Much like many of Philadelphia’s high-school students, Maryelis Santiago couldn’t afford to attend her senior prom. But, with the help of her community members, she was fortunate enough to attend a night she’ll never forget.
“Growing up I always struggled…my family didn’t have the resources I wanted to be a part of [prom],” Santiago said. “Prom was one of those rights of passage that for me was…about to be an impossible thing. But with the help of community members, it was possible.”
Now five years later working as the data & evaluation training coordinator at Congreso de Latinos Unidos – a national organization that seeks to strengthen and improve Latino communities in various urban areas – Santiago wants to give current high-school students the same opportunity. As the program coordinator of Project Prom, Santiago is collecting new and gently used dresses, shoes and accessories through March 2nd. At a ceremony on March 21st, local high-school seniors will then have the opportunity to pick out a dress and accessories for free to make their prom nights complete.
Santiago, who has been a N. Phila. resident for her whole life, said she wants to give teenage girls the same hope she was given at their age.
“We’re going to teach these girls that everything is possible,” she said in regards to Project Prom’s initiatives.
Dresses and accessories can be dropped off to Santiago at Congreso’s headquarters, located at 216 W. Somerset St.