Prom will be a real red-carpet event for Levine Middle College High students, who will have their own prom this year and none of the accompanying financial pressure.
Levine, which has 241 students, is one of eight high schools in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools that traditionally pool their resources to hold one prom. Students received the surprise announcement Jan. 7 that Belk is arranging a prom just for Levine and covering costs for everything from the venue and tickets to food and music.
The gift also includes the students' attire, including dresses, suits, shoes, jewelry, makeup and grooming services. Students will be able to keep their outfits to use for future events or, for those with suits, job interviews.
"My concern has always been for students who don't have the finances to pay for tickets, to secure a tux, to secure a limo," said Principal Joey Burch. "This takes all the pressure off prom."
The prom idea was presented earlier in the school year to the 2019 CMS Teacher of the Year Kim Tuttle, who teaches English at Levine. Tuttle received a package from Belk that included $500, which she wanted to use as store credit to help students pay for prom. When that wasn't possible, Belk CEO Lisa Harper suggested that the company handle the prom.
"I was surprised that Belk would do such a big thing for us," junior Tvisha Patel said. "Financial problems can stop a lot of people from participating, and this will give us a chance to get to know everyone. My parents are going to be really excited, especially my dad."
Senior Gabby Love said she didn't even see some of her friends at last year's prom, "but this will let us all be together in one place and spend time with each other."
"Dress shopping is also really hard," she said. "This is a relief."
Levine's prom will be held April 25 at Big Chill, a special events venue that will include valet parking. After the announcement, students were able to sign up for what they need for prom, and items will later be brought to the school for fittings. Barbers will be available the Friday before prom to provide haircuts and shaves, while hair and makeup will be done the morning of the event.
"A burden has been lifted for our students," Tuttle said. "What makes it more of a blessing is that our students get to keep everything. We cannot say thank you enough to Belk for what they are able to do for us."