On Saturday, March 16, APU’s Department of Social Work helped host the sixth annual “My Sister’s Closet” event at APU to provide prom dresses and accessories to high school girls in Azusa who may not be able to afford their own.
The social work department partnered with Azusa Unified School District’s Family Resource Center, the Azusa/Glendora Soroptimists and the Assistant League of Covina Valley to host the event.
My Sister’s Closet provides gently-used special occasion dresses, shoes, make-up, purses and jewelry for the young ladies so they can go to their dream dance.
Program coordinator at AUSD’s Family Resource Center Silvana Cavazos said this is the sixth time they have helped organize the event. This year, 182 girls registered for the event.
“It’s fun to see their faces light up,” Cavazos said.
Senior social work major Hannah Evans was one of two APU interns for AUSD. My Sister’s Closet was their big spring project, she said.
Evans began working on the event last semester, asking girls to sign up, promoting the event and getting donations of dresses and accessories.
“We prepared for it half a year in advance, and then it just played out by itself,” Evans said.
MAS credit was available for the 30 to 40 students who volunteered. Any student could help on the set-up team or the tear-down team. Female students could volunteer as personal shoppers and help one or two high school girls pick out the perfect outfit.
“It’s amazing, the fact that these girls can get what they need for free… Most people think [prom] is a necessity, but for some who are struggling, it’s almost superfluous. It’s excessive,” Evans said. “Every girl, every boy should be able to go to prom.”
Evans said Martha Ekblad, program coordinator for the social work department, helped them book the room and receive donations.
“She was the one who got the ball rolling and helped us navigate the APU system,” Evans said. “She was instrumental in coordinating all the logistics involved in making My Sister’s Closet a reality.”
Cavazos started My Sister’s Closet after many girls called her asking her to help them find dresses. Cavazos decided to ask for donations from the community.
High school girls from many different AUSD schools can sign up for My Sister’s Closet on their website.
Cavazos said she gives them a month before prom so they can have time to complete their outfits.
“Some girls do not find a dress,” Cavazos said. “We do the best we can to help them find their dress.”
Cavazos loved her prom and believes that every girl should have that experience.
“Getting the dress is the obstacle, and we want to make sure they get it,” Cavazos said.
Nita Ulloa-Pedroni of Azusa/Glendora Soroptimist, a women’s organization, thanked APU’s social work department, the Assistant League of Covina Valley and other volunteers for helping with the event.
“It’s really rewarding to see the smiles on their faces when they find their dresses,” Pedroni said.
Pedroni said it helps them look professional and makes them feel fabulous.
Assistant League of Covina Valley volunteer Marianne Sarrall said the event was beneficial for both the high school girls and the volunteers.
“It’s a really good experience,” Sarrall said. “It encourages everyone to support and the girls are [very appreciative] and very sweet.”
Rosemead High School senior Miriam Pablo attended this year’s My Sister’s Closet and said all the volunteers were extremely helpful.
“Thank you everyone who made choosing my prom dress easier,” Pablo said.
Another high school senior attendee, Crystal Cox from South Hills High School, also appreciated the volunteers at the event.
“The people were so helpful and there were smiles everywhere,” Cox said.
Evans said there is sometimes a stigma attached when accepting free things, but she thinks they did a good job of taking that stigma away.
“We tried to make it as pretty as possible,” Evans said. “It’s a genuine shopping experience. We wanted to give them that and hopefully, they felt it.”
Evans asked that students keep the annual My Sister’s Closet event in mind if they have extra dresses lying around. She also encouraged students to volunteer at the event.
“It’s really fun. You’re helping someone go shopping!” Evans said. “What person does not enjoy that?”