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Project Prom marks 10th anniversary with dress giveaway

| Tuesday, March 12, 2013, 5:16 a.m.
Aaron Loughner | Daily News
Yawande Bynum and Seausa Williams, seniors at McKeesport Area High School, look over prom dresses.
Aaron Loughner | Daily News
Yawande Bynum checks out the selection of dresses at the Prom Project Shop.
Aaron Loughner | Daily News
Seausa Williams checks out the selection of dresses at the Prom Project Shop.
Event manager Ondrea Burton helps Jah-Mosia Cash, a senior at McKeesport Area High School, accessorize her new prom gown.

Project Prom celebrated its 10th anniversary as it kicked off its prom dress giveaway on Monday for eligible high school students at Century III Mall.

Teen girls assisted by relatives and personal stylists were able to choose their prom dress free of charge from a wide variety of styles and colors of new or gently used fashions for free. Accessories including jewelry, shoes, purses and wraps are available, as well.

The Allegheny County Department of Human Services program set up shop in a boutique on the West Mifflin mall's third floor.

“Prom is that quintessential memory that you cherish the most in your high school career,” said Ondrea Burton, county Department of Human Services event and donations manager. “Families are in situations where money is tight and they really can't afford a $500 to $600 dress. Many of these dresses here have tags on them. They're the brand new dresses that the girls are buying at local boutiques and department stores. We get them donated here.”

While she was waiting for her turn to shop, McKeesport Area High School senior Seausa Williams already had her eye on a couple of dresses.

“I love it,” she said. “They're very colorful.”

“There are very nice dresses,” said her best friend Yawande Bynum, also a McKeesport Area High School senior.

Seausa's mother Darmonica Armstrong of McKeesport said Project Prom is helpful to parents.

“It's saving us a lot of money,” she said.

McKeesport mother Teneshia Cash said her 18-year-old daughter Jah-Mosia Cash originally picked out a $400 dress at a retail store.

“We waited for this,” she said. “It's a good program for girls who many need a little assistance with prom.”

Jah-Mosia ended up choosing a vibrant purple dress with some matching accessories.

“I kind of knew what I was looking for,” she said.

Burton said Project Prom is continually enhancing its boutique.

“We continue to recruit wonderful women to come out and volunteer with the young ladies,” she said. “We put out the call to the community. It's a lot of community leaders and people who are just interested in helping out and giving back.”

Burton said Project Prom has 50-60 volunteers helping this year.

Stefani Massari, program manager for K-12 initiatives for UPMC's Center for Inclusions, volunteered at the registration desk.

“We partner with Ondrea's team on multiple occasions,” she said. “This is something I personally really enjoy. It's a great cause.”

To be eligible for Project Prom, high school girls living in Allegheny County must receive services or have a family member receiving services through the county Department of Human Services; be eligible for a free or reduced-fee school lunch; or have a caretaker receiving unemployment benefits.

Anyone meeting at least one of those requirements may visit the Project Prom Boutique this week, Tuesday through Thursday from 3-7 p.m. or Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Century III Mall's third floor.

There's also a Project Prom for Gentlemen in which male high school students attend an etiquette-refresher dinner with a catered meal, get fitted for a tuxedo and are given a voucher for a free tuxedo rental. The male teens are registered through a Department of Human Services caseworker or agency.

For more information on Project Prom, visit or call 412-350-3428.

Stacy Lee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1970, or

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