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Refugee Girls Experience Prom Magic

Group picture at Prom Dress Day 2017

Group picture at Prom Dress Day 2017

Photo: Luke Boney

Prom season is in full swing, marking a glamourous beginning to a new chapter for many in high school. Students eagerly await the attire and the photos that make this a night to remember. For students resettled by the IRC, a traditional prom experience wasn’t usually a priority.

Left: Paw Lweh getting fitted for her dress. Right: Paw Lweh at her JROTC ball.
Left: Paw Lweh getting fitted for her dress. Right: Paw Lweh at her JROTC ball. Photo: Luke Boney

Three years ago, that changed when Dallas CASA’s Kristie Dixon called to invite IRC’s high school girls to Prom Dress Day. Unfazed that many of these girls are shy, might not speak English, and might not attend prom, Kristie encouraged us to think about inviting these high schoolers anyway.

This year, sixteen high school girls excitedly waited for CASA’s Prom Dress Day. Anticipation kept Paw Lweh, a newly-arrived sophomore, up all night, saying she “thought about getting a dress and was so excited to wear a beautiful dress”. Morning couldn’t come soon enough, and Paw joined 15 of her friends at CASA’s office, which has transformed into a dress shop for the day. The girls stood motionless watching the commotion of CASA volunteers flitting among endless aisles of dresses of all styles and colors, and around tables covered in jewelry and sparkly accessories.

Anita tries on a dress.
Anita tries on a dress. Photo: Luke Boney

Anita Adhikari says, “I never owned any makeup or dresses like these so when I got there it was shocking to me.”  As the girls paused to take in the overwhelming sight, CASA volunteers began leading them up and down the aisles, picking out colors and styles, and encouraging them to try on as many dresses as they want.

After trying on a dress, each girl shyly made her way to the mirror, one by one. With the excitement of their friends and CASA volunteers, nerves instantly faded and the room lit up with chatter, smiles, and laughter. After each girl chooses her dress, tailors make custom alterations so each dress is perfect. The girls then pick out matching accessories and heels to wear with their dress and are soon on their way to have their hair and makeup done.

​Left: Bae Shae trying on her dress. Right: Bae Shae on Prom day.
​Left: Bae Shae trying on her dress. Right: Bae Shae on Prom day. ​ Photo: Luke Boney

After dress shopping with new and old friends, they are ready to go home with their new, gorgeous dresses in hand. Paw said it best, “I’m so thankful for this beautiful dress. What is the word for more than happy? I am that.”

Over the past three years, Dallas CASA has made dreams come true for over three dozen refugee girls. For Bae Shae, now a college freshman, CASA’s Prom Dress Day gave her the opportunity to attend prom. To everyone who helped make it special, she says, “Thank you for making my prom day possible.”

Story By: Sarah Shaikh & Alex Laywell