Prom Project Niagara aims to help students find formal wear

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The Education Foundation of Niagara wants to make sure that every high school student in Niagara is ready for prom. On April 21, the Foundation will be hosting the one-day Prom Project Niagara, which is open to all teens in the region graduating from grades eight and 12. Students can come by and pick up formal wear, including dresses, suits, and vouchers for make-up and cologne, all free of charge and provided by the Foundation. As the charity arm of the District School Board of Niagara, the Foundation works with local sponsors to provide items to the community.

Prom Project Niagara will be open to students from both the DSBN and the Catholic School Board. Efforts have been made to broadcast the event, using posters in the school and posts on social media. The event was originally designed help out those from low-income families. However, according to Nicole Smith, things have changed in recent years.

“We have seen an increase in attendance from middle class families as they also struggle with finding the $300-$400 to purchase an outfit for a one-day event,” said Smith, the event & volunteer coordinator for the Foundation. “There has also been a rise in eco-consciousness amongst students and so some come simply because they believe in the idea of reduce, reuse, recycle.  At the end of the day, Prom Project Niagara exists to help all students feel empowered and confident on their special day.”

In addition to Prom Project, the Foundation provides a variety of programs for the community. A student financial need fund has been set up to help students who are in need of nutrition and medication. There is also a Glasses for Classes for students in need of eye wear, a GreenShield medical needs fund, an emergency nutrition fund, and student bursaries & awards.

“In order to run some of our programs we have partnerships with Goodwill Niagara, the Lifesaving Society, YMCA Niagara, Brock University, Eleanor Misener Aquatic Centre, Kiwanis Aquatic Centre, DanNel Transportation, as well as local optometrists”, explained Smith.

The Foundation, in coordination with the DSBN, has also worked to make sure that more students who need access to the program are able to utilize it, and that students do not feel a sense of shame for going to the Prom Project.

“Prom Project Niagara believes graduation and prom are life-defining occasions for students and that every student deserves to have their moment in the sun, no matter their financial circumstances,” Smith stated.

“Every day, we as a Foundation glimpse into the life of some of our struggling Niagara families — snapshots of the harsh reality of parents having to make some very difficult decisions like choosing between paying for food or rent, or using duct tape to hold their child’s shoe together until they can afford to buy a new pair.”

“It is heart breaking knowing that some of our kids live in such conditions but it is reality.  A reality that we work very hard to change, made possible through the help of caring donors,” said Smith.

“Prom Project Niagara is one way that we can affect a young person’s life in a very positive way.  In fact, through Prom Project Niagara, we have outfitted more than 2200 students in the last 10 years.”

The Foundation also works in tandem with other anti-poverty organizations in Niagara, such as Port Cares, Goodwill and Project Share. DSBN personnel follow up with families who attend the Project and get them in touch with these groups.

The DSBN is providing the physical space for the Project, which will be located at three Niagara schools. The main site for the date will be located at the DSBN Academy in St. Catharines, as well as two additional locations at Fort Erie Elementary School and Beamsville Secondary School.

Anyone looking for a sponsorship opportunity can contact Nicole Smith at 905-641-2929 x37710 or nicole.smith@dsbn.org.  People can also make donations through the Foundation website at efnniagara.ca specifically designated for student bursaries.

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