A Night to Shine’ gives all high school students a chance to enjoy prom

Prom night is one of the most memorable occasions students experience in high school, especially for seniors. Girls especially go to great lengths to look their best for prom, looking not only for the perfect dress, but also making sure that their hair, makeup and nails are also perfect. They spend a lot of time, and often money, in this endeavor. However, not all girls have the money for a formal dress or to go to a salon.
Aimee Gerla, an educator at the Ozark Technical Community College and the wife of Aaron Gerla, superintendent of Ash Grove Schools, believes that all students should have a chance to enjoy prom night, and that a lack of money shouldn’t stand in their way. For that reason, she started “A Night to Shine” so all students can have the best prom experience possible.
“My husband and I have worked in a school setting our entire adult life,” she said. “We hate seeing kids have to struggle because of finances just to enjoy some of the experiences most kids take for granted.  Everyone deserves to have a great prom night. We hope this takes some stress off these kids.”
Currently, Gerla has about 200 gently-used prom dresses at Deli Dazzle, on 125 West Main Street in Ash Grove. Dresses can be looked at and picked out every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Girls can get a dress for free with a special voucher, which is available from the school’s high-school guidance counselor, or at some area churches. Gerla said the counselors give out the vouchers to make sure the program is not abused.
“I asked the counselors’ office to do this for me because they have a better idea of who needs our services rather than people taking advantage of the system,” she said.
However, some girls would rather pay for their dresses. In that case, Gerla said, they can purchase the dresses for half of the price at which they are marked.
“We want everyone that needs a little help to benefit from these dresses, and I know that some people don’t feel comfortable getting things for free,” Gerla said.
Regardless of whether girls get their dresses with a voucher or pay half-price for them, Gerla said the dresses are theirs to keep.
“We do encourage them to pay back the favor if they come across someone that needs a dress in the future,” she said.
The endeavor is not just for girls. Boys who need help renting a tuxedo can also pick up a voucher at the counselor’s office. Gerla said Karl’s Tuxedos is partnering with A Night to Shine, which have “offered us a great deal on the tuxedo rentals.”
“There is a small fee for us to pay, but we have been blessed with donations to cover that cost,” she wrote on the Night to Shine Facebook page.
Gerla said the endeavor also covers shoes.
“We have free shoe vouchers for Payless Shoes, donated by an amazing sponsor,” she said.
Next month, A Night to Shine will host an open house at Deli Dazzle. Girls will not only be able to get their prom dresses, but Gerla said there would be gift certificates for free hair-styling. Boys will be able to be measured for their tuxedos, and there will also be certificates for free shoes. Gerla said ladies would be there to help the girls with their dresses, and there would also be light snacks for kids and parents. The open house will take place on Saturday, Feb. 9, from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.
A Night to Shine is not just for Ash Grove High School students. Gerla said students of other high schools can also get free formal dresses or tuxedo vouchers.
“If your school is not listed as one that we are currently working with and you need assistance, please ask your counselor or teacher to contact me and I will provide them with a voucher,” Gerla said. “We are wanting to help all those that need it.”  
Gerla said the end goal of A Night to Shine is to make sure all students can have a great prom experience.
“It can be so hard on these kids to ‘keep up’ with the expectations of today’s world,” she said. “The price of prom and homecoming dresses are getting so high and impossible for some to afford. We want to make this available, so everyone can feel beautiful.”
All of the prom dresses available through A Night to Shine have been donated, and if a girl has a gently used prom dress that she’s no longer using, Gerla said they can use them.
“We love donations,” Gerla said. “Please look at your dresses, and if you have some that are still in great shape, we would love them.” Gerla added that they are only accepting prom dresses.
For more information about A Night to Shine, contact Aimee Gerla via e-mail at aimeegerla@gmail.com, or go to the A Night to Shine page on Facebook.  Area high school counselors who need to contact Gerla about a voucher should send an email to anighttoshine70@gmail.com.
 

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