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For 40 girls in the New York City foster-care system, their prom will be nothing short of a Cinderella story.

Since March 15, the Latino Coalition and Latina-interest sorority Lambda Theta Alpha have been collecting prom dresses for girls in the New York-based child welfare agency, Graham Windham. They will continue to do so until May 10, when all the dresses will be delivered to the agency.

“Everybody knows how important prom is,” said College freshman and Latino Coalition member Fabi Larancuent, who proposed the charity project to the Latino Coalition. “A lot of these girls couldn’t afford dresses or even really to go to prom.”

Fabi’s sister Pilar, who works as a youth development coordinator at Graham Windham, helped to connect Penn students with the project.

The idea for Prom Couture, the dress drive, was first conceived by Co-founders Ketsia Delarosa-Torress and Vanezza Cruz, who is also a Graphic and Web Designer, two years ago. They brought the project to Graham Windham.

Initially, Pilar thought the collection would yield about 75 dresses. However, along with the approximately 20 dresses that have been donated from Penn so far, the agency has gathered about 350 dresses.

“We didn’t have to harass people” to donate, Fabi said.

Pilar agreed, adding that in the New York office, she has seen the donation of a brand-new Chanel dress, as well as 100 new dresses from a bridal boutique.

Graham Windham plans to turn its office into a boutique on May 13, when the girls will come in for a pre-prom party where they will be able to select dresses and learn about hair and makeup.

Any dresses that are not selected, Pilar added, will be donated to a New York juvenile justice center.

Even with the number of dresses the agency has managed to collect, Pilar emphasized that she has particularly appreciated the donations from Penn students because they come “from an age group that the girls are familiar with.

Consequently, students at Penn have been moved to help the girls in New York toward their fairy-tale experience.

College freshman Jessie Lawson, who shipped four dresses from her home in Virginia, said she enjoyed the opportunity to share “a dress that the girls will be able to enjoy and that I had good experiences in too.”

Lawson added that the charity reminded her that “things that are so common to us, like buying a prom dress, are something these girls don’t have the opportunity for.”

Although the dresses will be given to girls in New York, the cause resonates in Philadelphia as well.

“The dresses are for underprivileged urban youth,” Fabi said, adding that the story of children whose parents may not be able to provide them with prom dresses is “common to both places.”

While the Latino Coalition charity project changes from year to year, Latino Coalition chairman and Wharton sophomore Angel Contrera said they would be open to contributing to a similar Philadelphia-based charity in the future to “have more of an impact locally.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the co-founders of Prom Couture

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