With prom season approaching, many girls are planning one of the most memorable nights of their young lives.
However, the reality is that attending prom isn’t always possible for some girls, as the costs can be a strain on some families.
“Prom is an expensive event, and everyone can’t afford it, but there’s no reason that girls can’t enjoy this final moment, especially if it’s your senior or junior prom,” said NCCU alumna Brittney Bizzell, 26.
Bizzell wanted to start a prom dress drive to “give back to high school girls in the community.” She shared the idea with her hairstylist Jamika Hamlett, founder of The Mary Alice Foundation.
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“She said to me, ‘I want to do a prom dress drive’ and I thought that’s really dope,” said Hamlett.
“I remember going to prom, and luckily I had both of my parents and they could afford for me to go to prom, but several of my friends couldn’t go to prom because their parents didn’t have enough money,” Hamlett said. “I had never thought of something like that until she mentioned it and it really triggered my brain, like I remembered how many people couldn’t go.”
The Mary Alice Foundation was named after Hamlett’s grandmother, Mary Alice Wise.
Hamlett learned at a young age about the importance of giving back and, during the holidays, would give out food with her grandmother to the homeless people in the community.
Eventually someone suggested she start a nonprofit, and she established the The Mary Alice Foundation in 2015.
On March 12 the foundation held its first prom dress drive. Miss North Carolina Supranational Alexis Sherill and Mrs. North Carolina Universal Billie Papuchis were guest speakers.
“They had on their crowns and their sashes, and they’re helping girls try on prom dresses and telling them that they look beautiful,” Bizzell said..
Each girl received a ticket at the event for the chance to win the Royal Prom Package. Winner Jailyn Brown, 17, received a prom dress of her choice, alterations of the dress, shoes, hair, makeup, prom photos and jewelry.
“At the end, her mom explained to us in tears, ‘Thank you all so much. My husband lost his job and we were living paycheck to paycheck and she was really not going to be able to go to prom,’” Hamlett said.
“So it was really a good thing for them,” she said.
The foundation will continue to collect dresses for next year’s drive, and Hamlett also hopes to add men’s wear, either in donated suits or discounts for tuxedo rentals.
“We’re really helping people,” she said. “I feel like a lot of the time we get so forgetful of how much we really have and we don’t really think about the little things, something as simple as going to prom. What girl does not want to go to prom?”
For information about donating or getting a prom dress, call Hamlett at 919-685-5924.
Montreka Williams is a student journalist at N.C. Central University and staff writer for the Durham VOICE.
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The Northeast Central Durham Community VOICE (durhamvoice.org) is a joint project of the journalism programs at NCCU and UNC. The VOICE, launched in 2009, is supported by a grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, in partnership with the city of Durham as well as local civic, church, arts, education and social justice leaders. Interested teen writers are encouraged to email email@example.com