Graduation season is right around the corner and many high school seniors consider prom to be a huge milestone.
"It’s kind of the final goodbye for all of us,” says Grade 12 student Jenna Blake.
But the sky-high cost of going to prom, including tickets, formal wear, and hair and makeup for girls, can hold some students back.
An educational program is hoping to alleviate some of that cost through their annual prom dress event.
Pathways to Education is run through Chebucto Connections, a community group in the heart of Spryfield. Through tutoring programs, one-on-one support and exposure to post-secondary institutions, the national program aims to help students in low-income areas stay - and succeed - in school.
According to the Pathways to Education website, graduation rates have improved by 85 per cent in the communities where the program is offered.
Prom Dress Event
Over the last few months, Chebucto Connections collected donated prom dresses for their event - and Pathways to Education students had the chance to pick up a free dress over the weekend, while students who aren’t involved in the program could buy one for just ten dollars.
Katie Phillips, program manager at Chebucto Connections, says it’s a far cry from the cost of a new prom dress.
“Some dresses are going for a thousand dollars, so those are astronomical costs for a student,” she says.“I think that not being able to afford the dress you want probably would make you decide you don’t even want to go.”
She says the event first began five years ago with only a few dresses after some students disclosed they weren’t able to afford a prom dress.
Since then the program has blossomed, and this year they’ve received over 200 donations, both from businesses and from people looking to get rid of their old dresses.
“Every year it’s gotten bigger and bigger,” says Phillips.
This year they sold over 100 dresses, and Phillips says the money raised will go towards an end-of-the-year graduation event for Pathways to Education students.
Alexis Blake was at Chebucto Connections on Friday with her sister Jenna to pick up their free dresses.
The twins have been Pathways to Education students since Grade 10, and Alexis says it’s helped her keep her grades up.
“They’ve always been there to help with any schoolwork, since they have a lot of volunteers in university so you can get help with your papers,” she says. “I do AP courses, so it helps to make sure there’s no errors in what I’m trying to hand in, and it’s up to the level that it should be.”
Grade 11 student Melissa Walters still has to wait a year for her own senior prom - but this year she’s attending with a friend in Grade 12.
She’s glad that the prom dress event is growing every year.
“It’s nice to know that people in the community are trying to help out those who can’t get a prom dress themselves.”