That’s where Tajuanna Mack comes in. The former Villa Rica High School teacher has started a nonprofit organization to help send as many local kids to prom as possible.
“In 2009 my youngest son was going to prom and his girlfriend couldn’t afford a dress or anything related to it,” said the
Carrollton resident. “Someone had given her a short dress, I had bought him a nice suit and forgot she was wearing that. So I went to a close friend and found her a dress and did her makeup and hair. She was so appreciative, she cried when it was all over and I thought someone should be helping other kids who can’t go.”
Now formally titled “The Prom Queen Project,” Mack’s effort has grown every year since it began. In 2010 she had six people sign up, 2011 saw 16 participants and last year there were 26. She is still taking applications for this year.
“They have until March 1 for the April and May proms,” Mack said.
The deadline for Bowdon High School was Friday.
The program is needs-based. Mack often works with school counselors and social workers to help determine need. Prom Queen Project is open to students at all six Carroll County high schools.
Mack gets donations from friends and family, former teachers and former students. Dresses often are donated or purchased from Goodwill, even old wedding gowns have become part of someone’s special prom.
Donations come in year-round, but Mack will be extra busy in the next two months. She tries not to turn anyone down and sometimes struggles getting enough donations. Mack often does hair and makeup herself and fixes a dozen or so heads of hair on prom days.
“One of the girls said, ‘What you did helped me so much. I’m so appreciative of what you did. If you hadn’t done this for me I wouldn’t have been able to go.’ It was a student who lived in a group home.”
Today, Mack works in an assisted living facility, and said this project is both per passion and a way to stay connected with high school students. She always enjoyed prom season in her teaching days and still does now.
When Mack taught, she would often hear students say they weren’t going to prom because they didn’t want to. But in the hallways, she’d hear them say it was because a parent was out of work, or sometimes their friends would tell her.
“Prom is expensive,” Mack said. “It usually costs at least $300 for the night. The prom dues are from $75 to $125. The dress can be $200 or $300, the hair, all of it is expensive. When I started this in 2010 there were no jobs around, people were getting laid off, some kids couldn’t even afford clothes to wear to school, so I knew they couldn’t afford the prom.”
Mack feels the prom is important because it’s a rite of passage to say that you’ve made it through your 12 years of school. It’s one of the last hurrahs before a phase of life ends.
Donations to Prom Queen Project come in many forms. The charity accepts cash donations, dry cleaning, restaurant cards, hair services, nails, photographers and clothing for both guys and girls. Girl-oriented donations come in often, but clothing for the guys is much harder to come by.
“My donations are very limited as far as guys’ attire,” Mack said.
The program is open to high school juniors and seniors, with seniors taking priority. Right now the program is needs-based, but Mack hopes to one day make it available to everyone.
“My ultimate goal is to be able to service whoever needs it,” said Mack. “In the next few years that’s my ultimate goal. If you want to go, put in an application and you can go.”
Mack can be reached at 678-521-3697 or firstname.lastname@example.org and donations can be sent to her home, 231 Emerald Pointe Dr., Carrollton, GA 30116. The Prom Queen Project can be found on Facebook as well.