Los Angeles

Students in Need Get Free Dresses Just in Time for Prom

In its eighth year of hosting the event, Operation School Bell works with underprivileged and homeless students to promote learning and improve self-esteem.

There may be only one queen crowned on prom night, but that didn't stop dozens of high school students from feeling like princesses Thursday.

"Every girl wishes to go to prom. I didn't have a dress and I was talking to my therapist and she introduced me to this," said high school senior Karen Ibanez in her newly chosen black gown and pointy gold pumps. "I was so happy I got the dress because now I can go to prom."

Ibanez is one of 80 teenage girls participating in Operation School Bell Prom Day, an annual event hosted by the Assistance League of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Unified School District that gives donated dresses, shoes and accessories to low-income and homeless students from 20 LAUSD schools.

Normally, Operation School Bell dresses homeless elementary school students. But once a year, the organization turns its focus to an older set.

"Today is making underprivileged homeless girls from Los Angeles Unified School District feel like a princess and have their Cinderella moment," said Linda Levine, co-chair of Prom Day at Operation School Bell.

These students represent thousands of young people in Los Angeles who face incredible challenges like homelessness and poverty, while maintaining grades and attendance, supporters of the program say.

Volunteer stylists helped the young women pick out the perfect outfit in a "pop-up boutique" for their special nights.

High schooler Lorena Lopez was on the hunt for a red dress - not too long ago, she wasn't even sure she was going to prom.

"I was having doubts on whether or not to go because of all the expenses that have to be covered," Lopez explained. "Learning about this opportunity was just a bonus for me. I was like, I have to go because it's amazing how people actually donate to give us."

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