Project provides seniors with prom dresses

Bailee Hoogeryde tries on a prom dress.
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Cuba Montero, a counselor at Pacifica High School, has spent a great deal of time organizing Ariel’s Closet, an annual program that collects previously worn prom dresses and repurposes them for this year’s prom goers, free of charge.

Named after the daughter of Triton, the school’s mascot, Ariel’s Closet started five years ago as a grassroots program organized by Montero, Pacifica High School teachers and their friends.

“We collected about 100 prom dresses and then made those dresses available to our students for prom, free of charge, during lunchtime,” she said.

The program has grown into a two-day event that transformed the school’s cafeteria into an all-things-prom exhibition, Montero explained.

“We’re on the honor system and the girls respect that and don’t take advantage of it,” she said.

Radio personality Nancy Rodriquez first got involved with Ariel’s Closet while working at Q104.7, a former sponsor of the program. Rodriquez also expanded Ariel’s Closet to serve all Ventura County high schools as part of the newly formed Prom Dress Project.

Project provides seniors with prom dresses

“Unfortunately, many of the girls that need help are embarrassed to come and ask for the dresses. We figured that we could make it easier for them by making it more like a party, having a DJ and involving hair and make-up demonstrations, which opened it up for the girls and made it a little more exciting,” Rodriquez said. “We’re also giving away prizes, including gift cards from the sponsors.”

Having collected close to 400 dresses this year, as well as wraps, shoes and other accessories, the first day of the event was open exclusively to Pacifica High School students and provided more than 125 of them with dresses. On the second day, Friday, Ariel’s Closet was opened to seniors at all of Ventura County’s high schools.

Also participating were Mission Tuxedos and Men’s Warehouse; florists Not Just Flowers and Flowers in the Park; hair and make-up artist Beatrice Najera, who did live demonstrations using students as models and donated five free hair and make-up sessions; JDK Shoes, who raffled off several pairs of shoes; and DJ Anthony “Smokey” Pichardo, who flooded the room with music.

Partnering with the Young Leaders Society of the United Way has expanded Ariel’s Closet. “United Way has strong relationships with businesses in the local community,” said United Way’s Pedro Chavez. “In addition to getting the support of local businesses, we also distributed information about the project through the workplace campaign of United Way, which reached over 180 businesses in Ventura County.”

Sonny Shah, owner of Four Seasons Dry Cleaners, has donated dry cleaning services for all of the donated clothing since the inception of Ariel’s Closet.

“This community has given me my livelihood. I do this as a way of repaying the community,” Shah said.

For information on donating dresses next year to Ariel’s Closet, email

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