As prom season quickly approaches, the anticipation of this most traditional teenage rite of passage comes with the expense of formal dresses, tuxedo rentals and prom tickets.
Rena's Dresses is in its second year working with the community and high schools to help provide the prom experience for seniors whose families' financial challenges would not otherwise allow them to attend prom.
Drop boxes for donations of new or slightly-used evening gowns are available through the end of February at Hesperia, Sultana and Oak Hills high schools. There is a special need for plus sizes, according to organizers.
Hesperia High School counselor Tammy Aguilera is the advisor to the Peer Club. Seniors Jasmine Rodriguez-Medina, Salvadore Garcia and Jaclyn Martin are among the club members who assist with donations to Rena's Dresses.
"All the High Desert high schools are eligible to participate," Aguilera explained. "The students are referred based on income or special circumstances. They're given the opportunity to go shop at the prom boutique."
The boutique location is set up like a high-end fashion store to make the girls feel good about the experience. It's free for all high school seniors who are referred by a teacher, counselor or social worker.
"I like being part of this," Medina said. "I remember hearing a lot of senior girls talking last year about how much they appreciated getting free dresses."
The Peer Club's work with Rena's Dresses includes helping to sort the donations. They also distribute fliers and put up posters around the community.
"It's cool helping with this," Garcia said. "I've been doing a lot of the drawings for the posters."
Aside from formal dresses, Aguilera said that donations can include jewelry, evening shoes and services.
"We are looking for anything associated with dressing up," Aguilera said. "If anyone wanted to donate cash, it could help the boys rent their tuxedos, assist with prom tickets or the bus fee. Businesses could donate services such as hair and makeup appointments."
The boutique will be held on March 23 and 24, and the proms are in April. Rena's Dresses is a nonprofit organization. The website is renasdresses.org. Aguilera is the vice president and can be reached at Hesperia High School at (760) 244-9898 ext. 3951, or by email at email@example.com.
"It's such a rewarding experience to understand what we can do for other people," Martin said. "They will feel special that one day that every girl should feel special."