The Valley Runway gives District 204 high school students an opportunity to find the right prom dress for them


Sarah Holzman

English teacher Ann Cluxton set up prom dresses in a variety of sizes at Graham Elementary School for high school students to choose from.

Sarah Holzman, Headlines Reporter

Every school year, the teacher and the sponsor for the women’s empowerment club, Elevate, Ann Cluxton holds an annual prom dress drive called the Valley Runway. This year, the event took place at Graham Elementary School last Friday. This tradition began in 2015 with a districtwide drive that raised around 540 dresses. The first event that allowed students to pick out a dress for prom was in March 2016. 

Cluxton began collecting prom dresses to give to students because of her wish to help kids in need. However, despite being passionate about the topic, she was not sure how it would go the first year.

“When I did the very first donation drive, I had no idea what to expect,” Cluxton said. “I mean, I was nervous about it. I thought ‘if I get 25 dresses across the district, I will be happy,’ and I was shocked to get that many donated.”

Cluxton stores the dresses at Graham Elementary School to keep a location that does not favor any high school over the others. Students from any of the three high schools in District 204 have access to this event.

“It is not at one high school or the other because it is for everyone,” Cluxton said. 

To find students who would like to partake in the process, Cluxton works with support staff, who reach out to students. If the student would like to, they can go and find a dress. The entire procedure is made to be confidential, as Cluxton believes that “just because your family or you do not have means, does not mean you should not be able to participate, or [be] equal to everyone else.”

Students can look at and try on different dresses along with their parents being able to accompany them. The dresses are donated by people throughout the district. They are also bought with money from the grant given to Cluxton to ensure that there are a variety of different sizes so any person who needs a dress can have a chance to find one. 

Each year that she holds the event, Cluxton feels a great amount of joy over being able to help young people. 

“You feel a level of excitement,” Cluxton said. “You see the beaming smiles on the faces [of the students] and the parents are so appreciative. There are a lot of tears. It is an incredible day. I am exhausted, but it is an incredible, incredible day.”