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Central High Spanish club members Josh Martinez and Jacqueline Hernandez, both seniors, sort through boxes of donated dresses Thursday in club adviser Amanda Laister's classroom. The club is seeking gently used formal wear in a "dress drive" to provide low-cost dresses for prom and other formal dances at the school, as well as raise funds for local teen Tabitha Schulke's medical expenses.
March 13, 2013
INDEPENDENCE -- Prom is one of the most important nights for any high school girl, ranking right up there with the first day of class and graduation.
Although the opportunity to dress up in formal wear and dance the night away is all part of the experience, sometimes the ability to afford that perfect gown is close to impossible, said Josh Martinez and Jacqueline Hernandez, both seniors at Central High School.
"We had a friend who told us she would buy a dress and wrap a piece of tissue around the tag so that she could just return it later since the dresses cost so much," Martinez said.
Martinez and Hernandez have recently embarked on a mission to make formal apparel affordable for their peers.
The two and other members of Central High's Spanish Club have started a "dress drive," and are seeking donations from community members of used -- but still-in-good-condition -- formal and semiformal dresses.
They have 25 so far in a variety of colors and styles, some glittering with sequins, some with straps and others without.
A goal is to have dresses girls can buy from the club for formal dances, as well as quinceaneras and weddings. The dresses will cost between $5 and $15.
Hernandez said there are four dances during the school year, two of them formal. Most girls don't want to wear the same dress twice and, often, can't even afford one, she said.
"We know the dances are very expensive and we thought that by girls donating their used dresses we could resell them and benefit girls who need a dress," Hernandez said. "Every girl deserves to experience prom."
Acquiring formal wear might not seem like a pressing need -- unless you're a student, said Amanda Laister, a Central High teacher and Spanish Club adviser, adding it's especially hard for those from low-income backgrounds.
She recalled one instance when a female student nominated for the school's prom court refused her nomination.
After a staff member discovered it was because of financial difficulties, the faculty came together and donated a total of $200 for a dress and took the girl shopping.
"The stigma that still remains regarding dresses is the money issue and how often that impacts our students and their ability to participate and represent their school," Laister said.
Students have donated dresses to the cause, as has Second Time Around, an Independence consignment store.
"That's what I like about a small community," Laister said. "When there is a need, whether it's a community member or a student, it's not hard to get the word out."
Besides helping dress shoppers, the drive will function as a fundraiser, with proceeds going to the family of Tabitha Schulke to help with her medical expenses.
Schulke is the Monmouth teen who was hospitalized for nearly 80 days this winter with a life-threatening infection.
"We wanted to give the girls dresses and we also wanted to help Tabitha at the same time," Hernandez said.
You Can Help
* The Central High Dress Drive will be held Saturday, March 23, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Central High cafeteria. Donations of dresses suitable for prom, quinceaneras and other formal occasions can be turned in through Saturday.
Those interested in donating clothing can contact Amanda Laister at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-838-0480, or drop off clothing at Central High's front office.