Nikita Gipson has been looking forward to her prom since she was a little girl, but the price tag is adding up quickly.
With both of her parents out of work, Nikita, 17, a senior at Lincoln High School in Dallas, is tallying up expenses for getting her hair done, buying shoes and paying for dinner and a ride to the dance on April 24.
But she won't have to worry about the cost of a dress thanks to BuzzFree, a prom safety program that rewards students who pledge to stay free of drugs and alcohol on prom night with a free dress - and a chance to win a limo ride and other prizes.
"My mom wants me to look gorgeous on my prom like I want to, but money is hard [to come by]," Nikita said.
BuzzFree plans to provide dresses for 300 girls from eight area districts, including Dallas, Garland, Grand Prairie and Mesquite. The students must attend three educational sessions about drug and alcohol use on Feb. 28 - the same day they get to pick out their dresses.
Cyndie Stanley, the event's chairwoman, said the program rewards students for doing the right thing.
"We need to be finding alternative ways to keep kids off of alcohol and drugs," Stanley said.
The eighth annual giveaway is supported by donations. Many of this year's dresses are being donated by WhatchamaCallit Fashions in North Dallas. Others come from private donations.
To qualify, students must be nominated by school staff, write an essay and complete registration materials that are available at eligible schools. There is no income requirement, but eligible students must be in good academic standing at school. The registration deadline is Feb. 18.
Natalie Ramirez, 17, another Lincoln High senior, said she wouldn't let the chance for a free dress pass her by. She said many teens don't think about the consequences of doing drugs or drinking alcohol.
"We don't think about our lives," she said. "We're too young."< /p>