By Lilla Marigza
United Methodist News Service
In the living room of the rented trailer where she lives, high school student LeAnn Potter models a shimmering gold dress and a matching purse and shoes.
Potter’s mother is delighted. “Oh, they’re beautiful,” she says.
The outfit was donated by the
It’s a rite of passage Potter and her friends thought they might not experience as their community struggles to recover from Hurricane Katrina. “It was a nightmare,” Potter says. “You feel like the world’s coming to an end because you have so much on your mind.”
She and half of the 1,100 students at
Pascagoula Assistant Principal Kelly Long says going forward with the prom will be good for everyone. “They want to feel normal,” she says of the students. “We have students that are used to having their own bedroom, their own TV, their own everything … lots of privacy, phones. … Now, they are sharing a camp trailer with brothers and sisters (with) no privacy at all. The whole family is living in a small camp trailer.”
“It’s really awesome that we’re even having the prom,” says senior Melissa Ellington.
Katrina left no shopping district to buy formal dresses and no money in most families’ budgets for such extras.
Long has heard it over and over: “I’ve heard girls say, ‘I wasn’t going to the prom.’ ‘I didn’t want to ask my mom for a dress.’ ‘You know we’re trying to buy tile and we’re trying to replace the couch; there’s not money for dresses so I wasn’t even going to ask.’”
Now, no one has to ask. A makeshift “store” has been set up in the school teacher’s lounge, and prom dresses are free for the taking. There are hundreds of colors, styles and sizes to choose from, just like a real store.
Eleventh-grader Stacy Long is among those trying on dresses. “I think it’s great. I’m glad people sent these dresses because a lot of girls didn’t want to go because they didn’t have a dress and their parents couldn’t afford a $400 dress. We are very grateful.”
In the days following Katrina,
The church put out the word to the
A church member volunteered to load the dresses into a trailer and drive them to the school. The donations filled 21 big boxes — care packages full of lace, taffeta, beadwork and something else: disposable cameras.
As each girl holds up her chosen gown, a “click” is heard with a flash of light. School administrators will add these photos to the ones they will take on prom night. “We’re going to send them along with the thank-you book to the
As the March 25 prom approached, these students who have lost so much looked forward to a celebration. Potter says their hardship brought them closer together. “After the hurricane, you came to school, and that’s all you had — your fellow classmates.”
For decades, the
But prom isn’t just a “normal” night — and that’s the idea, says Potter in her golden gown. “I’m going to know what dress I wore, who was at my table, and I’ll remember what shade of lipstick I wore. I’ll just remember everything about the prom and how it was so exciting.”