April 8, 2019
Frantic girls, a multitude of dresses, boxes of shoes, tables of jewelry, a makeup artist, and the seemingly ceaseless bell that signified the adoption of a dress. These phrases epitomized Saturday, March 30th, but one word described it all: free.
The 6th annual ‘A Pretty and Polished Affair’ (APPA), was hosted at Atholton High School for the third year and was once again a phenomenal success. 281 girls attended, 59 of which were Atholton students. 411 dresses found homes, making this the best turnout since the event has started.
The selling point of the event was the cost of each item being sold there. Every dress on the many racks, shoes, and jewelry were all free to the girls who attended. Makeup artists were there to give the girls an idea of what they would want for prom as well as to schedule personal makeup sessions with the girls on the day of prom for only $20 per person.
The APPA hosted students from high schools and four middle schools in surrounding counties including: Carrol, Anne Arundel, Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Charles and Prince George’s. There was even a bus sent from a DC charter school to bring interested girls to the event. The event kicked off at 9am and the jewelry table and a rack of dresses were already empty awaiting restock by 10:30am, despite the APPA running until 2pm.
In collaboration with the Zeta Phi Beta sorority, Atholton high School’s Becca’s Closet, put all hands on deck to ensure this event was memorable, and that it was.
“We wanted to give girls the opportunity to come and shop for free without feeling they’re in a charity,” said Ms Cathy Bennett, leader of the APPA and a Zeta Phi Beta alumni. “The girls walk out of here feeling special and they make it to prom without having to spend a lot of money.”
Despite the fact that everything was free, not a dime was spent in the acquisition of the dresses, shoes and jewellery. “I like to beg,” said Ms Bennett. Donations of brand new dresses and shoes were made by the Discovery channel and TLC. Even the snacks that were available were donated to the event by.
“I don’t know what I expected but it definitely wasn’t this,” said Atholton junior, Taylor James. “I’m still shocked on how I walked in with zero expectations but walked out with two of the most beautiful dresses I have ever seen and, even though one of them was a little too long, there was a seamstress readily available to make amends all for free.” James was also excited about the free perfume and foundation samples as well as a discount on nails she received after signing out.
Atholton senior Sarah Sowah said that she almost regretted spending money on a dress after seeing all the beautiful ones at the event. “If I had known, I would have held off” she said. “I still got some jewelry for my graduation though.”
Apart from Becca’s Closet and Zeta Phi Beta, a number of Atholton students and staff put in real effort in transforming the school’s cafeteria into a world class boutique. Event staff members included: Mr. Moore, Ms. Grimes, Ms. Edwards, Ms. Eggerl, Officer Kane, Mr. Senisi, Ms. Pam and her sister Jackie, the admin team, the custodian team, the media team, the Atholton counselors and last but certainly not least, the social studies team. The students helped in putting back discarded dresses and most of the girls served as personal shoppers.
On leaving the event, there was a sign out station where the dresses were bagged, perfume samples were given, nail discounts were handed out and scholarship opportunities were presented. A little survey was given to evaluate the experiences and to shed light on improvements to be made for the next year, if need be. Some feedback comments received were: “I really appreciate that this is here for people that may not be able to afford dresses so I hope that this continue,” “Thanks for making my prom easier,” “My daughter feels like a million bucks,” “Thanks for the warmth,” and “You made me feel so welcome and accepted. I’m trans so I really appreciate it.”