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Milligan student helping to make prom dreams come true

Photo by Brandon Hicks - Milligan College freshman Amanda Shepherd is continuing a local program called “Say Yes to the Dress” that she started last year as a community project in the Girl Scouts. The program provides prom dresses to area high school students from 8th grade to 12th grade. Over the last two prom seasons, nearly 50 girls from Carter County, Elizabethton and Johnson City have benefitted from the project.

By Jason Mullins 
Elizabethton Star 

For many teenage girls in the local community, the cost to purchase a prom dress can be more than they or their families can afford. One local college student, however, is trying to ensure that economics doesn’t prevent them from realizing the dream of attending their high school prom.

Amanda Shepherd is a 2011 graduate of Elizabethton High School and a current freshman at Milligan College. She came up with the idea of “Say Yes to the Dress” during her time as a Girl Scout. In order to achieve the Gold Award, which is the equivalent of an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts, Shepherd was required to develop a community-oriented project.

After investigating and researching the idea, Shepherd said she learned “They have this kind of project in other places, including Johnson City. I also saw a lot of different things about it on the Internet, but I learned we didn’t have anything like this in Carter County.”

Starting in the 2011 prom season, Shepherd began collecting new and like-new prom dresses from a variety of different sources. In the first year of the project, “Say Yes to the Dress” collected 80 dresses. Shepherd commented that 20 girls were able to attend their respective proms through the community project.

Even though Shepherd has moved on to college this year, she decided to continue collecting prom dresses for area high school students. Working in collaboration with Milligan’s Linking Individuals to the Needs of the Community, or LINC, the Elizabethton native has received help from other students and staff members at Milligan.

Since the start of the 2012 prom season, “Say Yes to the Dress” has collected an additional 50 dresses. Shepherd said the combined total of the remaining dresses from last year, along with the recent additions, has brought the total to around 100 prom dresses. “For 2012, we have provided 25 prom dresses for high school students,” she said.

In addition to collecting dresses, Shepherd noted that Paula Anderson, a faculty member at Milligan College, has been helping the girls with hair and makeup tips this year. “She has been working with the girls on different styling tips. I estimate she spent at least 20 minutes with each girl on ways to style their hair and makeup for prom night. When they’re done, we take a picture, so they can use it as a guide for the actual evening of the prom,” Shepherd added.

Even though “Say Yes to the Dress” was created to help area girls go to the prom, Shepherd said she has received a blessing from her participation.

“I don’t know exactly how to put it,” she said. “I guess I would simply have to say it’s very gratifying. A lot of the time when the girls first come in, they are very shy and reserved. But when they find that dress they want, they just open up and get a huge smile on their face. It’s an amazing thing.”

Shepherd said it isn’t too late for girls who cannot afford a dress to participate in the program. Area girls from 8th to 12th grade who attend a school in Carter County and Elizabethton are eligible to participate.

Shepherd said the program has also been opened to girls who attend Science Hill High School in Johnson City.

“We still have plenty of dresses available. All that we ask of the girls in return is to bring two cans of food,” Shepherd said.

For additional information on “Say Yes to the Dress” please call (423) 461-8711. You may also email the Milligan College LINC program at linc@milligan.edu.


MILLIGAN UNIVERSITY is a Christian liberal arts university in Northeast Tennessee whose vision is to change lives and shape culture through a commitment to servant leadership. The university offers more than 100 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in a variety of fields, along with graduate and adult degree completion programs.  To learn more about Milligan University, visit www.milligan.edu or call 800-262-8337.

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