Prom can be the pinnacle of a high school student's career, but looking the part can be pricey. On Wednesday, more than 200 high school girls prepared for their night to remember with a day they'll never forget.
Teenage girls from 20 Los Angeles Unified School District schools were invited to shop around for their special night at Emerson College, but no payment was necessary. Instead, the students were able to pick out a prom dress with matching shoes, a purse, jewelry and accessories and get their makeup done for free.
Yessenia Gutierrez, a student at Mendez High School in Boyle Heights, said this event eased her stresses about the big night.
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"It is hard because prom dresses are really expensive depending on where you go, and I was stressing about how I was going to pay for a prom dress and everything." The experience was humbling, she said. "I didn't think I would be given this chance to be able to get a free prom dress [without this event]."
The Assistance League of Los Angeles hosts the event thanks to contributions from volunteers, donors, and sponsors.
Melanie Merians, the CEO of the organization, says the annual event makes girls feel special for an event they might not have been able to afford in the first place. She says many of the girls are homeless or foster youths, oftentimes living in hotels or shelters.
"They go out feeling like Beyoncé or Jennifer Lopez. They look gorgeous, they feel special, and they can enjoy prom, which is a really important rite of passage for young people today," she said.
For Yessenia Guterriez, the event fulfills her teenage dream of looking beautiful at prom.
"I can look back and smile and say, 'Wow, I look really nice, and I can't believe that's really me.'"