By Mark Hallum
The PAL Eddie Byrne Center in Jamaica hosted this year’s Prom Impact, a donation service in which underprivileged high school students could find formal wear for their proms free of charge.
Thanks to the efforts of coordinators and donors, students from across Queens were able to find dresses and suits to both impress their peers on the big night and be worn for years to come.
Detective Tanya Duheney from the 113th Police Precinct’s Community Affairs unit has organized the event for the past four years. Giving back to the community is an important part of her life. According to Duheney and her partner, Dorrin Ferguson, donations and turnout went far beyond expectations.
“Our goal was 100, but we wound up with 400 dresses and about 300 pairs of shoes,” Duheney said. “The teenagers here aren’t able to go to their proms because they couldn’t afford to buy prom dresses. When I mentioned it to them during our mentor program, they loved it.”
The detective recalled her own experience preparing for the prom.
“I wasn’t able to buy a $400 dress for my prom, my dress was made,” she said, “So for me to bring this to these girls, it’s a thrill for me. I’m so happy.”
One by one, girls came out of the dressing room with a dress that was just right for them.
Mercedes Delbrune, 18, attends the Academy of Medical Technology in Far Rockaway and was able to find a dress to her liking after one of the volunteers made a recommendation for her.
“I love it. It’s a halter, it has rhinestones on it. Its black and flowing. It’s perfect,” Mercedes said. “Prom means everything is open, we’re going to have to grow up, pay bills. We just want to have fun. It’s going to be our last time being out together.”
Brianna Cannon, 18, from Benjamin Cardozo High School in Bayside, talked about how she was able to score a dress that matched her personality.
“I found this dress after looking through all the other dresses. I knew that it was going to work for me because it’s so sparkly,” Brianna said. “I don’t have to worry about buying a dress. They can go up to $600, and people donated these. All I have to worry about is my ticket.”
Suits are also provided by Prom Impact, and Sgt. Jay Clark hopes that the slick attire will be used for more than just one occasion.
“We’re trying to dress them for success, not just for the prom,” Clark said. “Maybe something they can take Mom out in for Mother’s Day in, a job interview or a college interview.”
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall