Thirty Metro Detroit Boys Will Shine at Prom this season for Free because of the efforts of area nonprofits

By Lauren Sanders


Over 30 graduating high school boys received a call from one of 3 area nonprofits telling them they had been selected to receive a complimentary tuxedo shopping experience supported by the vision of Linda Nosegbe of Comerica. Imagine!...being invited to a well stocked boutique and being told to take your time and pick out anything you want.

The newly launched SONshine Project Nonprofit, founded by former WDIV Local 4 News, news anchor and mother of 3 boys, Lauren Sanders, in partnership with the well established Horatio Williams Foundation, joined by Neway Works all granted deserving young men a prom tuxedo shopping experience after Nosegbe decided to tackle this issue for the second year. While Comerica also supported prom dress giveaways through Jackets for Jobs nonprofit this year, Nosegbe said she was happy to continue supporting boys after developing a deeper understanding of the needs of young men through being involved in her nephew’s life.

All of the organizers realized that prom season is an exciting time for high school students across the country, but it can also be a financial burden for many families. There was discussion on statistics that show that boys are experiencing increased incidents of depression, anxiety and many other challenges and fewer boys are attending college and that Black boys rates of incarceration make it clear that there are socioeconomic factors that need addressing. One way is by the community’s intentional efforts to create networks of support and opportunities in order to help boys find ways to thrive.

When one of the mothers of a Mumford graduating senior who was invited to shop, walked into Ivan’s Suits and Alterations in Southfield, on the invitation of The SONshine Project, her first question after she said a warm hello was, “How much is all this going to cost?” She explained that she is a mother of 7 children and was “pressed for resources”, to help her son prepare for prom. She added that her family was experiencing additional pressure because her son’s dad is facing challenges that keep him from the family and so she breathed a deep sigh of relief when Sanders put the “ok” zero sign up to her eye and said, “Zero. It won't cost you a dime. Go ahead and let your son choose any one of these fab tuxes and he will get the jacket, pants, shirt and tie and any alterations to be sure it fits.”

These were indeed fab tuxes and could hardly be described as your grandfather’s simple black tux and white shirt combination. Ivan’s Suits and Alterations is chock full of tuxedos designed with prints, bold colors, patterns, crystal adornments and all they have an equally fashionable inventory of accessories, down to the cufflinks and lapel pins. The boys shopped to their delight choosing suits that ran the spectrum from all white to crystal laden burgundy with black satin lapels. They quietly moved through the store, some making a first and only choice and others trying on 5 suits before they made a final decision.

With the Horatio Williams Foundation and Neway Works also bringing boys from all across the metro Detroit area at different times to shop leading up to the exciting pick up day, it was a full house and a festive atmosphere on May 8th when all the boys converged on the store to finally pick up their garments. Pershing Principal, Bryant Tipton and school counselor Ms. Martin brought 6 boys from Detroit’s Pershing High School on both occasions to be sure they had an opportunity to take advantage of this shopping experience. They made it clear that even transportation can be challenging for these boys which is why he said the school staff tries to schedule strategically to be sure they can pitch in and support.

On the pick up day, there were some final shopping choices to be made with a few new shirt and tie options arriving at Ivan’s during the weeks that the boys waited for alterations to be completed. There were plenty of smiles and discussions for finishing suit touches and most of the boys mentioned that they are planning to wear “dress shoes” and not sneaks.

What was clear, these boys expressed humble thanks and happily tried on their suits to ensure the fit and they cooperatively yet bashfully posed for lots of photos on the request of the adults standing by ooing and ahhing. When asked about prom day and evening plans, many hadn't made arrangements for going to the prom with a “date” and they offered that they may just “go alone or with friends to have fun.”

The SONshine Project has a mission to provide support, guidance, and innovative exposures and programming aligned with its 4 pillars to support African American boys in the Detroit area, to include; STEAM exposures, Civic Engagement, Health and Wellness and Financial Literacy all delivered with an emphasis building self esteem and on showing them the power of their connections in the community.

The free prom tuxedo event is just one example of the organization's commitment to empowering young black boys and helping them to achieve their full potential. By providing access to formal wear, the nonprofit is helping to level the playing field and ensure that every student has the opportunity to be dapper and stylish on their big night.

As the founder of the SONshine Project noted, "All our elevated girls and women will need elevated boys and men. We are a stronger community when both our men and women feel valued and supported and when we can be strong for each other. By providing free prom tuxedos, we hope to give these students a boost of confidence and show them that they are deserving of success and happiness and most importantly that they do have a community of people who care and who are willing to activate on their behalf."