Cinderella Project at Elon
Table of Contents:
IV. The Conference
VI. Outside of Elon
The Cinderella Project is an initiative in Burlington, North Carolina where prom dresses are collected and given out to girls from low income families who otherwise couldn’t afford one. This program was started by past Elon student, Samantha Simunyu in 2010. The Cinderella Project was linked with a project started at Hugh M. Cummings High School by a guidance counselor. The project began at Elon University as an unofficial organization run by the Zeta Phi Beta sorority, but it now functions out of the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community. The next conference event will be taking place on Saturday, April 19th, 2014.
Fundraising for this event is done locally, mostly through social media and word of mouth. Many of the dresses are donated by students involved in greek life on Elon’s campus, but dresses are accepted from all students. The student leadership committee involved in organizing the event spreads the word by setting up in Mosley Campus Center and then participates in “dorm storms” (coating buildings in promotional flyers) , and many prom themed PR initiatives that publicise the event on campus. They also provide updates in Elon weekly articles, Facebook, and Twitter.
Several local companies have donated makeup and jewelry to the event so the girls can have the full “princess” experience. These companies include but are not limited to: Merle Norman, Dillards, Sephora, and Icing. The project has also been given a soda grant by the Coke Foundation to supply drinks to the girls while selecting their dresses. The Elon Student Government Association has also granted funds to the project to purchase raffle prizes like iPods for the girls to win.
The conference event begins with workshops for the girls. Some of the sessions will be fun, like makeup tutorials, and others will be more educational, like panels on women’s empowerment. After an inspirational speech, the princess boutique begins. With volunteers called “Fairy Godmothers” and “Dress Consultants,” the girls get to “shop” through different racks of dress choices, along with tables of jewelry and make up. There is a raffle and photo shoot to wrap up the exciting day.
Elon senior and key organizer, Eryn Gorang, has big goals for the project. She wants it to be a venue for women’s empowerment and community engagement, instead of just “dump and run” where girls just get a dress and leave. She says the project is about “creating a partnership with Cummings High School,” where an idea of mutual understanding is created. She hopes the project will become an official Elon organization, now that it has a strong leadership team of ten Elon students guiding it. The team hopes that this year the event will support 75 girls, with at least 150 dresses to choose from. They also are attempting to connect with Graham High School this year to have girls from both schools in attendance at the conference. They want to make it possible for every girl in both high schools to be able to take part in prom, with no financial barriers holding them back from their night of magic.
This idea of a prom dress giveaway is not unique to Elon. The commonly called “Princess Project” is a program used all across the United States. But what the Elon branch organizers are hoping to change is the model that is used for their event. They want their day to be more of a conference, with speakers, workshops, and a shop-like boutique, rather than just racks of dresses for the girls to walk in and choose a dress from. The Elon founder Samantha Simunyu has begun another Cinderella Project organization in Raleigh, NC with the same conference model.
Any Elon organizations interested in making the Cinderella Project one of their philanthropies can email the project for more information and a presentation on the organization. The needs of the project are currently for dresses to be donated and anyone with connections to a willing sponsor to contact them. As the event gets closer, any interested volunteers for the positions of “Fairy Godmother” and “Dress Consultant” can email the project for an application.
Cinderella Project Email: [email protected]
Cinderella Project Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cinderellaprojectelon
Cinderella Project Twitter: https://twitter.com/cinderellaelon
*All unlabeled Photos used in the article were taken by Cinderella Project organizers and have been posted with their permission. *
*Personal Interview with Eryn Gorang on October 7th, 2013.*