“Prom Dress Happy Hour”


Posted Mon, Nov 7, 2011

Prom Night: Irene Sirenos gave her students many prom dresses to choose from.

 DENVER — Anahi Miranda rides up the escalator, she’s filled with excitement. This is the big night – the senior prom.

Miranda is wearing a black satin dress. Her hair is curled. She looks and feels like a princess.

Miranda steps off of the escalator and looks ahead to see a ballroom floor filled with a rainbow of balloons, beautifully decorated tables and a breathtaking view of Coors Field, where the prom is being held. Miranda realizes that this will be an experience she will never forget, so she takes a deep breath and continues on to make her grand entrance.

It’s one of the big nights of her life, a night on the town in the big city. And Miranda realizes it wouldn’t have been possible without help from friends she has never even met in the little town in New Mexico called Santa Rosa. Miranda’s dress was a gift, one of the donations collected up by Irene Sisneros, a Santa Rosa native who has been a social worker at Abraham Lincoln High School for the past two years.

“I would not have been able to go to prom if Irene would not have done this for us,” Miranda said. “I have had a really hard high school experience, and before I go off to college, I just wanted one night where I could celebrate my accomplishments. I can’t believe that all of these people came together and made this happen for me.”

When Sisneros first arrived at Abraham Lincoln, there already was a fundraiser set up to collect donated dresses and allow needy students to take their pick before prom.

“I just wanted to continue the tradition because many of the girls do not go to prom because their families can’t afford to buy the dresses,” Sisneros said.

Abraham Lincoln is located in an urban and working class neighborhood in southwest Denver, six miles from downtown. In the last 10 years a strong demographic shift has given the school a steady growth of families from Sudan, Somalia, Southeast Asia and Mexico. Many parents of the students were born in other countries, and many students will be the first in their families to graduate from high school.

“I look around our school and the students here are so wonderful, young and full of life,” Sisneros said. “Unfortunately, they are affected by the economic times and 96 percent of the student population is involved in the free/reduced lunch programs. This makes it hard for parents to even look at something like prom as being a possibility. I wanted to help make prom become a reality for the students.”

Sisneros calls her fundraiser “The Prom Dress Happy Hour,” inviting women to come to the event and donate their surplus evening wear so the gowns can be used by others. In 2011 she decided to post the event on Facebook to try to attract more attention.

“I wanted the event to be huge in Denver so that we had more of a selection of dresses for the girls to choose from,” she said.

After she posted the event, Sisneros had 257 people RSVP. “I was so excited,” she said.

However, in a city that has an official population of 600,843 people, “Only one person showed up at the Denver Prom Dress Happy Hour,” Sisneros said. “I couldn’t believe that I only walked away with two dresses that night. I was really upset, and I had to get creative fast or I wasn’t going to have dresses for the girls this year.”

Sisneros wondered where she could find thoughtful, caring, giving people to help out with the vision.

“My home town popped into my head, and somehow a weight was lifted because I knew that the community of Santa Rosa would pull through for me,” Sisneros said.

And so, over spring break earlier this year, she tried her Prom Dress Happy Hour event in Santa Rosa. The city’s population is only around 2,500 people –just a little bigger than the population of Lincoln High School, which has 1,930 students. The event was held at Joseph’s restaurant. Fifteen people from the town happily showed up, and 66 prom dresses were donated to the cause. Some were even handmade.

“It did not surprise me that we had such a great turnout at the event in Santa Rosa,” Sisneros said. “It is typical of my hometown community to reach out and give to students that they don’t even know.”

Sisneros was excited when she returned to Denver with so many dresses, so she immediately started planning for the giveaway. She wanted to make the giveaway fun and light, with no strings attached.

“I was worried that the girls might feel ashamed,” Sisneros said.

So it was planned over the junior/senior lunch hour, with music and signs that were posted everywhere, up and down the hallways. Everyone was invited. Sisneros said, laughter and excitement filled the room as the girls gathered around the huge rack of dresses and told to take their pick.

“It made me feel really good to see the girls smiling, and to know that this was going to make it possible for them to experience their senior prom,” Sisneros said. “I was so proud that my hometown came through and helped me make these girls dream of their prom night come true.

“It makes me want to move back to Santa Rosa one day,” she said, “because I would love for my children to grow up around such a loving, close knit community.”


10 Responses to ““Prom Dress Happy Hour””

  1. Nikki Says:

    LOVE this story, a very cool topic. Also, I really dig your intro. It keeps it feature-y, and from getting too dry.


  2. James Says:

    good story, great quotations!


  3. kmd Says:

    There are some awkward interjections of quote ownership (places where placing a “she said” at the end, or beginning, would provide easier readability versus your fondness for placing it in the midst of a quote) and you got a tad overkill on using “so” as a transitional but otherwise this is very original stuff.


  4. Kevin Rostad Says:

    This was a very nice story. It is nice to see that there are still good hearted people in this world filled with such hate and violence.


  5. Wontawn Says:

    What a charming story. Some statistics of lower class families might be a good sidebar idea, too. There were just a couple grammatical errors, but it was very well written.


  6. Cherise Scrivner Says:

    Glad there is someone out there helping make girls dreams come true.Awesome coverage!


  7. Caitlin Sievers Says:

    Cool Story, good quotes.


  8. LeAndra Says:

    Really good story, Loved the pictures and the formation of your article.


  9. Chris Says:

    I live in Denver and just never heard about this event. I think if word had ‘gotten out’ a little more, or sooner, there might have been a greater turnout.


  10. Alex Says:

    Great story idea. Lots of nice details and some good quotes. I would be careful, in the first couple graphs you revert to the “telling” rather than “showing.” “She’s filled with excitement” and “She…feels like a princess” don’t flow well. I’m curious how you know her internal dialogue? If she told you, then quote her. If it was evident in her mannerisms, tell us what tipped you off. That approach is a bit more engaging for the reader.


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