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(Digital Vision./Thinkstock)
(Digital Vision./Thinkstock)

How can we throw a prom that’s socially conscious? Add to ...

THE QUESTION

My prom is coming up in a couple of days and it has been making me think: How can we make prom more socially conscious?

THE ANSWER

If there’s one thing we would put at the top of our list for a socially conscious prom, it’s this: Make it inclusive.

Kassy was stoked for her high school prom. She had a dress and everything else she needed - except for the ticket. Unfortunately, with her father unemployed and her mother working to support a family of six, the household budget just didn’t stretch.

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Andrena Finn is a teacher at Kassy’s school, St. Peter’s Secondary School in Peterborough, Ont. Ms. Finn helps the student prom committee organize the event and she has seen too many kids like Kassy, missing a highlight of their school years because they couldn’t afford it.

Last year, Ms. Finn took action, organizing a fundraising fashion show. She talked local companies into lending dresses and tuxes, makeup, and accessories for the student models to wear. Some businesses even donated the items permanently for students in need to use for the prom. The event generated more than $500 in cash donations, and the items gifted by businesses were valued at more than $1,000.

The money was used to purchase tickets for students who couldn’t afford them. Ms. Finn and the school staff identified students in need and approached them discreetly to avoid any social stigma.

Kassy, who had a great time, says she’ll be donating her dress to a girlfriend so she can also afford to go to her prom.

Many kids can’t go to the ball because of financial barriers. So if you want to make prom more socially conscious, look for ways to remove obstacles so everyone can have a special night.

Hold a pre-prom fundraising event like a fashion show to reduce the ticket costs associated with venue rental, food and decorations. Start a donate-a-dress program at your school. At St. Peter’s Secondary, home economics students volunteer their time to alter donated dresses.

Choose a location for your prom that’s easy for everyone to get to. Don’t forget wheelchair accessibility. Even if none of your classmates need it, you never know who they might bring as their date.

We remember the popularity contest that evolved out of voting for our prom kings and queens, which resulted in social divisions and hurt feelings. Instead of celebrating just a couple of people, celebrate everyone. Centennial High School in Calgary does not have a prom king and queen. Instead, they set up a decorative arch with ribbons and balloons, purchase dollar-store crowns and a ribbon for a sash, and let everyone have their photo taken as the king and queen. Decorate the room with photos of all your classmates. Come up with a special award for each of your classmates and present them at the prom.

There’s a wealth of other ways to have a greener and more socially conscious prom.

Make yourself beautiful with organic makeup that contains natural ingredients. For your corsage or boutonniere, opt for locally grown flowers rather than imports that were flown in and have a big carbon footprint.

Another growing trend is “tan-free” proms. At schools like Pickering High School in Ajax, Ont., students pledge not to use tanning beds before their prom to promote a healthier lifestyle, avoiding the associated skin cancer risks.

A mid-size stretch limo uses as much gas as an SUV, but can fit 10 people or more. If you want to ride in style, make it a party and get all your friends on board. It’s more environmentally friendly than arriving in 10 separate cars.

Create your prom atmosphere with decorations that can be put away and reused next year, instead of simply thrown out.

Use your prom as an opportunity to give back. Ask everyone to bring a can of food for the local food bank or take donations for a charity selected by your class.

Nothing will taint your prom memories like remembering a friend lost to drinking and driving. Take steps to make your prom safe. Many schools, such as Philip Pocock Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga are now organizing dry after-parties. Hire a bus or organize a volunteer shuttle service to get people home.

When the night is over, bring the leftover food to a soup kitchen.

Our biggest concern at our proms was working up the courage to ask for a date. We’re incredibly impressed to see students thinking bigger.

Craig and Marc Kielburger co-founded Free the Children. Follow Craig atfacebook.com/craigkielburgerand@craigkielburgeron Twitter. Send questions toLivebetter@globeandmail.com.

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