Polk County students score free formal wear by promising to avoid ‘risky’ behavior at school events
LAKELAND, Fla. - Homecoming is around the corner for many high school students, and those with a Polk County school ID have a chance to get the perfect outfit for free, thanks to a local organization called "UthImpact."
The organization has a store at the Lakeland Square Mall between The Children's Place and FYE Music.
Once students show their ID, they sign a pledge promising to avoid risky behaviors like drugs and alcohol use at school events. Once the pledge is signed, they get to go shopping. When they find the perfect dress or suit, it’s free.
This offsets a huge cost for students and families.
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"First you have to do your hair, that’s probably like, $50 to $100, then you have to buy makeup, that could be another $50. Then the dress could be, depends on where you buy them, they can range from $50 to like $200," explained Serena Thomas, with UthImpact.
Girls sift through dresses at Project HOCO in Lakeland.
Lakeland High School sophomore Shawn Cook is grateful for the opportunity.
"It’s really cool to be able to get something for free," Cook stated. "It’s something that’s so expensive."
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Plus, the outfits may be worn again at future formal events.
Project Prom is Project HOCO for the Homecoming season and offers free formal wear to Polk County students.
"It’s just like, a classic black and white suit so I can wear it for homecoming and also if I go to anything else," Cook shared.
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Student shopping days for Project HOCO are scheduled for September 17, and October 1, 8, and 22, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
In order to get free formal wear, Polk students must sign a pledge promising not to engage in drugs, alcohol or other risky behavior.
Community members may support this effort by donating gently used dresses, shoes, men’s suits, ties, and other accessories. Formal wear donations may be dropped off on the shopping dates or at the InnerAct Alliance office on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. A receipt will be provided for tax purposes for all donations.
For more information about the organization and how to donate, visit the Project Prom of Polk website.