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Librarians: the fairy Godmothers of prom season

Prom season is among us, and for most high school students this means spending big bucks to make their prom dreams come true.

A nationwide survey released by Visa Inc. shows that an average American household will spend an approximate of $978 per teen.

Who has that type of money to spend for one night? For many, this is a reason why attending their senior prom is out of the question.

“My family struggles financially… I know prom is expensive, but every girl wants the chance to feel like Cinderella for a night,” said Vista High School graduate, Martinez, who asked to have her first name omitted.

Martinez, along with hundreds of other girls, attended The Princess Project last year at Vista Public Library in hopes of making their prom dreams a reality.

Orquidia Contreras, Librarian II of Vista Public Library, started the Prom Dress Giveaway five years ago, partnering with the Princess Project a year later, “the economy was the topic of discussion and many households were stretched and prom is an expensive venture, I wanted to make that possible for families who may be struggling with sending their teens to prom.”

The Princess Project is a non-profit (501)c organization that promotes self-confidence and individuality by providing free prom dresses to high school students.

“There really aren’t many limitations, if they have a need, we have a dress for them,” Natalie Lopez, the Assistant Professor/Outreach Librarian at Palomar College Library said.

Qualifications to receive a dress are simple:

  • Must be a high school student who needs a
    dress for prom
  • No proof of income needed
  • No ID is required, although bringing in a
    student ID is helpful
  • Provide first and last name with contact
  • No registration or appointments are
    mandatory, but encouraged; they will accept walk-ins
  • All persons regardless of gender
    orientation are invited
Librarian Natalie Lopez with one of the donated dresses for The Princess Project. Coulter Mohillsmith/The Telescope
Librarian Natalie Lopez with one of the donated dresses for The Princess Project. Coulter Mohillsmith/The Telescope

The Vista Public Library will host the Princess Project Gown Giveaway event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 22. There, students will be able to play dress up and try on numerous dresses of all different styles, sizes, lengths, and colors. After selecting a dress, they can choose to participate in a fashion show, walking down the catwalk with the main goal of promoting self-confidence. Donations will be accepted until the morning of the event.

Palomar College Library will be accepting donations all year round.

With only three dresses donated, it is never too late to stop by and drop off a dress.

“It’s a wonderful initiative to help students out, so they can achieve their dream of going to prom,” Lopez added.

Donation guidelines:

  • New or gently worn dresses
  • Dry cleaned on a hanger
  • No older than 5 years’ old
  • Dresses of all lengths and colors welcomed
  • Pageant and Quinceañera gowns welcomed

Both Contreras and Lopez plan to collect donations all year-round.

To find out more information about the Princess Project and how to donate or volunteer, log onto, contact Vista Public Library at (760) 643-5100, or Palomar College Library at (760) 744-1150 ext. 2612.


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