Staff Photo: John Bohn Destiny Chandler, left, assists Amber Valentin, right, in the fitting of prom dress during a "Say Yes to the Prom Dress" event held at Berkmar High School on Friday. Both young women are students at Berkmar. Beauty and fashion tips were also made available to students attending the event.
LILBURN -- Like many high school girls, Sonya Agboessi wants to go to the prom.
Until Friday afternoon, however, she wasn't sure she'd be able to afford anything nice to wear. That was until she spotted a red dress that seemed to be calling her name.
The 16-year-old was one of about 50 young women who were able to pick out a free prom dress, thanks to a mentorship club at Berkmar High School.
Sponsored by Berkmar TRUE Girls, the inaugural "Say Yes to the Prom Dress" Giveaway was Friday afternoon. Young women from Berkmar paid $2 to get into the event, which also included refreshments, raffles for free haircuts as well as fashion tips from seasoned professionals.
All clothing and supplies were donated by the community and through the club's efforts.
"With the way the economy is right now, a lot of girls are not able to afford buying a dress," said Heather Tanner, an advisor for TRUE Girls. "On top of that, you have to pay for your senior dues and accessories and hair, makeup, it can get a little costly."
Keara Jones, a 16-year-old TRUE Girls member, said it is indeed a "big expense nowadays. We wanted to help them with that expense. It's nice to be able to give back to the community with something like this."
Tanner said that's the idea.
"When you're giving back you're touching lives and making others smile," Tanner said, adding that prom is an important event for young people. Berkmar's prom is scheduled for April 27, Tanner said.
"It's a memorable experience for young ladies. Everybody wants to go," Tanner said.
TRUE Girls -- which stands for Transformed, Refined, Unique, Educated -- was established in 2007 by Tanner and fellow teacher Kathy Lynes-Jordan.
The program was launched with 10 girls and has had more than 100 members since its inception.
According to a brochure about the group, the club's target audience is female students who may have experienced past behavioral and/or academic challenges. In addition, the program is designed for young women who need a positive support group.
Activities in the program include study skills exercises, etiquette and social skills exercises as well as interviewing/job skills and strategies.
The group's mission is "to teach and transform young ladies at Berkmar High School through additional social, behavior and academic learning opportunities ... as well as the importance of giving back to the community."
The "Say Yes to the Dress" event was a way to give back to the community in a big way, Tanner said. It's the event's inaugural year, but she hopes it won't be the last.
"We've put a lot of work into this, and it feels awesome to see the impact it has," Tanner said. "This is a big deal for these girls."
Just ask Agboessi: the smile on her face as she shows off her "fiery" red dress is convincing.
"It's every girl's dream to go to the prom," the 16-year-old said. "I'm excited."