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This prom season, donated dresses help teens believe in themselves

April 25, 2017 at 6:15 PM EDT
In our NewsHour Shares moment of the day, finding the perfect dress for prom season can pose a real challenge for some teenagers. But one Boston-area organization is stepping in to try and alleviate some of the stress.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: Prom season is upon us, and for many teenage girls, it’s all about the dress.

For some young women, though, getting that dress can pose a real challenge, and one organization is stepping in to try to help.

From PBS station WGBH in Boston, Tina Martin introduces us to the man behind the Believe in Yourself Foundation.

TINA MARTIN: These dresses are from designers all over the globe, but they’re not for sale. They’re free for teenagers like 17-year-old Raquel Laskowski.

RAQUEL LASKOWSKI, 17-year-old: I was like, oh, my gosh, it’s so cute.

TINA MARTIN: Raquel and other girls at the South Boston Boys and Girls Club were chosen to receive these beautiful donated dresses from the Believe in Yourself Foundation.

RAQUEL LASKOWSKI: And I think that’s really nice that someone cares enough to donate these dresses.

TINA MARTIN: The organization was founded in January by Sam Sisakhti and is based in Brookline.

SAM SISAKHTI, Founder, Believe in Yourself Foundation: About a decade ago, I started a fashion company where we sell primarily to young women. And I noticed at the time that a lot of body shaming and cyber-bullying was going on online.

TINA MARTIN: So he started thinking of a way to change that.

SAM SISAKHTI: I work with about 20,000 independent fashion designers, and I would get a lot of samples, and I used to give them to celebrities. And, at one point, I’m thinking, they have enough clothes.

TINA MARTIN: Sisakhti figured out a better use for the dresses, many of them sizes 12 and up.

SAM SISAKHTI: So, I started going into low-income areas. I didn’t really even say who I was. I would just drop off a box of clothes, a boxes of dresses. And the appreciation on their faces was like really amazing, and they are telling me now they have the confidence to go to their first dance.

RAQUEL LASKOWSKI: There are some people here that are unfortunate that don’t really have the money to get these dresses.

TINA MARTIN: So far, the foundation has given away over 200 dresses that range in cost form $60 to $200. The foundation donates dresses all across the country.

And you’re just traveling all over the world, like Santa Claus, dropping off dresses?

SAM SISAKHTI: Yes, something like that.

TINA MARTIN: Sisakhti hopes to give away between 5,000 to 10,000 dresses before the end of the year. He depends on donations, and has spent thousands of his own money.

SAM SISAKHTI: It’s really important that all the dresses are new. I don’t want these girls to feel like they are getting hand-me-downs.

TINA MARTIN: A new dress that’s letting Raquel Laskowski get all dressed up with somewhere to go.

Well, do you know where you are going to wear it?

RAQUEL LASKOWSKI: To my cousin’s party.

TINA MARTIN: Somewhere to go, and now the confidence to get there.

For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Tina Martin in Boston.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Bringing a smile to a lot of young women.

And that’s the NewsHour for tonight.

On Wednesday: the first 100 days of the Trump administration, a look at domestic accomplishments and setbacks.

I’m Judy Woodruff.

Join us online and again right here tomorrow evening. For all of us at the PBS NewsHour, thank you, and we will see you soon.

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