Prom, a night intended to be full of fun and revelry, can often be an enormous burden on students from lower-income backgrounds. The need to get the perfect dress or tuxedo, find transportation, partake of a fancy meal, and then perhaps coordinate an after-party (in a safe, legal environment) can be a truly stressful experience for those students.

For this reason, it is always heart-warming to hear about schools or programs that have taken it on themselves to make prom night an option for all who want to attend by alleviating some of the financial considerations surrounding the event. Earlier this month, NBC’s Washington, D.C.-affiliate reported on one such program initiated by a marketing teacher at a local high school. The class gets hands-on experience with marketing by promoting a prom shop opened in a local mall that provides free dresses, shoes, jewelry, and handbags to any student that wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to go to the prom. The shop is staffed by adult volunteers and every item is donated to the group.

Even here at CEP, we recognized a Promising Practice in 2009 from Paul M. Dorman High School that runs a similar program called “Operation Fairytale.” By receiving donations from local employees and businesses, the program is able to provide dresses, shoes, accessories, and restaurant gift cards to help those students whose families would not be able to afford to expenses. Participants in the program complete several requirements, including an essay and community service project, which keep them invested in working towards their goals.

Does your school face similar difficulties? What ways have you found to make prom be more accessible to your students?