Project Prom Dress San Antonio makes Cinderella moments easier
Select Saturday mornings, the second-floor hallway outside of Suite 205 at the Woodlawn Pointe Center for Community on the West Side is full of shoe racks, handbags and teenagers.
Inside, every square inch of the room is overflowing with around 2,000 ballgowns and shoeboxes lining one of the walls.
Ashley Johnson, founder and president of the nonprofit San Antonio Project Ball Gownruns from inside the suite to the hallway and back as she greets and instructs teenagers looking for a dress for their special night.
Amidst all the movement, Johnson looks at a dress a teenager has just tried on and is holding by the hanger, and his attention shifts from the dress to which of the 200 pairs of shoes on the rack is the correct size, color and style. to join in.
When Johnson’s stepdaughter Brittany started planning her prom in 2014, she remembered her own high school prom in 2002 when she had to juggle school and part-time work at Six Flags on the weekend to pay his expenses. . Although Brittany decided to postpone prom until her senior year, Johnson was spurred into action by the memory of her prom experience.
So many children can’t go [to prom]said Johnson, adding that some teens miss out on this rite of passage due to the costs of attending.
A 2015 survey by Visa, the most recent data available, showed that families in the South spend a $544 average the evening of the ball, and the dresses are among the most expensive items from the long list of prom expenses.
With that in mind, Johnson and her husband, Rodney, decided to found Project Prom Dress to provide evening wear for teens at no cost to their families. They expanded a few years later to provide formal suits and other apparel as well as dresses and increased their availability for homecomings, graduations, banquets, or any formal school event.
A similar venture in New Braunfels began in 2018 when Serena Morris, a teacher at Premier High School, realized some of her students were skipping the ball due to expense.
There are kids who need dresses and can’t afford them, Morris said during the princess 4 one night three-day pop-up event in March at the New Braunfels Westside Community Center, which gave away more than 200 dresses over the weekend.
More than 100 students from 22 high schools attended the March event in search of their prom outfits, a big jump from the first iteration of the event which featured 15 students from two high schools.
For next year, Morris plans to create a more comprehensive experience for students by providing meals and snacks while they shop for their dresses, as well as hairstyles and gift cards.
Yazmine Aguirre, a high school student from IDEA Mays, visited Project Prom Dress with her mother, Naomi Aguirre, and 3-year-old sister, Elleora, in April to pick up her prom dress.
As other teenagers swarmed the robes, Aguirre patiently waited his turn on a bench in the middle of the stairs. She quickly looked through the shelves, grabbing any dresses that caught her eye to try on, and found the perfect bejeweled dress to wear to her masquerade-themed prom in May.
Johnson’s help getting Aguirre ready for the ball didn’t stop there.
After learning that Aguirre wanted to get his nails done for the event, Johnson posted a message on the NextDoor app, an app to connect with neighbors, looking for a nail technician to sponsor the manicure. Aguirres.
Michelle Sauceda, owner and nail technician at Nailed by Shellresponded to the post by offering to sponsor a total of four nail girls, including Aguirre, who received a set of jeweled French tip nails to match her dress.
Every girl deserves to feel pretty on her special day, Sauceda said. Aguirres’ aunt, Jessica, did her hair and makeup.
Aguirre is one of 1,000 teenagers Project Prom Dress has outfitted in the San Antonio area since its founding nine years ago, according to Johnson.
Project Prom Dress has no plans to stop making prom dreams a reality for San Antonio teens. If the organization can secure funding for this, Johnson would like to get a van to hold offsite pop-up events to bring Project Prom Dress to different communities in the San Antonio area.
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