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March 22, 2018 - Partners in Education

It was a dream come true for more than 200 Hillsborough County high school students, many of whom were worried about being able to afford the expenses of prom. They arrived at Raymond James Stadium for the ultimate surprise: a free shopping spree to outfit them for the big dance. It’s part of TLC’s “Say Yes to the Prom” show.

“We have brought our “Say Yes to the Prom” initiative to Tampa,” said Tammy Shea, Corporate Communications Group Vice President at Lifeworks and Inclusion at Discovery Communications. 

The network worked with the district to select more than 200 academically high-achievers from Brandon, Chamberlain, Leto, Middleton and Spoto High Schools whose families could use a little help covering the costs of Prom.

“I know I’m going to prom, but I didn’t even think about purchasing a prom dress, because they’re so expensive,” said Brandon High School Senior Zadia Corriette. “Then, we came in here and I’m like, ‘Oh my God!’  All the lights, and the glitter, and I saw all of the rows of dresses and I was like, ‘Oh my God!’”

“Macy's has donated dresses, accessories and jewelry. They get to work with Paul Mitchell makeup and hair stylists. They’re going to get to pick their look, work with (TLC Fashion Director) Monte Durham, take it home, and be all set for the prom,” said Shea.

“It just means the world to me. It’s crazy really,” said Brandon High School Senior Pamela Font.

It wasn’t just the ladies who got pampered by the pros. Men’s Wearhouse staff measured the guys for free tuxedo rentals, and Paul Mitchell stylists cut their hair.

“It’s a good feeling. We came up here, we felt pretty appreciated. To have an opportunity to do it is a lot of fun,” said Spoto High School Senior Kenny Gonzalez. “To get sized for tuxedos and stuff, and there was a lot of different options we could choose from, and also they’re giving us haircuts too, so that’s cool.”

It’s the seventh year for the effort. They’re also surprising high schoolers in New York, Miami, Houston, Knoxville and Silver Springs, Maryland.

The network calls it an exceptional, impactful mission “to give underserved, deserving students across the country an unforgettable prom experience along with educational and career-building opportunities.”

While the Hillsborough Schools students will not be featured on the show when it airs on Saturday, March 24, they were grateful for the help to make prom perfect.

“It would be a financial stress, especially for my mom. She’s a single mom. She works hard, and a prom dress should be the least of her worries,” said Font. “It all can really add up from hair, the makeup, the dress, the shoes. It’s just a little girl’s dream come true, really. It’s amazing.”

“A lot of money is spent on prom, if you do it on your own. Tuxedos cost, it feels like a million dollars, so to have this opportunity to get it all for free – it feels good,” said Gonzalez.

“It’s like breathtaking, honestly, because it’s a lot of money that I don’t have that I’m able to use towards other things like my education and those kinds of things. We get shoes and accessories. I didn’t know about all of that. I’m just in shock, but I’m really excited and really thankful,” Corriette said.

"Say Yes to the Prom" also hopes to help prepare students for life by offering scholarship, internship and mentorship opportunities as part of educational and youth workforce partnerships with The Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation’s Careers in Entertainment initiative and The Emma Bowen Foundation.

“If we can help take off that burden, then they can focus on something else. What’s next, what’s the career opportunity, where they should be able to focus,” said Shea.

For more information about Say Yes To The Prom:

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