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Girls get prom dresses and encouragement at Princess Project give-away

As she looked through tables of tiaras, bracelets and earrings Saturday afternoon, 17-year-old Serena Zuniga’s eyes occasionally drifted to the mirrors along a nearby wall.

Catching a glimpse of herself in the flowing red satin dress she’d picked out from among the thousands of free prom dresses that filled a former gym in a Cupertino shopping center, she’d smile.

“It makes me feel amazing,” Zuniga said.

The senior at San Benito High School in Hollister was one of dozens of high school girls who came to the Princess Project of Silicon Valley’s annual prom dress giveaway Saturday, where they received a free dress and a hearty dose of encouragement from local volunteers.

“You will look great in whatever you find because you are amazing, smart, powerful young women, and I want you to remember that all day today,” Jaclyn Schoof, one of the project’s board members, told a group of girls just before they started picking out dresses. “And if you forget, come find me and I will tell you.”

The project started years ago with a group of parents who realized their daughters’ old prom dresses were collecting dust in their closets, while girls from less-wealthy backgrounds worried over how to pay for a dress that might cost hundreds of dollars.

Zuniga lives with her mom, a single mother, and like other girls who joined her Saturday, money to go toward her prom in May is tight.

“I didn’t think about what I was going to wear because I knew it was going to be a stress,” Zuniga said.

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