Prom is an American tradition, one that Identity staffer Sofia Cabral hoped the immigrant teens she works with could experience. Sofia is part of the Watkins Mill High School Wellness Center team. But the teens told her they felt intimidated by prom and worried about the costs. Plus, they had no transportation since prom was being held miles away at the Argyle Country Club in Silver Spring.

Nonetheless, Sofia knew if she could find a way, prom would be an experience that would expand the teens’ horizons – exposing them to a fun American tradition and further solidifying their connection to school. So, Sofia convinced 14 students to give it a try if some of the barriers could be lifted and started working on tickets and transportation. At the same time, the school’s ESOL Counselor Lulu Fetzer-Munoz approached the Wellness Center with an idea for formal wear. She found a Bethesda boutique called Once Upon a Prom willing to donate dresses. The boutique in turn arranged for free suit rentals for the boys through Men’s Warehouse. Sofia and her colleagues took the students to pick out their formal wear and arranged to use one of Identity’s minibuses for the evening. But they didn’t stop there. The Wellness Center staff decorated the bus, inside and out, with signs, ribbons and balloons.

On Friday April 29, Sofia and colleague Clarence McNeary, our 480 Club partner, drove the festooned bus and dressed-up teens to Argyle Country Club, where they joined their classmates for the first in-person prom in two years! The teens and the WC staff had so much fun, as you can see from their faces in the photos. And when the last slow dance was over and they were dropped off at home, the happy and exhausted students had an experience they’ll never forget. As Carolyn Camacho, Identity Program Director reflected, “Helping newly arrived teens with opportunities to feel connected to the school community has so many benefits that have an impact well beyond this moment. It connects them to their education, to trusted adults, bringing them one step closer to realizing their dreams.”