Social Work Club Awarded PAVE Grant

February 23, 2022 Mary Burke

For 16 years, Hardin-Simmons University’s Social Work Club has hosted a Prom Party for local high schoolers in foster care. The yearly tradition has provided a safe space for young women in foster care to get ready for and enjoy their school’s prom.

According to Melissa Milliorn, Department Head of Social Work, there is no funding available in foster care that gives these girls the opportunity to do the fun things other children their age do. Prom Party is an emotional event for her because, “for that one day, these girls can feel love, be seen, and be heard. They are not distracted by their lives in foster care.” Mrs. Milliorn went on to say, “It’s a day where we can help remind them they are worthy.”

What originally started as a small venture has grown over the years into a community of collaboration. HSU social work students are not the only ones who participate in this special day. Volunteers from the Junior League of Abilene do the girls’ hair and makeup. The Abilene Fire Department brings a fire engine to campus to use as a fun backdrop for photos. The Six White Horses are available to ride and take photos with. And to emphasize their bright future, HSU provides tours to the ladies to encourage them to attend college.

Over the years, Abilene foster youth picked their prom dress and shoes from donated items gathered by the Social Work Club and then enjoyed a day of carefree fun. Recently, however, the club has changed the format of the event to allow the girls more of an experience by providing each participant with a $200 gift card to go shopping and pick out her own dress and shoes. This year’s Prom Party was awarded the PAVE grant from the Junior League of Abilene. Providing Assistance and Volunteer Experience (PAVE) is the League’s program to support non-profit agencies and outreach programs in Abilene through funding and/or volunteer hours. This project truly does “PAVE” the way for a better tomorrow for our community.

The Community Foundation of Abilene also contributed to this endeavor. To get involved with future Prom Parties, reach out to Lauren Cantrel, faculty advisor to the Social Work Club.