Photo Essay: A Prom Dress Giveaway in Maywood

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Thursday, April 6, 2017 || By Michael Romain | Photos by Sebastian Hidalgo || @maywoodnews 

Nail technician and Proviso East alum Marie Dennis, 49, stood in awe at 17-year-old Jada Harris, who attends Jones College Prep on Chicago’s South Side.

“This is my dress, y’all,” Dennis said, during an April 2 prom dress giveaway at Quinn Community Center, 1945 S. 9th Ave. in Maywood.

“She’s going to take my dress. I wore this dress to a formal event I went to a few years ago,” she said. “I’m going to cry!”

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Jada Harris, left, wearing a dress that once belonged to Marie Dennis. | Sebastian Hidalgo/VFP

This first annual prom dress giveaway was organized by Proviso East alum and local fashionista Rajeska Jackson and her Best of Proviso Township Glam Squad, which includes Proviso East, Proviso West and Proviso Math and Science Academy alum who hail from Atlanta, Phoenix, Arizona and throughout the Chicago area.

Volunteers like PMSA students Dean Watson and Justin Sykes, and community member Gloria Harrison, helped prom hopefuls like Joselyn Arce, 18, and Giselle Arce, 16 — both students at Proviso West — pick out and try on free prom pieces.

The free clothing means one less source of stress leading up to the big day, said the Arce sisters.

Jackson said that funds for the giveaway came from organizations like PINGA. Local style artists like Dennis have also offered to raffle off free nail and hair styling sessions for the girls who came to get their dresses, many of which were only slightly worn.

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“Helping youth is a passion and as long as they need help I’ll be an arm’s length away,” Jackson said during an interview a few days before the event. “We as adults keep asking the question, ‘Where are their parents?’ What we need to understand is it’s not [the children’s] fault. Our youth need us.”

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A volunteer walks into a room where Jada Harris is trying on another dress. She would eventually take multiple dresses for multiple proms. | Sebastian Hidalgo/VFP

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In all, said Jackson, around 10 girls walked away with free prom dresses. Dennis said that she’d like to see the Glam Squad grow to the level of the Glass Slipper Project, a Chicago-based initiative founded in 1999 and that has helped more than 20,000 young people make their prom dreams come to life, according to the organization’s website.

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Augustina Opara, 17, a student at Proviso West, looks at the prom dress she picked out in a mirror. | Sebastian Hidalgo/VFP

“This is different. I’m not really used to wearing poofy dresses, but I liked how this looked on me,” said Proviso West student Augustina Opara, who added that, now that she has her dress and nail appointment out of the way, she only has to worry about makeup and shoes. Her prom is May 12.

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Jackson gave special thanks to Kimyada Wellington, Daffany O’Neal, Gloria Harrison, Sonja McCoy, Kate Nolan, Randall McFarland and Sgt. Erika Luster for making the Glam Squad possible.

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And for making dreams, like those of Augustina Opara, come true. VFP

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