The University of Memphis’ Collegiate Women’s Alliance held its first prom dress drive-in in the University Center on February 5, an event organized to help young teenagers confidently attend their high school prom.
The CWA set up the event to target college women who may still own their prom dresses from high school. The organization wanted to inspire young ladies to pass on their cherished memories to the younger generation, hoping to reignite the special feeling of prom. A.J. Gibbs, CWA founder and co-president, came up with the idea for the event while searching through her old clothes.
“I know a lot of my friends still have their prom dresses," Gibbs said. "A lot of incoming freshmen still have their prom dresses. We could give those to people less fortunate, who can’t afford to buy a dress."
The group offered students volunteer hours toward their degrees to raise awareness for the event and to entice more donations. Asking donors to leave notes with their dresses, the CWA hoped to create a more personal touch to the charitable event.
The event organized by the group took place from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. in the University Center atrium February 5. Donors were offered 10 volunteer hours for each ballgown, seven hours for evening gowns, and five hours for party gowns to help toward their degree and scholarships.
Students who donated their dress had the option to include a personalized handwritten note to be given to its new owner. The personal touch was designed to breathe life into the secondhand clothing and make it more special for the young girls set to receive them.
Most underprivileged children may not get the chance to attend their prom due to the high cost of outfits for the night. By donating dresses, students have given young girls the chance to experience a night they’ll remember for their lives.
In total, 37 dresses were donated to the CWA throughout the duration of the event. People had various reasons for donating their dresses.
“Many, like myself, donated as our dresses were also donated to us, so we thought it would be nice to donate it back,” said Derika Miller, a 20-year-old CWA member.
Surpassing expectations, Miller was thrilled with the outcome of the event and excited for the young girls set to receive their dresses.
The CWA is a newly founded organization for the UofM. Their goal is to empower women by creating opportunities such as community service and giving an open forum for women to feel comfortable together. The organization held the drive as one of their first flagship events and moving forward from the event, the CWA wants to welcome new members to their group, offering a safe space for anyone who needs it.
“I think it’s important to feel safe in an environment with people like yourself. We can all talk together and express ourselves in ways we can’t to the outside world,” said Destiny Robertson, the co-president of CWA.
The CWA is hoping the dresses give young girls the chance to attend their high school proms feeling like princesses, and hoping the event helps reach out to college students, offering a place for safety and acceptance on campus.