[Hpn] Smiles, frills rule evening at homeless school's prom;Pappas School;Phoenix AZ

Morgan W. Brown morganbrown@hotmail.com
Thu, 14 Jun 2001 13:22:46 -0400

If you haven't come across this yet, below is a forward of another article 
which focuses on the Pappas school which serves only students who are 
homeless in Phoenix Arizona. There is brief mention in it to what is going 
on with S.1 and the Kyl "School Segregation" Amendment to protect segregated 
schools like Pappas - which is what I believe is truly behind this article.

If you use the below Web address to go to the articles source, there is a 
link there which leads to a slideshow of the Thomas J. Pappas School prom as 

This reporters bias seems fairly clear and straight forward, in my mind 

To me, this event and the article about it are nothing more than a stunt and 
its vehicle to tug at the heart strings of readers to justify saving 
something which should not be allowed to continue.

It really irks me-(polite understatement) that young people are used and law 
makers and the general public are misinformed in such a disgusting way.

For those so inclined, the reporter, Karina Bland, can be contacted via 
karina.bland@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-8614.

In addition, FYI, there is also a Web site for the Pappas School at:

Thomas J. Pappas School:


Morgan <morganbrown@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont


-------Forwarded article-------

Sunday, June 3, 2001
The Arizona Republic
[Phoenix, Arizona]
Smiles, frills rule evening at homeless school's prom

Karina Bland
The Arizona Republic
June 3, 2001

Saturday night was the first time 15-year-old Yuri Uribe ever wore a dress, 
and she wore it for the first-ever prom at the Thomas J. Pappas School for 
homeless kids.

"When I walked in, it was just beautiful," Yuri said, looking lovely herself 
in a black velvet top with yards of shimmering white skirt given to her by a 

Close to 100 teenagers pushed aside curtains of golden ribbons to get into 
the cafeteria, barely recognizable for all the purple and gold balloons, 
strings of tiny white lights and crisp tablecloths.

The kids came on city buses from shelters and pay-by-the-week motels and in 
state vans from group foster homes. A group of kids arrived in a white 
limousine, paid for by someone's grandmother.

"People might say we don't deserve this because we're homeless and we can't 
afford it," said Rebecca Herrera, 17, student council secretary.

She lives in a group foster home.

"Just because you come from a bad life and you go to this school doesn't 
mean you shouldn't have the same things as other teenagers," she said.

The Phoenix school is under fire in Washington, D.C., for segregating kids 
from their regular public school peers. A longtime favorite Arizona charity, 
the school at Fifth Avenue and Van Buren Street has been open for more than 
a decade.

Pappas stands to lose $850,000, almost two-thirds of its annual budget, in 
federal funds if a pending vote in Congress to remove a ban on separate 
schools for homeless kids doesn't go its way.

But there was no talk of any of that there Saturday night.

"It's itchy," said Donovan Lewis, 16, shrugging his shoulders in a crisp 
white shirt and pulling at the maroon and blue paisley tie. "Too much 

Almost everything for the prom was donated: the disc jockey from a local 
radio station, the two 5-by-7 photos for each couple, the food, the fresh 
white shirts and black ties for the boys.

Students from Arizona State University raised money for the decorations and 
came early to help some girls with hair, makeup and nails. Even the soda was 

"Everybody needs to know they are special," said Ernalee Phelps, the 
school's development director. "Generation after generation, teenagers have 
celebrated their high school years by dressing up for a special night like 

Maricopa County school officials started offering high school classes at 
Pappas three years ago. This is the first time the school has had a junior 
class for a junior prom.

Ryan Bacon stood in line with his date to have their picture taken against a 
facade of a starry night and an ivy covered bridge.

"You're supposed to have a prom. It's a high school tradition," he said.

Principal Keith Greer said the prom was a rare chance at normalcy for these 
kids, who often miss out on the regular things of childhood: Little League 
and piano lessons, three meals a day, a safe place to sleep.

Ryan has been at Pappas for eight years. He picked up his date's hand, the 
one with the single yellow rose wrist corsage, and said, "We deserve this. 
Everyone deserves this."

Even a fairy godmother

The fairy godmother dressing about 60 of these girls is Wilma Dunai, who 
closed her fancy dress store, Wedding Day Bridals in Phoenix, on Thursday 
after 12 years.

She is retiring.

Dunai called Pappas and offered the girls their choice from racks of 
colorful dresses. They came a few at a time, trying on the bright silks and 
yards of taffeta.

"It was like little kids at Christmas," she said.

The girls couldn't believe the dresses were their own. "We get to keep 
these?" they asked again and again.

Dunai had the dresses altered and shoes dyed to match.

She wasn't at the prom Saturday night, though the girls had begged her to 
come. "It's their night," she said Thursday before the prom.

Dunai didn't go to her own high school prom, now many years ago. She 
delighted in the girls' anticipation and joy.

"I think it was better than having gone to the prom myself," she said, her 
words catching in her throat.

'Best night of our lives'

Rebecca Herrera didn't find a dress until a week before the dance. She was 
holding out for something in red velvet and silk. But the one red donated 
dress didn't fit. In the end, she looked regal in a silvery green gown.

"I think the perfect evening will be that all the ladies act like ladies and 
all the gentlemen act like gentlemen," Rebecca said.

They all did, for the most part. Chaperons gently prodded teens dancing too 

Tarya Tjernagel, 15, wore an aquamarine gown that laced up the back, bought 
off the clearance rack at Dillard's. She lives with her grandparents.

She danced most of the night, throwing her head back when she laughed, the 
glitter on her face catching in the lights.

Her sister, Taryn, 16, lives in a group home. She wore a simple lavender 

"It's going to be the best night of our entire lives," she said.

Later in the evening, Taryn was crowned queen, chosen by secret ballot by 
her classmates. Kareem Armstrong was king.

Felicia Sumlin, 14, wore a pale blue gown with spaghetti straps and three 
layers of lace. She hugged the arm of boyfriend, Matt Cooper, 17, a student 
at Carl Hayden High.

"It's just like something out of a fairy tale," Felicia said.

In that dress and with her hair piled high, she felt like a princess - 
albeit, a princess carrying a pair of sweat socks in her purse in case the 
new high heels hurt her feet.

All fairy tales have a "The End" though, and these kids will go back to the 
shelters, group homes and pay-by-the-day motels.

But, at least for the night, the music and the rustling of beautiful dresses 
shut out that part of their lives.

Reach the reporter at karina.bland@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-8614.


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-------End of forward-------

Morgan <morganbrown@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA

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