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NLS students look to ease cost of prom

Tina Manning, a senior at NLS, organizes some of the gowns donated as part of the NLS entrepreneurship class project. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

NEW LONDON -- Prom is being held this weekend at many area high schools, including Willmar, which means parents of daughters have been shelling out big bucks to turn their little girls into princesses for a night.

With the combined expenses of a dress, shoes, jewelry, flowers, admission ticket, pictures, dinner, transportation (a limo isn't uncommon), tanning, manicure and hair appointment -- all fairly standard procedures for the modern prom-goer -- the cost of going to prom can easily reach $400 and stretch to $1,000 or more.

But the tight economy can put a pinch on prom dreams for girls who can't afford all the extras.

That's why students in the New London-Spicer entrepreneurship class started a new project this month that lets girls get a prom dress for free.

The class of nine boys and two girls asked for donations of previously worn gowns. They've collected about 20 stylish, elegant and fun dresses so far. Some even come with matching shoes.

The students then initiated a marketing campaign to let girls know free dresses were available.

Eliminating at least one major cost could make it easier for girls to attend their school prom, said Dale Schwalboski, who teaches business at NLS and tossed the idea of the prom dress project to her students, who loved the proposal and dove in.

"Money is tight for everybody right now," said Josh Gordon, a junior at NLS who is enrolled in the entrepreneurship class.

"But money shouldn't be a reason people don't go to prom," said Jayme Moten, a senior at NLS.

Without prompting, Moten -- who's more known for his talents on the football field and basketball court than fashion -- gave a sales pitch.

"We have all sizes from one to 15. We might even have a zero. We have a bunch of dresses," Moten said.

"They're beautiful," said Gordon. "I personally think a girl would look good in any one of these dresses."

Compared to the cost and time involved for girls, prom is easy for guys.

"All I have to do is shower, brush my teeth and comb my hair," Gordon said. "It's definitely the girl's night. Prom is spelled g-i-r-l."

Moten swears he would not be able to tell the difference between one of the donated dresses and one that came fresh off the rack at a high-end clothing store.

"There are some pretty ones here," said Tina Manning, a senior, who organized the dresses into size categories.

She likes the idea of reducing the cost of prom.

"Prom does get really expensive and people can't afford it," Manning said. Knowing that nice dresses are available for free is a great way for girls to be able to go prom without going broke, she said.

So far, there have been only lookers but no takers. Schwalboski said the project got started a little too late and that many girls had already purchased "dresses they couldn't afford" before the free ones were available.

For girls who decided not to go to prom because of financial restrictions, she said there's still time for them to change their minds and pick out a free dress before NLS holds their prom next weekend.

She said students from other schools can also have access to the free dresses by contacting her at the school to set up a time.

Schwalboski said she likes the idea that students in her class are learning about the value of helping others. "They're willing to put in a little extra work for others to enjoy prom," she said. "I'm proud of them. They've done a nice job."

She said Schwegman's Cleaners in Willmar donated clothing bags and a volunteer has agreed to keep donated dresses in her home so that they can be offered next year earlier in the prom season.

- For information about getting a free prom dress, call Dale Schwalboski at the New London-Spicer High School at 320-354-2252.

- The Willmar High School prom is today. The theme is "Paradise Cove."

Other area school districts, including Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City and Brooten-Belgrade-Elrosa, have their proms Saturday.

NLS and the Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg High School will have proms next weekend.


Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750