04/16/18 — Social workers sprinkle enchantedness on prom goers

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Social workers sprinkle enchantedness on prom goers

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 16, 2018 5:50 AM

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Wayne County Public Schools social workers Heather Bradshaw and Elvira Carreno stand in the media center at Southern Wayne High School. The two helped start an effort that will provide prom dresses and accessories for several students at the school to attend the event this year free of charge.

This year's Southern Wayne High School prom theme is "Some Enchanted Evening."

Elvira Carreno, a social worker with Wayne County Public Schools, wanted to make sure that will be the case for everyone attending.

She began thinking of ways to make that happen, especially for those who may not be able to afford all the trimmings.

First of all, there's the $35 ticket. And, in addition to the tux or gown, there are accessories and shoes, hair and makeup -- and possibly dinner beforehand -- to name just a few of the amenities that might go into making it an unforgettable rite of passage.

For some families, that might mean tightening the budget to ensure their child gets to experience one magical night.

But for many others, as social workers in the school system are keenly aware, this simply isn't possible.

Their job is typically behind-the-scenes, working with children and families in some of the most dire circumstances.

"A lot of times people don't realize what we do," said Heather Bradshaw, social worker at Southern Wayne High School. "A lot of times we do things that have to be confidential."

Carreno, who works at feeder schools Brogden Primary and Brogden Middle, is pursuing her master's degree, where one of the courses dealt with working with the community.

The prom project was timely as the May 4 event loomed large.

"Why don't we do something with the community?" was her thought, she said. "There's always needs at our schools.

"With the needs I always see that they don't get to do things because of money. Sometimes they can buy a dress but they probably don't have someone there for makeup and hair."

Choosing a prom dress can be tricky -- "girls are picky," she shrugged, smiling at the admission.

If she could come up with some volunteers to style hair and apply makeup, that would be lovely.

"That was my purpose -- let me give you that experience," she said. "We will help out with the glam part."

That is how it started out, but it quickly snowballed -- thanks to the involvement of Marcia Whitley and her non-profit, All the King's Children.

Carreno and Bradshaw partnered up on the effort, starting small for the "pilot" effort.

They chose five girls from Southern Wayne and interviewed them as potential recipients.

"First we went off senior girls and then those that we felt like demonstrated good morals and did their best at school," Bradshaw said of the selection process.

They were looking for students who wanted to go to prom but might not be able to because of finances.

"We just picked a handful and asked if they were planning to go to prom," Bradshaw said. "Once we knew that they wanted to do it, we came up with a date at the house where All The King's Children do a lot of events."

The young ladies had the option of purchasing their own dress or shopping from the racks of donated dresses All the King's Children had collected for a time like this.

Accompanied by their parents or guardians, four of the five -- the other one had another option for her attire -- participated in the productive expedition.

"They all looked around, tried on dresses -- they all left with a dress," Carreno said. "It worked out where those dresses fit. It was like the perfect fit on most girls."

The social workers were so grateful to their benefactor, they said.

"Marcia really helped us and made it happen," Carreno said. "We had a vision, and she made it happen."

"If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't be able to do this," Bradshaw said. "She's given the dresses, donated the hair and makeup people and the facility for them."

All the King's Children also paid for the students' tickets to go to prom, Carreno added.

The day of the prom, the five students will do what most of their counterparts do before the big occasion -- have hair and makeup stylists pamper them.

It's a Cinderella moment the women say they are glad they got to be part of, and hope to see grow.

"I think it's really rewarding to see them, especially as they're really appreciative of it," Bradshaw said. "You could just tell that it meant a whole lot, because maybe they wouldn't be able to do all of it.

"It's very fulfilling that you can actually make their dreams come true that one night."

Carreno just may have been as happy and excited as recipients of the effort.

"I'm so thankful," she said. "It just warms your heart to see it.

"If it expands, if it were to expand in number -- maybe like 10 girls -- we can't do it without the help of the community. This time it just happened. But if it were to expand, if we can just get more to say they want to volunteer, I guess that's the seed I want to plant. Maybe it could become a school social worker project, at multiple schools."