Utah schools collect prom dresses and suits for poor and refugee students

March 5, 2015
Author: Christine McCarthy

(KUTV) It’s a rite of passage for some students – the most exciting night of the year. But prom expenses can prevent teens from low-income families from attending.

That’s why students at two Salt Lake County high schools are collecting dresses and suits to be rented out for free.

The Women’s Leadership Council of the United Way donated dozens of dresses last year to Cottonwood High School in Murray and Kearns High School. Since then, student body officers students, friends and neighbors have donated both new and used attire, as well as jewelry and accessories.

“There’s so many colors. There’s so many styles. There’s a conservative look, an edgier look. There’s something for every girl here,” said Celissa Acosta, a Kearns junior. “It gives other girls opportunities to feel beautiful that night.”

Suit jackets, dress pants, shirts and ties are also available for boys.

Kearns High is still accepting donations for the March 28 prom.

At Cottonwood High, where nearly one in every 10 students is a refugee, the Coltures Club caters to international students with specific needs.

Masagid Abdalla, 17, who moved to Utah two years ago from North Sudan, wouldn’t have attended prom if it weren’t for the free dress rental.

“It’s very perfect, like a Cinderella dress,” Masagid said. “I went there without a date and had fun with friends and danced.”

Mohamed Omar, a 17-year-old Somalia native who has lived in the area for nearly six months, also took advantage of the program.

“It was a suit and tie and shirt,” Mohamed, a senior, said. “I borrowed clothes. That was nice. And I came to prom. So that was cool.”

This year, 40 students rented dresses or suits, with a total of about 100 students from international backgrounds going to the prom. The attendance was higher than two years ago, before the program began.

“They are very great people. They help the students,” Masagid said of the program coordinators. “It’s helpful for people who don’t have nothing.”