Members of M.I.S.S. donated prom dresses and heels to seniors from Framingham High School (FHS) during their “Sisters’ Day Out” event in the College Planning Center (CPC) on Saturday, March 31.
M.I.S.S. started accepting dress donations for the event a couple of months in advance in the Center for Inclusive Excellence and ended up with approximately 50 dresses for the high schoolers to choose from, said Amari Veale, M.I.S.S. president.
M.I.S.S. Treasurer Tanaja Jordan said, “I was a little nervous at first because we didn’t have that many dresses, but then in the last few days we got a lot of dresses.”
M.I.S.S., which stands for “Motivation. Intersectionality. Solidarity. Sisterhood.”, is a group of women who work to empower and celebrate women, particularly women of color, and their individuality. They focus on self-confidence and empowerment through events like Sisters’ Day Out.
“Our mission is basically to empower women of color and educate them on what they’re capable of and help them figure that out – and networking as well,” said Veale.
Ten girls and some of their parents attended the event and were welcomed by five members of M.I.S.S. who helped them pick out prom dresses and talked with them about their post-graduation plans.
Iracely Sanchez, an FSU senior and member of M.I.S.S., works at the CPC and spoke briefly during the event about the services the CPC offers.
Sanchez said, “Come here whenever you want – to the little yellow house.”
To begin the afternoon, Luisanna Castillo, M.I.S.S. vice president, led the group in an icebreaker game in which members of M.I.S.S. and the high schoolers shared their hobbies, favorite high school memories, travel destinations and dream jobs.
“You’ll probably do a lot of these in the coming years, so get used to it,” said Castillo with a laugh while explaining the idea of an icebreaker.
The girls then took turns going through the room of dresses which were organized by size. Members of M.I.S.S. helped the girls by asking them questions about what styles and colors they liked, and assisted them in figuring out their sizes by telling them what sizes they themselves wear.
The girls were encouraged to try on as many dresses as they wanted so they could find one that fit well and aligned with their own personal styles. Veale said, “Even if you have to try on every dress in here – we’ll find something.”
According to a Yahoo Style survey completed in 2017, “Prom Across America,” including attire, hair and makeup, flowers, tickets and transportation, the average teen in the Northeastern United States spends $699.56 on prom. A survey completed by Visa in 2015 on the cost of prom – from “promposal” to prom night – placed the overall spending at $1,169 for Northeastern U.S. families.
High school senior Isabella Debrito found a red dress that fit her perfectly and said she’s glad M.I.S.S. decided to hold the event.
“It’s really a big expense for something you’re going to wear once. I have other responsibilities that I have to save up for. I’m trying to get a car,” said Debrito.
M.I.S.S. members made everyone feel confident and welcome by cheering and snapping photos of the girls while they modeled the dresses, joining in on conversations some attendees and parents were having in Spanish and offering advice about prom night and college.
Veale said, “If you guys need a date, take me!”
After someone said “yes” to a dress, members of M.I.S.S. would pose them on the staircase of the 1812 House and take their photo so they could post their selection in their prom’s Facebook group so no other prom goers would get the same dress.
M.I.S.S. members would then hang up the dresses in a garment bags for the girls to take with them – just as if they were at an actual dress store.
“Send us pictures from real prom!” said Veale, as the girls were leaving with their dresses. “We’ll email you!”
Veale said this event aligns very closely with the group’s mission because it helps empower girls during a time they might feel overwhelmed or scrutinized because of all the pressure that comes with graduating high school.
“Prom is a stressful time and that’s when you don’t feel the prettiest if you can’t find the perfect dress,” said Veale.
The event is more than just “charity” or “giving away dresses,” said Veale. It also created an opportunity for the high schoolers to meet the women of M.I.S.S. and make connections with someone whom they may see as a mentor or “big sister.”
FHS senior Esther Kalemba selected a light pink lace dress with the help of M.I.S.S. members. She said she was glad M.I.S.S. held the event and that she was able to meet them.
“I want to go to college, study and get my degree,” said Kalemba. She added she’s deciding among a few schools right now and “FSU’s one of those options.”
Veale said M.I.S.S. hopes to hold the event again next year and has stored the dresses that didn’t get chosen this year, so they can be used again.
Jordan said she thought the event was “very successful.”
She added, “I literally almost cried like three times. I’m happy, I feel like they’re happy and that’s all I wanted.”