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posted: 3/23/2010 12:01 AM

Buy a prom dress in Antioch and help an African school

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  • Antioch Community High School teachers Kerri Elliott, left and Donna Corcoran look over some of the 300 dresses that will be for sale in the "Prom On A Dime" fundraising event set for next month.

       Antioch Community High School teachers Kerri Elliott, left and Donna Corcoran look over some of the 300 dresses that will be for sale in the "Prom On A Dime" fundraising event set for next month.
    Vince Pierri | Staff Photographer

By Vincent Pierri

An Antioch Community High School teacher is hoping dozens of budget-minded girls will buy used prom dresses in a sale that will help an impoverished African school.

Kerri Elliott is staging the second annual "Prom-on-a-Dime" next month. The event allows high school girls to buy gently used prom dresses in the $10 to $50 range, and send the proceeds to the Kilimahewa School in Moshi, Tanzania. The dress shop will be set up in the school library.

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Elliott's connection to Kilimahewa dates to 2008 when she and friend Jillian Swinford volunteered at the school that serves about 30 students, ages 14 to 18.

"I fell in love with this community," said Elliott, 29. "I've never met a group of people so loving in the midst of so much poverty."

The school started "under a tree with a chalkboard," in 2006, she said. The students have a love of learning but lack the most basic items, including a nearby source for clean drinking water.

Elliott and others are calling on family, friends, fellow teachers and staff to donate used dresses.

Nearly 200 dresses were sold at last year's inaugural effort, raising $1,100. Elliott expects to sell nearly 300 this year.

She is partnering with business education teacher Donna Corcoran this year. The educators saw the fundraising effort as a teachable moment for business students.

Local merchants have been encouraged to buy a $10 spot in an advertising supplement the students are producing. Those fliers will be put in the hands of the girls who come to shop.

"This reaches the core market of some of these businesses," Corcoran said. Half of the ad dollars will also benefit the Tanzanian school.

Corcoran said the kids are getting lesson in marketing and advertising.

"This is really about high schoolers helping high schoolers," Corcoran said. "For my business students, it's a hands-on project and for such a good cause. It was a natural fit for us."

The sale isn't limited to Antioch students, but is open to any girls in Lake County looking for a deal.

The shop will be open 3 to 7 p.m. Friday, April 9, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 10.

"We've contacted schools in Waukegan, North Chicago, Round Lake and others to come on out," Corcoran said.

Elliott was recently awarded the Human Services and Civil Rights Award by the Illinois Education Association for her efforts to aid the African school.

More information about Kilimahewa can be found at

Elliott said she's grateful to recognized, but only because it might bring more publicity to the cause. And, she said, it's so much more than just handing money to needy people.

"Charity is great, but people need to take ownership," she said. "You need to do more than hand out money. Money without accountability can lead to corruption. You need to teach them the skills to be self-sustaining."

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