NISKAYUNA — A high school prom means grand fashions and grand memories of a grand night on the town.
It also means a grand — financially — for teenagers and their parents: Prom preparations and accessories can cost couples $1,000 or more.
Students at Niskayuna High School are helping needy young women who cannot afford the cobalt blue and cream-colored gowns so popular in May and June. Kids are teaming up with Capital Region iHeart radio station WRVE, 99.5, The River, for the station's "Pay Less For The Dress” campaign.
Every year, the station invites local high school students to help collect gently worn gowns and dresses that are cleaned and later sold for $9.95. Students from Shenendehowa and Colonie high schools are also partners on the project. And while prom dresses are the main goal, other formal wear such as party dresses and bridesmaid dresses also will be accepted.
On Feb. 5, The River's morning show team — Tracy Villaume and Jason Howard — will broadcast live from Niskayuna High. During the 5:30 to 10 a.m. broadcast, community members can stop by the pool entrance to drop off dresses. Students will greet drivers and passengers and collect their donations.
All the dresses will be cleaned, courtesy of Best Cleaners. The sale, for teens all over the Capital Region, will be held at Proctors in Schenectady on March 21.
Proceeds from the event will support the Bernard and Millie Duker Children’s Hospital at Albany Medical Center and the Proctors Scholarship Fund.
"Last year, we collected 85, which was a remarkable number," said Vince Bianchi, the school's student activities coordinator. "We're hoping to match that this year and we're off to a good start."
Teens hope an inexpensive dress will reduce worries needy teens might have about going to their proms.
"To go to a prom, there are several factors," said Lauren Moran, 17, a senior and vice president of the school's National Honor Society.
"There's a very expensive dress, which can cost anywhere from $200 to $400 to $500," Moran said, "then you have the shoes, the hair and the makeup prices, expensive ticket prices, limo expenses. If we can just take away one of those stresses on how expensive prom is, so they can only focus on having a really good time, that would mean the world."
Other seniors, members of the Honor Society and Pep Club who are coordinating the dress drive, also love the cause.
"I really enjoyed my prom, I had an amazing time, but I recognize it's very expensive," said Isabel Coan, 17. "I want to be able to give other girls the same experience that I had, so by giving back to them I think it would really help out."
"I love being part of something that's giving back to the community for young girls who are not able to afford these expensive dresses," said Olivia Franjieh, 18. "I want them to have the same experience that we did."
"They really enjoy doing it," said Michele Moscinski, a family and consumer sciences teacher who is also adviser for the Pep Club. "They know it's for a good cause and they're really excited to help out."
Not all the shoppers will be prom girls. Bianchi said women who need gowns or dresses for family weddings or other formal occasions will be welcome at the sale.
"It makes me feel really good and I love to put smiles on girls' faces and let them feel that beautiful-ness that we can all feel," said Lillian O'Connell, 17, part of the Honor Society's leadership pillar.
Donors are invited to drop off dresses and gowns at the school any time up to Feb. 5 — they don't have to wait for the radio day.