Making A Difference
This is a guest post from Tamika Blaize, the Founder and President of A Princess for a Day (APFAD)
I must start off by saying I wasn’t a great student. I wasn’t a bad student, but I didn’t ace all of my classes. I did well in English and Social Studies, but my grades in Science and Math were significantly lower. The former two came naturally to me, the latter two, not so much. And I certainly didn’t push myself. So it’s surprising to me that I would wind up forming a nonprofit that honors underserved students who excel in school. But it wasn’t quite my idea.
The idea of A Princess for a Day came to me while I was sleeping. In 2006 I woke up in the middle of the night, grabbed a notebook and wrote down the name, the colors, the mission, and the entire concept of A Princess for a Day all in one shot. And I went back to sleep. The idea came from God.
The mission for A Princess for a Day is to advocate the importance of receiving an education by inspiring and encouraging underprivileged high school students who have achieved academic excellence, even as they’ve faced obvious uncertainty and overcome adversity, by rewarding them for their perseverance and determination despite their circumstances.
We reward these exceptional high school seniors by collecting dresses from celebrities and distributing them to attending prom. On the day of prom we also provide complimentary hair, makeup, a photographer, and luxury transportation. We also pay for tailoring to ensure a perfect fit of the dresses selected by the students. In 2010 our first dress was donated by Grammy Award winning, Oscar Nominated actress, rapper, and philanthropist Queen Latifah. Since then our students have worn dresses donated by Fergie (The Black Eyed Peas), Chelsea Handler, designer Rachel Roy, fashion mogul Kimora Lee Simmons, “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts, and many more. Oscar winning actress Charlize Theron doesn’t keep her red carpet dresses so she generously presented us with a monetary donation that bought dresses for two students.
Statistically the odds are stacked against students from low income neighborhoods simply because of where they live:
every school day, almost 7000 students become dropouts. annually, that adds up to about 1.2 million students who will not graduate with their peers as scheduled (www.all4ed.org)
nationwide just over 70% of students graduate from high school (gatesfoundation.org)
graduation rates for African-American, Hispanic, and low-income students are lower still, hovering at slightly more than 50 % (gatesfoundation.org)
approximately 400,000 low-income high school students across the country graduate in the top 20% of their high school class but do not pursue postsecondary education
the predictors of dropout (i.e., delayed reading skills, grade retention, absenteeism, and school disengagement) are significantly higher for students of color, which can be linked primarily to higher rates of poverty, less access to high quality early childhood education, and higher representation in “dropout factories”
…Blacks, Hispanics, and American-Indian students…are more likely to drop out than they are to receive a diploma…and are three times more likely to live in poverty
high school students living in low-income families drop out of school at six times the rate of their peers from high-income families (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2004)
As I’ve gotten older I’ve grown to realize how easy it is to follow the crowd, how easy it is to succumb to peer pressure, how easy it is to make the wrong choice because it’s simpler and sometimes more fun than the right choice. And I’ve also realized how much strength, determination, and confidence it takes to step outside of what you know, to step outside of your surroundings, to want better for yourself, and to not accept what society and your past experience expect you to become…or not become.
The students honored by A Princess for a Day are defying the odds. And we at A Princess for a Day have determined that it is our responsibility to reward them for their accomplishments, perseverance, and determination while encouraging them to dream, achieve, and aspire. And so we continue to serve.inspire.change.
Tamika Blaize is the Founder and President of A Princess for a Day (APFAD). Based in Brooklyn, NY, APFAD has honored 13 students in Brooklyn, Queens, the South Bronx, Newark, NJ, Sleepy Hollow, NY, and Brentwood, LI. For more information please visit us at www.apfad.org and follow us on twitter at www.twitter.com/apfadorg and Instagram at www.instagram.com/aprincessforaday/.
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