This was a re-entry week after school vacation. Somehow, the time until we sing “School’s Out for Summer”, seems interminable. Thus, I had to have a project to start this exodus off on the right foot. Before school break, one of our lovely teachers approached me and told me that she had seen a notice in her town website, offering some prom dresses. She responded and said that she would happily take them since she works in a community where money is tight and dreams don’t come true easily. In addition to that, she put out a wish for more dresses. If you wish upon a website, the universe, a.k.a. the internet responds, or at least in this case. One of those “if you build it, they will come ” moments. And so it began.
I put out a poster advertising “Pop Up Prom Shop” and we had morning announcements reminding the junior and seniors that with a ticket from their guidance counselors, they could shop for dresses, gowns, shoes and bags, with some bling thrown in. We ran the “pop up” shop for three days. We had accumulated 175 dresses, some that were never worn, with tags still on them. We had shoes, all sizes and styles, including some stilettos heels which made some of our shoppers squeal with delight. We had sequined handbags and waterfall earrings. We set up a dressing area and had a full length mirror so that our girls could try on and model the dresses for one another. We had dresses, the colors of the rainbow, and sizes for everyone. We are an economically challenged community where going to the prom is not a sure thing because money is not available for the extras and first and foremost, that might be the dress.
When Monday arrived, after a week away, we got to work. The space had been booked, the dresses moved by our custodians. The “dressing room” was fashioned with three room dividers. We had chairs and the mirror. We turned a spartan, utilitarian room into a bit of a “salon” and we waited. Staff showed up to help set up and to help our shoppers find something to choose.
There were tentative knocks on the slightly opened door that had the sign for our Prom Shop. The girls entered and watching them shyly ask if “this was the place” brought the realization that there were a lot of Cinderellas looking to say yes to the dress. They arrived in pairs, as they always seem to do. We welcomed them with a little bit of “Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo” and showed them the racks and racks and tables of dresses. There was magic in the air (or it was the sunshine finally coming through the windows). They helped one another choose something as they twirled and walked in the very, very high heels. The moment when they appeared transformed from blue jeans to ball gowns and gazed at themselves in the mirror was magical. Once they had picked the dress, it was carefully placed in a long bag and handed to them over their outstretched arm and they each walked a little taller , with shoulders back and chins up.
My favorite moment was when one of our special needs girls came down with her paraprofessional. She approached me with her ticket in hand and although she doesn’t speak much, her eyes spoke volumes as she looked at the dresses. I asked her what her favorite color was and she said “blue” in the meekest of voices. I went to the racks and showed her several dresses. She picked one with some sparkly fabric and she and the woman who escorts her around the school went into the dressing area. Moments passed and she appeared in one of the dresses. I brought her to the mirror. I asked her “who is that beautiful girl in the mirror?” and she smiled and said in a much louder voice “That’s me!”. Another princess, another dream come true. It just doesn’t get much better.