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CHS mom helps make impact to offset costs of prom

Prom can be high school’s most storied night. A sea of girls in fancy dresses and their sharply dressed dates, dancing the night away and creating a memory thatwill last a lifetime.

For many Claremont High School parents, however, financial challenges and family circumstances may prevent them from making that dream a reality.

According to Visa’s annual nationwide survey, families plan to spend an average of $919 on prom night in 2015 for clothes, limo rental, tickets, flowers, pictures, dinner and, of course, the after-party.

With just the cost of CHS prom tickets ranging from $135 to $160, it’s a high price to pay, particularly for parents of seniors who are already strapped with the costs associated with a yearbook, Senior Day at Disneyland, baccalaureate, graduation and grad night. 

“As a senior mom, I felt it this year,” says Shalon Gonzalez, paraeducator and special education aid at CHS. “I’m always saying to my son, ‘You need a check for what?’”

With prom just around the corner, students are already beginning to stress about the costs for the big night.

“We’ve heard from several of the girls that they can’t go to prom because they don’t have a dress,” says Ms. Gonzalez. “Too many kids are going without, not wanting to go to prom because they don’t have anything to wear. That’s not right. They should go no matter what. We’ve got to do something!”

Together with Nicole Gaxiola and Yvonne Maldonado, Ms. Gonzalez is taking action. This trio of women has made it their mission to outfit every teen who wants to attend the CHS prom on May 2.

“The dresses are so expensive,” says Ms. Gonzalez. “The girls use them once and I thought, ‘why not ask people to donate their dresses to us if they’re just going to take them to Goodwill?”

In March, the women began spreading the word and collecting formal dresses, first from CHS moms on the Grad Night Committee, and then through social media.

“Yvonne posted something on the Facebook group Claremont Indoor Yard Sale and the feedback was phenomenal,” says Ms. Gonzalez. “We’ve got 20 dresses so far, and Yvonne has volunteered to pick more up as they are donated.”

 The ladies are still seeking donations of formal wear and accessories in a wide range of sizes, appropriate for a teenage girl.

“After they wear them, I would love for each student to return the items so that someone else could use them,” says Ms. Gonzalez. “If the dress gets altered or the student wants to keep it for another occasion, that’s okay. We just want to help any way we can.”

However, donations aren’t limited to just the girls on campus.

“We’re also hoping to get ties, dress shoes and suits for the boys,” says Ms. Gonzalez. “It doesn’t have to be a tuxedo, it just has to be nice attire. I’ve already had one student tell me he doesn’t have any money and I know his family situation. It’s not a good one.”

Since the program is in its infancy, Ms. Gonzalez is still working out the logistics of how the formal wear will be distributed. However, the need is there and this mother of two is hoping that Claremont residents will pitch in to help make prom a special night for all students who may not otherwise attend.

“I know our city is smaller than others, but I think our city is really giving,” she says. “We have a good base of financially stable people here that are always willing to give so much. ”

In addition to formal wear, the group is also accepting gift cards to places like Claire’s, tuxedo shops, Windsor’s for formal dresses, flower shops for corsages and boutonnières as well as services for hair and makeup.

“I’ve already got someone who said they would do hair and makeup for three girls,” says Ms. Gonzalez. “Anyone willing to help is welcomed.”

While the immediate goal is tied with CHS Prom this year, Ms. Gonzalez and her team hopes the program will turn into a long-term affair that will benefit all Claremont students in the future.

“If I could get this program off and running and have enough dresses and guy stuff for all the dances, that would be wonderful,” she says. “Down the road, I would love for it to be a club, eventually taking it to whole new level where the kids get involved and we’re just watching over them and giving them ideas. That would be great!”

Formalwear and gift card donations will be accepted at the Claremont High School administration office now through Thursday, April 30.

For information on how to help, contact Shalon Gonzalez at Sgonzalez@cusd.claremont.edu.

—Angela Bailey

news@claremont-courier.com

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