Boston Globe/Getty Images
Britni Danielle
Feb, 12, 2018

For many students, senior year in high school is both stressful and costly. Between applying for college and paying for all of the activities that often come along with the culminating year, many families are stretched to the max. Some families simply cannot afford it. According to some reports, senior year can cost families upwards of $5,000 and a large portion of that is thanks in part to prom.

High school’s most prestigious dance isn’t cheap. Between tickets, a dress or tuxedo, hair and makeup and transportation to and from the event, things can quickly add up — and this doesn’t even include after parties and luxury send-offs that have become all the rage lately. Though, one retail chain has stepped in to help.

Belk department store recently surprised students at Eau Claire High School in Columbia, South Carolina with one of the best graduation gifts ever. The 130-year-old chain is footing the bill for prom, gifting Eau Claire’s juniors and seniors everything they need to attend, from the venue and flowers to dresses, hair, makeup, and tuxedos.

Of course, Eau Claire’s students were excited about the news.

"It's a dream come true really because I was wondering how I was going to pay for prom,” Bryant Cain, a high school senior, told WACH Fox 57. “I have senior dues and college expenses I have to pay for. This is a blessing. Really makes me feel great to see this. The Eau Claire community has worked really hard to get this and it's something we deserve."

Normally, Eau Claire’s students must fundraise for prom because 60 percent of them can’t afford to attend. Belk decided to support the Title I school through their new outreach program, Belk: Project Hometown.

"We have had this 130-year history not only of our company being around but also our partnership with our communities and quite frankly this is an amazing way to give back," Belk Regional Vice President Jaime Valdez said to the network.

In addition to covering the cost of prom, Belk will also donate clothes and backpacks to the school’s closet, which provides much-needed items for students in need.

Eau Claire’s principal, Neshunda Walters, said Belk’s generous donation means her students can focus on finishing the year strong, instead of worrying about money.

Walters continued, "This has never happened to Eau Claire before and from what I understand, [it has not] happened to any other high school in the state. So, it’s one opportunity for our students to have one less thing to worry about as the school year ends,” she said.