prom attire, a delighted expression backed with a dazzling outfit looks back at them.

Montgomery County Recreation has organized “Project Prom Dress” for the last three years, working to eliminate financial barriers and make prom an achievable reality for all. Local high school students can choose donated items to keep and wear to prom for free.

Project Prom Dress collected donations of lightly used prom attire from Feb. 12 through Feb. 29 at the Marilyn J. Praisner Community Recreation Center, in addition to two other collection dates: March 2 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Jane E. Lawton Community Recreation Center and March 9 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Germantown Community Recreation Center. Donors could contribute any gently used prom attire made in 2010 at the earliest; items include dresses, suits, shoes and accessories like neckties, cummerbunds, purses and jewelry. The program has continued to see increases in donations each year, said Monika Hammer, Montgomery County Recreation’s Public Information Officer.

“In 2023, about 1,500 items were donated. During the distribution event in 2023, 160 students came through the doors during the public portion of the event,” Hammer said. “All leftover donations were contributed to area nonprofits.”

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After the collection period, the recreation center sorts through all the items to decide what is prom-worthy and what to donate to other locations. The center then works with a dry cleaner before finally sorting the items by size, length and color for the “shopping” day. 

While the career staff in the Department of Recreation run the event, anyone — including high school students — can volunteer to help with set-up, decorations and sorting clothing and accessories, Recreation Specialist Deanna Greene said.

On Saturday, April 13, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., students can visit the Marilyn J. Praisner Community Recreation Center to “shop” for prom attire. Any high school student can show their school ID to gain admittance into the event. Often, students will leave with everything they need for a prom night, Hammer said. 

“All the items are set up in a boutique-style display. Racks of dresses, suits, shoes and accessories are available and on display for students to choose from,” Hammer said. “Students are able to select their items, try them on in the changing pop-ups and leave with a complete outfit.” 

Between attire, shoes, accessories, hair, nails, limousine rentals, tickets and flowers, the price of prom can rise quickly. Studies have found that American students spend an average of $919 on prom. For some students, the economic barrier can prohibit them from enjoying their special night; programs like Project Prom Dress aim to remove some obstacles. For Greene, Project Prom Dress has been a rewarding experience in her career, and she feels fortunate to be involved in the program. She most enjoys it when students come to the Recreation Center and can see them fall in love with their prom attire. 

“The day of the event […] I can breathe, stand back and look at all the beautiful donations,” Green said. “Sharing that special moment when a young lady finds the dress of her dreams and the excitement on her face, the tears of joy, [that] moment is magical.”

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Celia Noya
Celia Noya, Feature Writer
Grade 11 Why did you join The B&W? I started writing for my schools newspaper in Elementary School and instantly loved it. I joined the Black and White to continue writing, to connect with my community, and to listen to people's stories and experiences. What is your favorite song? How Far I'll Go from Moana  

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    Matt MeadorApr 8, 2024 at 1:12 pm

    Amazing!

    Reply