Think Royally, a non-profit organization founded to improve the well-being and self-esteem of women, and Aspirations of Life, a youth organization that mentors and provides access to counseling, collaborated to bring The Prom Experience to fruition.
Forty-eight high school students throughout the Chicago area submitted 500-word essays about why they should receive The Prom Experience, a luxurious beauty and self-esteem enhancing event, complete with new prom dresses and shoes. The event, held at the art gallery of husband-and-wife team James and Dawj Sangster, also included free makeovers, style tips, self-esteem talks and catered breakfast and lunch.
Rolling out and a host of local businesses also donated dresses, shoes, goods and services to the cause.
Karon Clark of CeaseFire, an organization that strives to deter gang violence, says the event was especially significant to the teen students. “We have girls that are struggling in high-risk communities and, now, we can assist them to make this experience dynamic, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Anita Williams of The Eyes Have It Makeup Artistry and Design donated goods and services to make the 48 students glamorous. “This prom season the bright colors are fuchsia, teal and purple. Those are the colors that really pop today,” Williams explains as she applies make up to Dericka, a Julian High School student.
Kim Ross, program manager for Options for Youth at Orr Academy, a teen parent program located within the high school, brought 12 teen mothers along.
“[This event] is real important because we want to celebrate them … for staying in school and becoming viable citizens and moving along with their lives,” Ross explains. “Prom is a big celebration, and the expense is enormous. The event alone costs $125, so now we can take out this piece of it [prom dress and shoes], and it’s great.”
Makeovers were just the beginning of the good things that were to come. Beauty queen Roshonda Payne, Miss Black Illinois 1996, led a from-the-heart talk about her struggles with self-esteem, and she challenged the teens to think beyond the negative portrayals that they see on television.
“We all have goals,” Payne of The Savvy Sistah, told the audience. “When you turn on the television, they are telling you the vision of what African American women are like, and it’s not true. So today, we’re going to stomp down that negative stigma of what they think African American women are like. When you walk out of this door today, your job is to empower another young woman.”
Photos by Zondra Hughes