Teacher offering 100 free prom dresses to disadvantaged schoolgirls across the Midlands

When teacher Stefanie Lakin discovered that one of her pupils was planning to miss her school prom due to the fact she couldn’t afford a dress, she knew she wanted to take action. So, she put a call out for prom dress donations, hoping she might be able to help a few girls in her local area.

But she was stunned by the response she received. Within three weeks, more than 100 dresses had been donated, including 50 new ones from a prom dress shop in Yardley.

Now, Stefanie has set up a Facebook page called Madrina – which means ‘godmother’ in Italian – and is hoping to offer a ‘Cinderella’ moment to youngsters across Birmingham, Solihull, Dudley and Sandwell.

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“It all started when a girl in my class said she wasn’t going to go to the prom,” said Stefanie, who teaches history at St Peter’s School in Solihull. “When I dug a little deeper, I realized there were a number of reasons but the main one was that she couldn’t get a dress.

“I asked her if she would go if she could get a dress and she said yes so it was clear this was the limiting factor. It made me think how many more girls there must be in schools in similar situations and how many dresses there must be in wardrobes never to be worn again. “

Solihull teacher Stefanie Lakin who set up a Facebook page called Madrina for people to donate prom dresses to disadvantaged girls in the Midlands
Solihull teacher Stefanie Lakin who set up a Facebook page called Madrina for people to donate prom dresses to disadvantaged girls in the Midlands

Since first putting out the call, Stefanie’s front room is now packed full of dresses and several suits for boys too. She has reached out to colleagues in schools across the region who have said they know of youngsters who would appreciate a free prom dress.

And she’s added a form to her Facebook page so that other schools, local authorities, food banks, children services, community centers and religious organizations can also refer a child for a prom outfit. Find out more here

“I thought I might just get four or five but oh my goodness, I’ve had so many. I got in touch with prom dress shops too and a lovely lady who runs Anna Louise Gowns in Yardley gave me 50 brand new dresses,” said Stefanie, who has been a teacher for 18 years.

“The community response has been amazing. I’m getting daily messages from people saying I’ve got a dress. It’s not always to do with price, sometimes it can be that a child is vulnerable and her family are unable to get out to get her a dress too. I want to help these children too. “

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Stefanie said there is a huge amount of peer pressure on young people to look good in front of their friends, and that school proms and non-uniform days add to the stress of this for some youngsters.

“Prom is such a big thing – some people may think it’s superficial and not a big deal but try telling that to a 16-year-old girl,” she said.

“Peer approval is massive. Some schools have stopped having non-uniform days because attendance is so poor due to some pupils feeling they can’t buy the clothes they want to wear.

“For a girl who always feels she is at the bottom of the pile, I hope this gives her the opportunity to go to the prom with confidence and on an equal playing field with everyone else. Some of these dresses are worth hundreds of pounds. I’m hoping that, even for just one night, they can go feeling less self conscious.

It is a Cinderella moment I guess, I didn’t want it to be that blatant so that’s why I chose the name ‘Madrina’ which means godmother in Italian as my mum is Italian. I like the idea that for one night they can get to feel they can leave it all behind, that’s the idea. Prom is a rite of passage really. “

Stefanie plans to continue to collect and donate dresses again next year. The pupils who receive outfits will get to choose whether they want to keep them or pass them onto others.

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