“It’s so sad that there are girls who cannot afford a beautiful dress for their bat mitzvah celebration”. This is what my online bat mitzvah student told me recently when we were talking about her ceremony. My student came to me several months ago to learn how to sing a Torah portion as part of her celebration and she said that she wants to learn more than just what is needed to perform at a bat mitzvah ceremony. She thinks it’s unfair and unjust that there are girls and families who want to have a celebration but the girls are too ashamed to get up in front of the crowd because they don’t have any beautiful clothes. So my student was determined to find a charity where she could donate after her celebration, a beautiful dress so that another girl could wear it and be proud to sing her Torah portion in front of a large crowd. That’s when my bat mitzvah student decided to find a charity to help out with her cause.
The Corsage Project, is a non-profit program in Toronto dedicated to giving the authentic prom experience to young women who would not otherwise have the opportunity to celebrate with their peers due to the high cost of formal wear.
The Corsage Project also helps local high school graduates achieve their post-secondary goals. Working with at-risk and special-needs youth throughout their careers in Toronto high schools, Carole Atkins and Rhona Sallay saw firsthand the evolution of prom from a simple celebration of an important milestone to a costly event that placed unnecessary financial pressure on students – many who were working hard at school and at part-time jobs to help support their families. For these students, attending prom was simply too expensive.
Carole and Rhona were determined to even the playing field by ensuring that no student was denied the opportunity to celebrate the achievement of high school graduation because of cost.
In 2000, the Corsage Project was created for young women attend their prom by providing them with a new dress, accessories and a mini-makeover – all free of charge.
Participants are identified through confidential referrals from school guidance counsellors and teachers.