Discovery, Belk pitch in for prom

Josh FloryOur Town Teens

Prom season got a lot more exciting last week for students at five Knox County high schools, thanks to generous support from two corporate sponsors.


On Tuesday, Discovery Inc. hosted “Say Yes to the Prom” at its Sherrill Boulevard campus. More than 200 students from Fulton, Central, Halls and Gibbs high schools were invited to pick out dresses, tuxes, jewelry and accessories for prom, while also receiving styling tips and haircuts.

Two days later, seniors at Austin-East High School gathered in the auditorium to learn that department store Belk will pay for their masquerade-themed prom, donating dresses, tuxedos and accessories while also covering the cost of a venue, entertainment and food.

“Say Yes to the Prom” will provide dresses, tuxes, styling and accessories for students from Central, Fulton, Gibbs and Halls high schools.

The events highlighted the role that corporate partners play in supporting KCS students and teachers, and offered both companies a chance to show off both their style and their community spirit.

Monte Durham of the show “Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta,” which airs on Discovery’s TLC channel, posed for red-carpet selfies and chatted with students.

Durham said he grew up in a West Virginia home with no running water and an outside toilet, so he understands financial struggles and the difference it can make to dress well for an important occasion.

Durham said it’s amazing to speak with students about their future plans, and that Discovery hopes to be a part of that.

“We hope today that outside of finding a beautiful dress or tuxedos and shoes and jewelry and the glitz and the glamour, that we’re encouraging, inspiring and motivating these students to continue this celebration in education and move forward with it,” he said.

Belk will pay the prom costs of seniors at Austin-East High School, as part of the department store’s “Project Hometown” initiative.

At Austin-East, principal Nathan Langlois kicked off the auditorium meeting with an academic pep talk before introducing Patrick Dunbar, Belk’s store manager at West Town Mall. After Dunbar unveiled the prom surprise, several A-E students came on stage to show off their formal wear and masquerade masks.

One of those students was De’Onte Bishop, a senior who said the promotion is like a dream come true. Bishop said he knows some students who wouldn’t have gone to prom without the Belk program, which will let students “showcase what we’ve got to offer.”

“It’s great … A lot of people have single parents here, so it’s less stress on the parents and less stress on the students who go to school and work and have to worry about other things,” he said.

Tyler Hampton, a spokesman for Belk, said the Project Hometown initiative looks for ways to make an impact in communities where Belk has stores.

Hampton said students at Austin-East generally have to raise funds for prom. “We wanted to take that weight off of their shoulders so that they could just focus on being a kid and enjoying one of the most memorable experiences of their lives,” he said.

Josh Flory is a multi-media specialist with Knox County Schools and writes this blog, Hall Pass, for the KCS website.

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