Project Prom 2019 ...

Mar Vista High counselor Lissette Torres shows off the prom dresses for Project Prom 2019. A collection of dresses are offered to be worn at this year’s prom to young girls.

Whether you’ve been to prom or not, you’ve definitely heard of it. It’s the big event in every cheesy high school movie. It’s arguably the biggest dance for high school, and for many girls, it’s the night they get to feel like the most beautiful versions of themselves. A huge part of this experience is the prom dress. The only problem with this is that prom dresses can be very expensive. So how can one have their dream dress if they can’t afford it? Lizzette Torres-Mathews and Kelly Debenham have a solution.

There are different organizations that provide dresses for girls who need them, but many of them are out of reach for the Mar Vista High community. Torres-Mathews and Debenham saw this issue and tackled it head on. Debenham is a school nurse, and Torres-Mathews is a counselor, so they both dedicate most of their time to helping students. They came up with the Project Prom.

Torres-Mathews said, “The dress drive idea has always been something I’ve wanted to do for our students who are not financially stable. Nurse Kelly and I were talking a few years ago and decided we wanted to do something nice for our students. She later found an organization that provides the girls with dresses, shoes and jewelry and all we had to do is take out girls on the bus and the girls were able to pick their own outfits for prom. Due to the lack of funds this year we are unable to get a bus to transport our students, and so I discussed with Nurse Kelly bringing Project Prom to IB!”

Debenham added, “Prom dresses cost anywhere from $200-$1500 each, which is out of reach for most of our girls. We are hoping the community will donate prom dresses, evening gowns and cocktail dresses directly to our school site.”

The pair has already collected about 13 dresses; they have their sights set on collecting around 30-40. They want to have enough to give the students a couple options to choose from. Ideally, they’ll hold an event on Saturday where girls can come to the school and search for their dream dress, as well as get their hair and makeup done by professionals. They want to have staff volunteers, snacks, and water as well.

Torres-Mathews said, “Imperial Beach is a small community and I believed it’s in our best interest to help our own kids in need. I love working and living in a small town where if someone needs help we are there for them! I think that events such as these help bring everyone together in times of need. Project Prom means giving someone the opportunity to have fun and experience high school as it should be, without worrying about the financial aspect of it! It gives our students and parents the opportunity to enjoy prom.”

This year the Mar Vista prom is May 26 and will be at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort.

Project Prom is a great way to bring the community together in support of our Mariners. Every girl deserves to have the prom they’ve always dreamed about, in the dress they’ve always dreamed of. If you’re interested in donating a dress, or shoes or jewelry, you can drop it off in the Mar Vista High School front office, 505 Elm Avenue, email the pair directly at or, or call them at 619-628-5722 by May 3.

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