Between the banquet, the dance and the after-party, the costs involved in high school graduations are sky-high. But this year, a Camrose principal wants to make sure cost doesn’t deter any of her students from celebrating their accomplishment.
Laura Swanson is the principal of the Camrose Outreach School. This year, it expects to have about 15 students graduate. She says in the past, she’s had students not go because they can’t afford dress clothes. That’s why she started the Princess Project.
“I just give grad dresses to girls who are graduating who otherwise maybe wouldn’t be able to afford a grad dress,” Swanson explained.
“Grad is expensive,” said student Shawny Paliuk.
“It was good to just try on any dress you wanted.”
The first donation to the project came from a local clothing shop, Tish’s Fashions. They just kept pouring in from there.
“I’ve got dresses from Forestburg, the Daysland area, from people in the Beaumont area that have heard about the project, Wetaskiwin,” Swanson said.
It’s not just dresses, either.
“The generosity of people has just been overwhelming. I have people donating things like jewelry, I’ve had people donating shoes.”
Everything donated is given away free of charge, and for someone like 19-year-old Brandy Tyhy, that’s key.
“I moved here six or seven months ago as a homeless youth and I stay at a shelter here in Camrose,” she explained.
If she didn’t get a dress from the Princess Project, she wouldn’t have gone to grad at all.
“I would’ve just had casual street clothes. Everyone has dresses or tuxedos,” she said.
For Swanson, it’s a labour of love.
“I just want them to all get the same opportunity as everybody else and feel special for that day of grad. It’s a big day for everybody,” she said.
“They might try on four or five or six dresses, but you always know which one is going to be the one because their whole face changes. They’re done and it’s like, ‘Are you going to say yes to the dress?'”
Currently, students are being referred to Swanson by their teachers, but she says she’s open to helping grads in need from anywhere — not just Camrose.
Even though this is just the first year for the Princess Project, she’s hopeful it won’t be the last.
“I have no intentions of seeing this come to an end.”
Swanson is hoping that in the future she will also get donations of dress clothes for young men as well.
Her kindness is appreciated by the graduates.
“Thank you, so much,” Tyhy said.
“It means the world to me to actually be able to graduate, make my family proud of me.”
To donate or identify a graduate in need, email email@example.com