Janesville73°

Prom Turn-Around turns high school girls into princesses

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Catherine W. Idzerda
April 19, 2010
— A night of dreams is a wonderful thing.

But it shouldn’t have to cost $200.


On Saturday, Parker High School teacher Deri Wahlert and a group of students helped make prom more affordable for everyone by hosting a “Prom Turn-Around.”


The goal?


Make sure everybody who wanted to go to prom could go to prom.


The approach?


Eliminate the cost of the most expensive item of prom protocol: the dress.


Wahlert helps manage the Parker Closet, a room filled with clothes, school supplies, shoes and other basic necessities for homeless and low-income students.


For the Prom Turn-Around, she solicited dress donations from the Janesville Women’s Club, former and current Parker students, her friends and family— and pretty much everyone she knew.


As a result, the band rehearsal room at Parker High School on Saturday was full of frothy dresses, sparkly shoes and smiling girls.


The dresses were free.


“For girls, there’s no way they can go to prom unless they get a dress,” Wahlert said.


Dresses range from $50 to $300 and more. Then there are alterations, shoes, jewelry, makeup and hair styling.


With so many local people struggling economically, a prom dress becomes an impossible luxury.


Which leads to the next question: Considering everything, how important is prom?


“Would I have survived if I didn’t go to prom? Yes, of course,” Wahlert said.


But prom is undeniably important to many high school girls.


Early in the week, Wahlert was with one of her students when she tried on a dress.


“She put on this big puffy dress, and it fit her like a glove, and she said, ‘I’m a princess. For the first time in my life, I’m a princess,’” Wahlert said.


Lauren Hayden, 18, Parker senior and levelheaded young woman, said that prom was “super important to me.”


Hayden was last year’s prom queen. This year, she is helping Wahlert with the dresses.


“It’s so important. It’s a girl’s night to feel special,” Hayden said. “I didn’t want other girls who wanted to go to not be able to go because they couldn’t afford a dress.”


Senior Amber West, 17, who was also helping out, agreed with her friend. Last year, as a junior, she paid a serious amount for her dress, but this year, she found something for $22. Prom is often a bigger deal for the juniors than the seniors, she explained.


Hayden paid about $300 for last year’s dress. Add alterations, shoes and everything else, and the final total was about $400.


They both understand how the economy is affecting their classmates’ families.


“People are trying to spend less,” West said.


The prom committee also made an effort to keep ticket prices low: $25 for a couple and $15 for a single.


Hayden also wanted to recognize the generosity of local business sponsors, such as Centerway Floral, the Armory, Nedrebo’s, , Cost Cutters and other businesses that donated goods and services.


“Even though times are hard, they helped us out,” Hayden said.



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