June 2022 will mark 30 years since I graduated high school.
It was June 1992 when I stood in front of the High School of Fashion Industries with my yearbook in hand dressed in a cap and gown that I could barely close. I remember thinking, ‘well, at least I could ALTER it if the zipper doesn’t close’, but it did.
I made few friends then.
Your teenage years can guarantee that, if you grow alongside someone and somehow are able to stay together, keep in contact, there is a reason why. I believe this, Power of One for All, is the why of my friendship to my longtime ‘amiguito’ Rafael.
Rafael and I, back in 1992. Today we work together to assist the students of our HSFI with their small needs.
We both come from Dominican backgrounds, both LOVE fashion and BOTH were in Ms. Manning‘s fashion class as seniors. This is where it all began. We had a fashion show to do and we both were consumed with creating a masterpiece! and we both did.
He created the first ever garment that consisted of Ostrich feathers, a journey that meant us travelling to what was Long Island City to find the place where we had to pick up the feathers. Two teenagers traveling to another borough with an address in hand, no permission slip signed by parents, just doing what had to get done, could that happen today?
I, on the other hand created a dress made out of men’s neck ties, a gift from Sal Cesarani. Many don’t know but our ties to the industry bring in many a well known designers in their field, and Mr. Cesarani was visiting us one afternoon. After he spoke in our class, Ms. Manning came over to me and told me ‘go ask him for the ties you need‘. ‘HUH, WHAT?’ I jumped. ‘Go over there and show him your design.’ and I did. He was impressed and told me to ‘stop by his office’ to pick them up. The first time I witnessed anyone with influence exercise genuine generosity based on my talents.
As I think back to what Ms. Manning did, pushed me to assert myself was what a mother would do. I may be assertive today but I wasn’t then. I was a very visibly obese teen with low self esteem that sometimes did not know WHEN to stand up for herself, and this included to ask for what I needed. That ‘stage mother’ moment made a lasting impression on me, because I now practice it with my students.
Rafael’s and my masterpiece are MIA, he ‘forgot’ to pick his up at the school store and mine was misplaced in the many times I moved from place to place throughout my adult years. But the memories still live on in photos and senior year memorabilia. We got our yearbooks, but we didn’t get the class ring and I for one was not able to afford it and the other ‘perks’ such as the tee shirt, embossed glass mug, and such. I also didn’t go on the senior trip and barely made it to prom. That was possible because I worked ‘extra shifts’ to pay for the ticket and made my own prom dress. It may sound insane but the reason why I was determined to go to prom was because of a scene in ‘Pretty in Pink’!
Ah, to be young and dumb!
Paying for many things as a teenager in high school was an actual challenge. My grandmother was the sole caretaker in my home and she made it really clear very early on in my life that ‘there’s no money for that‘ and THAT was everything I wanted. Needs were met but never a want and that was why I began working at 14. I was a sophomore with an actual job after school. Looking back now I can write that I learned many things and also experienced traumatic events as a teenage girl working among men, but that is the past and I choose to see all of my experiences as the forces that strengthened me and created who I am today, yet no little girl should have to work in unsafe environments to be able to pay for the small things that make up her high school years.
And this is why we began the SENIOR DUES SCHOLARSHIP.
For ANY young person that is in financial need and does not have the funds to cover those small things such as:
- Cap & Gown & Stole
- Diploma case
- Graduation photo
- Award Ceremony
- Graduation site rental fees
- Senior Breakfast
- Senior Sweatshirt
- Senior T-Shirt
- Senior Gift
…these may seem like small things to many people but it wasn’t for me and it isn’t for too many others.
Our goal is to assist students at the High School of Fashion Industries with the tangible objects that make up lasting memories of these time-flying, and timeless years.
Our students can use your help.