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Prom Dresses-a-porter

Hartford Public Library

Problem Statement

Hartford is the 4th poorest city in the United States and 5 out of 10 children live below the poverty line. This crushing poverty can limit the traditional American experiences of growing to adulthood, like attending a high school prom. Lack of funding in the school system coupled with family poverty keep dreams only dreams. And this was about to happen to the graduating class at Weaver High School again.


The staff of the Albany branch decided that these young people deserved to experience their “senior prom” and set out to find a way to supply free prom gowns (one of the most costly expenditures) to all the young girls in the class. They created a coalition of neighborhood and citywide organizations to provide gowns and accessories for the girls in the class. The project included a fashion show to demonstrate how to make an outfit ‘your own,’ and a ‘shopping day’ where the girls would look at the donated items and choose what they wanted for the BIG night. They all responded with excitement and agreed to participate. A goal was set to acquire at least 100 gowns. The coalition would provide refreshments for the fashion show and the partners would also acquire all the necessary accessories: shoes, bags, shawls and other items.


The coalition acquired more than 100 gowns, enough to ensure that every young girl who attending “shopping day” on March 26 was able to get the gown she wanted. In addition to achieving their goal, the coalition is actively involved in making the senior prom a reality for the Class of 2011. Not only did the Library help these young people gain access to what many take for granted, but served as a catalyst for action in the community – a role that our urban public library embraces.