Freeport High School senior Aldalisis Collado, 18, perused the colorful arrangement of dresses until she finally found the one. Selecting a sparkly black and silver, strapless chiffon dress, she held it up to more closely examine its design before deciding that, yes, this was it.
Collado was among the many participants in A Dream Prom Boutique at Freeport High School on March 30.
The event provides an array of no-cost prom dresses to high school students in need. Young women like Collado have dreamed of a perfect dress for the senior prom for years, but Collado said that the prom can be expensive, which is one of the main reasons that many students do not attend.
Collado said she had searched for an affordable dress for weeks, to no avail. “Everything is so big on me,” she said, referring to her petite figure. “I don’t have a lot of money, and having the chance to come down and find a dress for free is really good.”
Victoria Ojeda, the Nassau County Police Hispanic Society president, said that many young women and men cannot afford all that is necessary to attend the prom. Between the ticket, a dress, a tuxedo or suit, transportation, and before-and-after festivities, the cost can quickly add up.
A Dream Prom Boutique is a collaborative effort among the offices of Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, the County Police Department, the County Police Hispanic Society, the County Police Guardians and the County Association of Women Police. For months, the organizations collect prom dresses, bags, shoes, new makeup, suits, shirts and ties to give away to students from throughout the county who are attending proms. According to the NCPD, the effort collected roughly $280,000 worth of dresses.
More than 400 students, who are selected by their teachers or guidance counselors according to need, receive admission tickets to the event. The Freeport High cafeteria is then converted into a one-stop boutique, with rolling clothing racks, tables that separate the dresses by colors and sizes, and dressing rooms.
The majority of attendees are girls ages 15 to 18, but male students participate as well. Oceanside High School senior Josuha Kavanagh, 17, attended the event with his grandfather, John Larrieu. Browsing through the men’s formal wear, Kavanagh found a navy blue blazer and light blue dress shirt to wear. A beaming Larrieu looked for a tie, while Freeport Police Officer Samantha Sepulveda, a Freeport High alumna, suggested a tie color to complete Kavanagh’s ensemble.
“It’s a wonderful thing that people go out of their way to help people in need,” Larrieu said.
Kavanagh was torn between a blue and a green tie. Sepulveda laughed and told him to take both. Smiling, Kavanagh said he was finally excited about going to the prom and eager to see the surprised look on his girlfriend’s face when she sees him all dressed up.
“It’s amazing to be here and give back to the community that I grew up in,” Sepulveda said. “I used to sit in these cafeteria chairs, and now I get to provide prom dresses to young teenagers that can’t afford it because it’s such an expensive day for them.”
While the students tried on their dresses and suits, Freeport High alumni Margaret Meyveci and Maria Awalom Jordan, both volunteers, shared memories of the school’s prom traditions, and the two agreed that prom is a special rite of passage in teenagers’ lives that should be celebrated and supported.
Meyveci said that seeing the girls planning their prom night was heartwarming for her. “Instead of these dresses just sitting somewhere,” he said, “they get worn. The giveaway is a priceless gesture.”
“Finding the perfect dress is hard,” she added. “And people have given their time, their dresses and shoes. These girls leave here with smiles.”
“I’ve seen so many of these girls here today growing up in the Freeport schools,” Awalom Jordan said. “I can’t believe they’re already picking up their prom dresses.”
Soroyma Castillo, 39, the mother of a Freeport High senior, tried to contain her emotions after her 18-year-old daughter, Citally Avendano, picked out a cream chiffon ball gown to wear to the prom.
“This such a big help,” Castillo gushed. “She’s only going to wear this dress once, and I’m so thankful for all of this. Once she wears this dress for prom, we’re going to have to donate it too, so another girl can have a dream prom.”