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New York City students say 'Yes' to the prom dress

Fifty New York City high schoolers said yes to the dress (or the tux) on Monday.

The prom dress, that is.

TLC brought a live teenage edition of “Say Yes to the Dress” to the city for its fifth annual “Say Yes to the Prom,” where high-achieving students from all five boroughs were selected to attend the day of pampering and preparing for the big end-of-year dance.

Flanked by more than 3,000 glittery dresses — all donated — hanging in the basement of the Intercontinental Times Square, Monte Durham, best known for helping brides on TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta,” posed for photos with local students, all decked out for prom. From here, they'll take home the donated dresses and accessories to re-create the look for the upcoming spring dances.

“Picking a prom outfit is about so much more than just the dress or the tux,” Durham said. In fact, prom is so not just about the dress that SYTTP decided to include male students in this year’s program. “It really is about empowerment and building confidence, in addition to achieving some fabulous looks.”

Durham, who struggled financially with his own prom outfit (it was yellow, he looked like a banana and doesn’t recommend mimicking the look) aims to help students prepare for their futures, long beyond prom night, but it all starts with saying yes to one important outfit.

Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

"Prom is expensive and I'm really happy to be here," said Jennifer Orea, a student at New Dorp High School. After trying on "so many dresses it was overwhelming," Orea found the perfect fit at SYTTP.

For many students, this is their first time getting this dressed up.

Shanice Frazier, a senior at East Brooklyn Community High School, wasn't sure what to expect at the event, but after trying on four dresses and picking the first that caught her eye, she was having fun. "At first I felt like it was whatever until I got here and thought, 'Oh yes, they picked me, the right person to go,'" she said. "I've never been to something like this."

"When you're in a dress or a suit that makes you feel good, you're automatically going to stand up straight, you're going to talk and be confident," Durham said. "It's dressing for success."

Adam Bamba, a senior at Pathways College Prep, was impressed with the star treatment. "It's been amazing. I feel like I'm an actual star, how they've pampered me," he said. "Usually this stuff is for females, but it's been a good time so far," Bamba said of his first time getting makeup done and getting a tux fitted.

Before the next stage in life -- "College, of course. I plan to study biomedical engineering" -- Bamba said he's now looking forward to going to prom. He's not the only one.

"My confidence is off the roof and I'm actually looking forward to prom now," said Ariel Rivera, a senior at Bronx Center for Science and Math, on his first time in a suit.

A classmate, Diana Barragan, felt the same. "I was nervous, but I tried on 10 dresses and finally found one. This is my first time being this dressed up, it feels amazing, I really love it," she said. "At first I didn't want to go to prom, but I want to enjoy the moment -- it only happens once."

Throughout the day, volunteer
Photo Credit: Discovery

Throughout the day, volunteer "prom consultants" accompanied students from outfit selection to tailoring to makeup and beyond, serving as mentors and stylists for the selected students. One even wrote down the date of his student's prom and promised to be there to take pictures but not "cramp his style."

Durham wants the lessons of Say Yes to the Prom to extend beyond the special outfits.

"What we're teaching today is not just about how to walk in heels or stand in your dresses or how a suit should fit; these are lessons that students can carry on to job interviews," Durham said.

Khaliya McCall, a senior at Kingsborough Secondary School, is already feeling the effects. "It's been an eye-opening experience," she said, dressed in a bright coral gown with matching makeup. "I've worn colors I didn't think I would ever wear before. It's been amazing."

McCall, who plans to attend prom with her friends, is looking forward to pursuing her bachelor's in marketing and advertising after graduation and will take lessons from working with the "Say Yes" team on to college. "I'm learning to try new things and be open minded," she said.

Formalwear aside, Durham believes the key to success and style is how you present yourself.

"When I was growing up, my grandparents and my parents always had this one motto -- 'It doesn't cost any money to be clean and have manners' -- and I think that's something that will carry you a long way," Durham said, before being whisked off to another photo shoot with students.

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