Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Prom Dress Drive Fever


Since this feature of mine did not get published or submitted online on behalf of my school newspaper, I've decided to post the concept myself here (don't worry I'm not bitter).

I'm sure my campus is no different from any other when it comes to organizations finding creative ways to raise money or items in support of a philanthropy specific to that particular group.

At Longwood three organizations on campus attempted to host prom dress drives this semester to collect prom dresses for high school girls hoping to go to prom but might not be able to afford a dress during these hard economic times. Only two of the three groups were successful.

The Longwood Ambassadors and Delta Zeta came together to co-sponsor a collection for Prince Edward County Schools. Delta Zeta Philanthropy Chair, Kelsey Ferguson said that the idea was brought to Delta Zeta and Ambassador adviser, Shannon Hersman, from a teacher at Prince Edward County. “They had had the idea before but it kind of fell through. There was either no interest or not enough interest,” said Ferguson. She went on to explain that in order to ensure the donation drive would not fall through again, the association wanted to bring it to Longwood where there would potentially be more interest and involvement.

Word of the Prom Dress Drive passed through Delta Zeta and onto the Ambassadors. Kathleen Maxey, a Delta Zeta sister and Ambassador, decided to contact Maryanne Hull, the Ambassador community service chair to see if the Prom Dress Drive could become a joint effort between these two active groups on campus. “It’s kind of a big [project] for just one organization, so we decided to get a co-sponsor and a sorority [was] the best idea,” said Hull.

Longwood is not alone when it comes to collecting prom dresses for high school teens. Check out these cats who actually mad it on the news for their work collecting dresses:

Prom Dress Drive on NBC -- LPE / Communication Society

Hosting a Prom Dress Drive isn't a new concept and did not originate on college campuses. The Princess Project is most likely where the original concept came from; if not, it is at least the biggest and most successful organization that hosts this type of drive. According to their website, The Princess Project "promotes self-confidence and individual beauty by providing free prom dresses and accessories to high school girls who cannot otherwise afford them. Our effort is made possible through invaluable volunteer, donor and community support."

The Princess Project started in February of 2002 when one girl needed a dress for her prom. The founders, Laney Whitcanack and Kristi Smith Knutson, responded to her plea by collecting dresses from friends and family. The concept caught on and became more and more popular when an overwhelming amount of donations and support came from women from all over. Today, the Princess Project has expanded to a total of four locations and helps over 3,000 girls every prom season.

All three Longwood students said that they would love to do the drive again and would even consider putting a drive together in the fall for homecoming.
“I would love to do it again. I love to make an impact, not just on Longwood but for Prince Edward County as well. And I think it would be pretty awesome that if we could get at least 100 dresses that would impact 100 seniors, 100 juniors so that they could go to prom,” said Ferguson

“I just want to stress that if you were in that position, you would really appreciate, you know, having a gorgeous dress to wear, to go and to do what everyone else can,” said Hull.

A prom dress is something that I would say most of us girls expect and take for granted. Dress drives like these take something so simple and make girls everywhere feel special. It's hard to believe that there are some girls out there that don't even expect to be able to get dressed up and go to prom. I'm just glad that this simple concept has become something that more and more people have caught on to and want to support.

The prom dress drive at Longwood has concluded, but if you would like to donate a dress you can do so HERE via the Princess Project website.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Standing on my Soapbox

It was the night before Thanksgiving and Andrew, Jess, and Tyler were all coming home from a high school hockey game. It was almost midnight when they stopped at an intersection, waiting for the light to turn from red to green. Suddenly their car hurtled forward into the intersection from some strong force behind them, and then it was dark.

That strong force was a drunk driver going 70 miles an hour into the back of their vehicle. Tyler, who happened to be sitting in the back seat, was killed instantly from the crushing blow. Jess, who was sitting in the front passenger’s seat, went into a coma for a month and when she finally woke up she had to learn everything, including how to walk, all over again. Andrew was in the driver’s seat and was the only one to come out of the crash relatively unscathed, despite the countless visits to therapy that he still attends to this day.

In 2005, my friend Tyler was killed by a drunk driver. A drunk driver who was sentenced to 10 years in jail. A drunk driver who was 35 years old. Not some teenager.

Drinking and driving has been an issue for too long in the United States and admittedly, teens are often the culprits. According to, 40% of all fatal traffic crashes in the United States involve a teenager driving under the influence. But I can’t help but wonder about the rest; that 60%. I don’t understand why teens are always the ones targeted and blamed. I’m not saying they are not at fault, but aren’t we forgetting to educate and caution every other age group?

First off, let me take the time to say this: To drink and then operate a motor vehicle might as well be the same as carrying a gun cocked and loaded, hoping no one will run into you to set it off. You are knowingly endangering yourself and others on the road.

Second, to all the parents out there: TALK TO YOUR KIDS. Teens are still contributors to drunk driving. If they develop good habits at a young age they will carry it on throughout their lives. As lame as it might sound: they are the future. Having open communication could save their lives.

For example, one of the conundrums teens face is whether or not they should drive home to make it in time for curfew, despite the fact that they had been drinking. My parents made it clear to me when I started driving that if I found myself in that situation, my ass better call them to pick me up—no questions asked.

And lastly, listen and support organizations that work to stop drunk driving. I know MADD might, at times, come off as “preachy,” especially to teens. But they have good intentions, I promise.

On their website, MADD explains that they are “dedicated to supporting state legislation that expands the use of current alcohol ignition interlock technology so that interlocks are mandatory for all convicted drunk drivers in all 50 states” They list an explanation for alcohol ignition interlock technology as follows:

• “An alcohol ignition interlock is a small, sophisticated device – about the size of a cell phone – which is installed into the starting circuit of a vehicle.
• A driver must blow into the device and the vehicle will not start if the driver has measurable alcohol (set to a predetermined level) in their system.
• If the driver does not have alcohol above the measurable level in their system, the vehicle will start normally.
• Interlocks may be set for “running retests,” which require a driver to provide breath tests at regular intervals, preventing drivers from asking a sober friend to start the car.
• If a driver fails a running retest, the vehicle’s horn will honk and/or the lights will flash to alert law enforcement – the vehicle will not stop. The interlock does not have the ability to stop the vehicle once it is running for safety reasons.”

It's a nice thought, but is it practical?

MADD also believes that “it’s highly conceivable that in 10 years cars will have alcohol sensors to stop drunk driving all together” because of the rapid development technology these days. For example, on the MADD website, the organization explains that they have “partnered with leaders in the traffic safety and auto industries to further explore the possibilities of eliminating drunk driving through four possible advanced vehicle technologies.” They list the four vehicle technologies as follows:
1. “Advanced breath testing – both individual testing and testing for alcohol in the vehicle
2. Using visible light to measure BAC through spectroscopy
3. Using non-invasive touch-based systems to measure BAC through the skin
4. Eye-movement measurement technology, including involuntary eye movements related to BAC and eye closure that can indicate drowsiness”

Okay I’ve said my piece. Now what’s yours?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Is Lady Gaga... Gaga?

Lady Gaga was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta on March 28, 1986 in New York City. She could play the piano by age 4, wrote her first piano ballad at age 13 and began performing at open mic nights by age 14. She began performing in the rock music scene of New York City's Lower East Side and soon signed with Streamline Records, an imprint of Interscope Records, upon its establishment in 2007. Talent is something that she does not lack in…

Gaga’s life moved quickly to get where she is today and it continues to move just as fast now that she’s in the limelight. And from the sound of it, she wouldn’t have it any other way. From epic music videos to outrageous performances, Gaga has a say in every aspect of her career... right down to what everyone can’t stop talking about: her outfits.

Gaga definitely marches to the beat of her own drum, to say the least. If you don’t know her from her music, you sure know her from her unique attire.

Gaga is the ultimate example of how we, as individuals use articles to represent ourselves. Artifacts are typically clothes or some kind of object we carry around consistently. We use these objects, subconsciously or not, to announce our identities and heritage and to personalize our environment. Gaga takes this idea to the next level. She, unlike most of us, is conscious of what she wears and what it means. Many identify her to be similar to Cyndi Lauper ("Girls Just Wanna Have Fun"). As her audience, we might not always understand what she is trying to say with every outfit.

But does this bother Gaga? …What do you think?

On her January 15, 2010 appearance on Oprah, she opened up about the hidden, symbolic meaning behind some of her craziest outfits.

You can watch Gaga’s appearance on Oprah HERE and HERE.

In part one she explained a number of her outfits. For example, her VMA “Paparazzi” performance, where she hung by a rope covered in fake blood, was symbolic of Princess Diana and how she was—in Gaga’s words “murdered” by the paparazzi.

“All the things that I do in the terms of the fame and the fame monster it’s meant to sort of make it a bit easier to swallow this kind of horrific media world that we live in,” said Gaga.

In part two she explained that her primary message to all of her fans is to “free themselves and be proud of who they are and celebrate all the things they don’t like about themselves the way that [she] did and be so truly happy from inside.”

This interview with Oprah really opened my eyes and answered a lot of questions I had about Gaga. First of all, I realized that I had been incredibly judgmental. Why do I have to make sense of her? Who am I to assume anything about her? Second of all, after listening to what she had to say I now respect her more than ever. She might be insane, but at least she is thought provoking and memorable. That’s a quality that most artists only dare to dream of.

But what do you think? Is Gaga off her rocker and nothing else? Or is she more than what meets the eye?