Students Collect Prom Dresses for Teens in Need


Some are long, some are short. Some are chiffon; some velvet. Puffy skirts, long skirts, short skirts; polka dots, sparkles, florals and even leopard print there are some of each.

At last count, the Augustana Women's Association (AWA) has collected 56 dresses for the Cheyenne River Youth Project's "Passion for Fashion" event, an annual event in Eagle Butte, S.D., that provides teenage girls in need with prom essentials such as dresses, shoes and make-up. At the same time, the event promotes female friendships, the importance of positive self-esteem and appreciation for body image.

Led by sophomore co-chairs Mallory Schulte (Yankton, S.D.), Sara Kohles (Crofton, Neb.) and Rachel Saum (Luverne, Minn.), AWA has been collecting dresses since February. Schulte, Kohles and Saum, along with AWA Advisor Dr. Darcie Rives East, assistant professor of English, and Karla Abbott, instructor of Nursing, will deliver the dresses to Eagle Butte's Cokata Wiconi Teen Center on Friday, March 9.

Students collect prom dresses for teens in needBy Saturday morning, the Teen Center will be transformed to feature a "Parisian cafe" and boutiques and shops found in downtown London, including locations for manicures, pedicures, facials, make-overs and hair-styling.

Officials from the Cheyenne River Youth Project (CRYP) are expecting a record number of girls to attend Saturday's "Passion for Fashion" event, designed after the fashion industry's "Fashion Week." According to the CRYP, the event served 44 teen girls in 2009; 57 in 2010 and more than 80 last year.

Schulte, a government major, says the chance to see the dresses go to teen girls in need firsthand will be inspiring.

Kohles agrees.

"It's so exciting to know we're helping people right here in South Dakota. Obviously there are needs all over the world but, it's also important to look in our own back yard to see how we can help."

Rives East says the project illustrates the necessity for women to help other women across racial, class, and sexual lines.

"This work helps the Augie community build bridges of communication and assistance to other communities and cultures here in South Dakota. The goal here is to educate and involve Augie students in helping create a more just and equitable South Dakota," she said.

As an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Abbott says she's excited to be part of the event that gives back to teens who may not otherwise experience the excitement of prom.

"I am happy to be the link to such a wonderful project that will be so appreciated by the Cheyenne River Youth Project! Even without the Passion for Fashion program, girls on my reservation drive sometimes 300 miles to buy a prom dress. Now they do not have to leave their reservation to find something to wear to an event so very important to them," Abbott said.

The AWA will collect dresses through Friday, March 9. According to the CRYP website, the organization is still in need of gently used dresses in sizes 16 to 26 and shoes, sizes 9 to 12. Donations can be dropped off at the Common's Desk.

Pictured Above: Rachel Saum, Sara Kohles  and Mallory Schulte.