Dresses for success: Everyone can go to the prom at Aurora Central

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AURORA | Becky Greene looks back on the dress she wore to Aurora Central High School’s 1992 prom and can’t help but question her teenaged sense of style.

It was black-and-white, strapless, with polka dots and a V-shaped bottom.

“Hideous,” she said with a laugh. “It was hideous.”

Still, while she may cringe at her high school fashion sense, she’ll never forget how great she felt that night.

“I felt beautiful,” she said. “I felt like the next great model of the 19990s. It was perfect, every aspect of that.”

When Central’s prom rolls around next month, a few dozen girls who couldn’t afford a dress will get to feel the same way thanks to the Prom Dress Project 2015.

Liz Wiler, a 1991 Central graduate, launched the program just a few weeks ago with help from Greene and other Central alumni.

In just a few weeks the group collected more than 200 dresses and priced them at between $10 and $20. At last week’s initial sale, they sold about 20 dresses to girls that otherwise might not have been able to afford a trip to prom. Another sale is set for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. April 1 near the theater at Central.

Wiler said after a quick Facebook post, donations poured in from people who wanted to help. Even a woman who overheard Wiley discussing the project at a local coffee shop chipped in.

“It went kind of viral,” she said.

At the first sale last week, there were dresses as well as dozens of pairs of shoes and jewelry for sale.

Organizers said prom is such an important night that everyone, regardless of their financial situation, should have a chance to experience it.

“A pretty prom dress like this on a special night is gonna hold a special memory,” Greene said.

The project stemmed from some previous efforts to launch a Central alumni association to work closely with the students there, Greene said. The school has struggled in recent years, and Greene said she hopes if students meet some former students who walked the same halls they did and learn from them, it could change the school’s culture.

Being able to go to prom is a part of that process, she said.

“This is a very big right of passage for any young person.”

Central senior Eunice Callejas, 17, was one of the first girls to buy a dress at last week’s sale.

Callejas said she really wanted to go to prom this year after skipping it last year, but she wasn’t sure if she’d be able to afford a pricey dress.

“I’m actually not sure about that, I was really depending on this today to find a dress,” she said.

When she walked in, she spotted a teal strapless dress that matched the distinct blue color she had in mind.

The dress fit just right, but when Callejas went to pay for it, she got another surprise. The blue dress she picked out was one of a handful with a special note inside from the previous owner or the person who donated. Mixed in with some inspirational poems, the note had some helpful news for Callejas — the dress was free.

With the few extra bucks left over Callejas was able to buy some jewelry to complete her outfit.

Callejas said she’s looking forward to prom and being able to look back on the night for the rest of her life.

“It feels like its something you should do, just to have those memories,” she said.

The Prom Dress Project is accepting dresses, shoes and jewelry. To donate, call the Aurora Central High School attendance office at 303-340-1600.