‘Cinderella’ dances at Greenhouse Prom
SARAH WAS ONE of 196 homeless youth in Portland, OR, who enjoyed a night of glamour and fun at the Army’s Greenhouse Prom.
BY JENNIFER REYNOLDS SANCHEZ AND MARLYSS SCHWENGELS –
The beads glistened on her strapless lavender gown as she glided into the ballroom. Her dark hair formed a delicate spiral on top of her head. Her professionally manicured nails matched her gown, and her makeup was perfect. Sarah looked like a princess.
“I have never seen a more beautiful dress,” wrote Sarah. “That dress would be my Cinderella gown, and I know I’d look like a princess.”
And she did.
At the 12th Annual Salvation Army Greenhouse Prom in Portland OR, Sarah and 195 other homeless youth cast their worries onto the dance floor and stomped out their troubles to the pulse of the music during one evening of glamour and fun. And for the 17 homeless youth who received their general education degrees from the alternative learning schools of Greenhouse and New Avenues for Youth, the night capped a long journey toward achievement and hope for a brighter tomorrow.
For Sarah, who is now 20, it was a night of endings and beginnings. She has been living on the streets since she was 13, and a Greenhouse client for nearly eight years. This year she will turn 21, the cutoff age for Greenhouse services. This was her last prom, and she wanted to make it special.
Weeks before the prom, Sarah went shopping for a gown. At the very first shop she visited, she saw the most beautiful dress she had ever seen. “It was love at first sight, just like a movie,” she explained. “The room gets hazy, you hear music in your head, you can’t stop staring.”
She could not afford the dress on her own, so she wrote a letter to Tiffany Designs and told them about herself and how much she loved that dress. She asked if the company would consider donating it to Greenhouse for her to wear at her prom. The company not only donated the dress to Sarah, but they also included beads to decorate her shoes.
As Sarah and the other homeless youth socialized before dinner, volunteers were hard at work. Professional chefs and their helpers were busy in the kitchen preparing the evening meal–a gourmet delight. In the Northwest Natural Gas building “ballroom,” a local DJ worked his magic. Earlier in the day, professional hair stylists and makeup artists finished adding personal touches for an evening of pure elegance. Then the homeless youth stepped into the classic cars, carriages and limousines awaiting them for the short ride to the graduation and prom.
The Cinderella evening is over for the homeless youth who live on the streets. As for Sarah, she is leaving Portland the end of June to work as a unit leader at a Girl Scout camp near Corvallis, OR. She “totally loves camping” and is “exceptionally stoked” about the opportunity.
In the fall, she’ll return to Portland to continue her college education in social work and environmental studies at Portland State University.
The Salvation Army Green-house Center, part of a consortium of homeless youth agencies, provided Sarah with the necessary tools to exit street life. She says peer mentoring, job training and the support of the Greenhouse staff helped her become the young woman she is today.
Sarah credits one person in particular for her drive and success: former Greenhouse activities coordinator, Rodney Sofich. When asked why, she replied, “He said I was smart!”