WASHINGTON — Students who spent the last two years stuck in a pandemic that included virtual school, social isolation and many typical school traditions canceled, got to experience a bit of joy brought back into the classroom ahead of one of the biggest events of the year for high schoolers.
The event served to empower and excite the couple of dozen lucky students at E.L. Haynes Charter School in Northwest D.C. who got to participate; many of whom are members of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the group that helped organize the event alongside Discovery, Inc.
The media company drew inspiration for the event from its own show, TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress.
The aptly-named “Say Yes to the Prom” giveaway event brought organizers, educators and students alike who are passionate about LULAC’s mission, as the nation’s largest and oldest Hispanic membership organization in the country, according to their website.
Many students who participated identify as having Latin American heritage, organizers said, and were given the first pick to participate in the event.
“A lot of them are first-generation immigrants, so there is a little bit of disconnect, because some parents don't fully understand the prom experience and how important it is for somebody in high school that's going through it,” Director of Programs at LULAC Sandra Caraveo told WUSA9. She added that it’s also great to ease the financial burden of prom shopping for families, which can come with such a high price tag.
“I think that's very special for us to make some of those dreams come true ... It’s a really big step for some of these students and just being able to go ahead and share that with people that come from the same background,” she said, noting what a rite of passage prom can feel like for students in American high schools.
The students were bussed to the landmark Hamilton Hotel on 14th Street in Northwest after a half-day at school and were greeted with lunch. The young ladies were then brought to a room with over 600 dresses, shoes and accessories and had the opportunity to try on anything that caught their eye. The young men did the same, with a $100 gift card for tuxedo rental, shoes and accessories in tow.
The students then had makeovers and participated in mentoring sessions focused on self-esteem building and emotional intelligence.
"We weren't sure if we were even going to be able to have prom this year because of the pandemic," said one participating student, Glendi Herrera said. "Being able to have this opportunity to even pick out a dress or have this experience that girls and guys didn't have last year or the previous two years; It's amazing to have this opportunity now."
Spanish teacher Gaberella Navidi-Kasmai also shared the magic of the event and how exciting it was to see the students, some of whom she’s taught and watched go through all four years of high school, have a blast feeling and looking their best.
“You heard both Spanish and English in the rooms. And I just found that really beautiful that everyone was communicating - not just in one language - but at least two languages, in order to show their excitement and help each other out,” she shared of her experience as a chaperone.
“It was beautiful just to join them on this journey. For them to have excitement; to have fun. Prom is is a great time, [we all] remember it.”
More information on LULAC and how to get involved can be found on their website. Click here to learn more.