"My mom was working really hard, and I didn't want to stress her out about trying to have me attend prom and get a dress," she recalls. "She was a single mom at the time, so it was a bunch of stuff piling up and I decided not to go or entertain it. Now looking back, I wish I would have tried harder and made it happen and go to prom."
Now, by organizing a donation drive for prom apparel, she wants to give other girls in her community the opportunity she didn't have.
"I regret not being involved in my prom night, so with this, I'm trying to relive through these girls and have them feel good about attending their prom," Phillis says.
Phillis and her partner Brittany Philius started Prom Promise, a collection campaign aiming to gather donated prom dresses, accessories, clutches, and goods for students in South Florida. (The initiative is not affiliated with the nationwide drunk driving prevention campaign of the same name.)
Phillis isn't new to hosting events and activations. Her first event, Finessing IV the People, was a 2016 fundraiser for children in Haiti. Since then, she’s had the chance to work with brands, artists, and different companies. She now works as an assistant event coordinator at LR Brand & Events and still manages her projects under her own company, Katya Productions.
For Prom Promise, the partners connected with schools in Miami-Dade County. "We actually went and visited a couple of schools and spoke to counselors and students. The downtown area needs it the most, and currently we have Miami Edison Senior High School and Booker T. Washington High School onboard," Phillis says. "The students of these schools don't have opportunities like this to go out and buy dresses and nice shoes, so when we heard that, we got really inspired to make this happen."
For the last three weeks, Phillis and Philius have been accepting donations and collecting goods from locations in Broward and Dade. They've obtained most of the dresses through scheduled pickups during their work breaks or when they have time before and after work. So far they have received an outpouring of dresses, and Phillis says it's been inspiring to see the community come together to help the students out just off their social media posts.
Prom Promise will stage a pop-up event at Ark of the City in Little Haiti on April 28. That day, young women will be able to say yes to their prom dress. Sponsors 222 Taco, Misha's Cupcakes, QQ Research Consultants, and the Cut bakery will supply refreshments, and there will be dressing rooms, raffles, a DJ, and consultants who will work as "personal shoppers" to help the ladies pick their outfits.
Everything will be free, but students will be asked to show proof of attending prom and of being a high-school senior with a 2018-2019 high school ID. To go to prom, schools require students to have a 2.0 or higher GPA, so students need to bring a recent progress report or report card showing they are eligible. The Prom Promise partners also wanted to make sure all femmes feel included, and they note their event is open to anyone who identifies as femme regardless of gender.
"We're open to accepting anyone who is looking for a prom dress no matter what. If you're looking for a prom accessory, a prom dress, or prom wear, if we have it for you; anyone is welcome to
Both women are open to getting more schools onboard to optimize the donations. They also want to grow Prom Promise to provide prom wear for young men and are hoping as the movement grows, they can connect with others in the community who work in similar areas. They've also had hair stylists and manicurists reach out about doing makeup and hair for the Prom Promise activation. And they are still looking for volunteer consultants for the day of the pop-up to help the attendees find their perfect dress.
For the founders of Prom Promise, the goal is to make sure students can attend and receive the help they need.
"I'm hoping for a great turnout, and for every girl to find their prom dress and feel like the queen they are, attend prom, and have the time of their life," Phillis says. "That's the most important part. Prom is one of the best times of their high school experience, and I hope next year we can go bigger and get more people involved."
Students and donators can register on the Prom Promise site, prompromisemiami.splashthat.com, or email [email protected]. Donation deadline has been extended to April 23. Donations are accepted 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at 12429 W. Dixie Hwy., North Miami; 305-330-8740; and Capital Tax Associates, 404 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; 786-247-8740.
Prom Promise Pop-Up. Noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, April 28, at Ark of the City, 6100 NW Second Ave., Miami; arkofthecity.com. Admission is free via prompromisemiami.splashthat.com.