High school seniors received free prom dresses, accessories and academic opportunities last Saturday.
BY TRONE DOWD
More than 100 Southeast Queens teens received the opportunity to make lifelong memories last Saturday, with the combined help of local civic groups and community leaders.
Headed by 100 Suits for 100 Men president and founder Kevin Livingston, young women gathered in the Harvest Room on Jamaica Avenue and 160th Street and were given a variety of prom dresses, shoes, accessories and other prom night essentials completely free of charge.
“We are serving high school and middle school seniors today,” Livingston told the Press of Southeast Queens. “Eighty percent of the schools are from Jamaica, and we have some schools as far as Far Rockaway.”
Schools included August Martin High School, Campus Magnet, Washington Carver High School and many more.
The event was promoted through social media, school guidance counselors and word of mouth.
“If we have young people in the community graduating, we want to congratulate them, and then we want to help them out,” Livingston said.
The idea was first put into action at the end of last year after the untimely passing of 16-year-old Jihad Jackson. Jackson, whose death is considered last homicide of 2015 here in New York City, sparked community wide concern over youth in the community. At an emergency town hall meeting on Jan. 1, planning for an event to help encourage kids to stay in school, remain educated and keep them pursuing more productive activities outside of the classroom began. That night, Livingston was able to secure a number of volunteers to act as mentors and work with community kids.
“This is what I’m talking about,” he said. “This is community inclusion.”
A number of guests were at the event, many of which helped organize or supported the initiative. Community members included photographer and hip-hop legend DJ Larry Love, state Sen. James Sanders (D-Far Rockaway), Community Board 12 Chair Adrienne Adams, Pastor Rodney Reid and Southeast Queens go-to interior designer Pauline Noel, who was also one of the previously mentioned mentors.
“This is a time when they are trying to figure out where they fit in in the world and who they’re aspiring to be,” Noel said. “This is important time where they need to feel beautiful they look beautiful and they should hear affirmations from other people and the community. Getting them the dresses that maybe they may not or their parents may not be able to afford.”
The young ladies weren’t the only ones to benefit Saturday morning. The teenage boys who were at the soireé received free haircuts from Livingston as well as dress shirts and sports coats for their upcoming prom later this school year, lessons on how to tie a tie and financial literacy classes.
Many other people and organizations were able to provide help as well including Greater Jamaica Development Corporation; Interskin Beauty cosmetics based out of Jamaica Market; the Key Club community service organization; the Bellmore Merrick High School District community; Girlfriend Pathways to Empower and Pa-Nash, “Eurosoul” restaurant and lounge based out of Rosedale, who not only provided catering for the event, but also provided an image consultant ensuring that the young women and men chose their prom night attire with the best of results.
All of the students who were apart of the Saturday’s festivities were formally invited to even more opportunities later this year. Livingston announced that all of the young people who registered for Saturday’s event were already invited to a tour of Columbia University.
The event was an overall success as event young person left with formal attire for their big night. However, there were even more dresses available for other young people in Southeast Queens, and teens were encouraged to tell their friends who may also need a dress to reach out to Kevin and the many Southeast Queens civic groups who helped provide the attire.
Parent Debbie Williams told the Press of Southeast Queens that she was happy to see so many people in the community work together to help out girls like her 16-year-old daughter.
“I am so very glad I came out,” Williams said. “Even more so than the dress, I am happy for the contacts that I met that are willing to help my daughter with her education and mentoring and stuff like that. It was wonderful.”
Reach Trone Dowd at (718) 357-7400 x123, firstname.lastname@example.org or @theloniusly.