Some might take their graduation outfit for granted, but not all families can afford extravagant formal clothes.
A group of Shuswap educators have been working to change that.
The ‘Fairy Gradmothers’ in School District #83 have created a program that sets up graduating students with a beautiful dress – or suit – that has been donated by past graduates and other members of the community.
The program is managed by Diyame Caterer at the Salmon Arm Secondary Sullivan Campus, and Andrea Threatful and Tori Jewell at Pleasant Valley Secondary School in Armstrong.
For her part, Caterer says it means a lot to her to be able to come through for these students and make their graduation a memorable, positive experience.
“It really is the highlight of my day when students come to see their new dress, because I work with kids that have a lot of ups and downs. For some of them, life has just gotten in the way of them being a kid,” she says. “For them to plan ahead for their ceremony, to pick out their dress and make this an important day… I have seen over the years how that impacts them, how it helps them look forward to something.”
She notes that none of their efforts would be possible without the support of the community, former grads and volunteers who help personalize these dresses for the students.
“Salmon Arm is a really amazing community, they are the ones that are really keeping the program alive. I just ask for help and it always arrives,” Caterer says. “We have former grads who bring in these stunning dresses that have been worn once, a local jeweler who donates some of her work for the girls to wear, and three local seamstresses who give their time to adjust the dresses.”
While the program is largely managed out of Salmon Arm and Armstrong, the grad clothes are available to any students in the district; a student just needs to talk with their counsellor about the program to get set up for a grad dress.
While their specialty is dresses and accessories for girls who are graduating, Caterer says they do work with suits for boys as well and are looking to improve what they can offer in that department. However, she notes that suit rentals are an affordable option for boys and, oddly enough, it is more difficult to get suits adjusted on the fly for boys.
Caterer and the Fairy Gradmothers are currently working on making an online database of the dresses and suits they have available. Anyone interested in more information about the program, or volunteering to help out, can contact Diyame Caterer in Salmon Arm at 250-832-2188, or Tori Jewell in Armstrong at 250-546-3114.