I am so proud to have worked to create Howard County Maryland’s BEST high school senior portrait and model experience. But one of the most important attributes to this character driven program is the giving back component.
“Award Winning professional photographer, Danielle Lavis, offers a custom client experience that promotes strong, positive identities and a refined approach to HS Senior portraiture. Danielle’s unique approach utilizes the art of photography and styling to inspire and empower young women and girls. Recently voted as one of Howard County’s BEST photographers, Danielle is the leading choice for custom photography and overall experience”.
Before I delve into our recent giving back project, it’s important to understand the foundation of the dl Senior Model Program, what makes it so unique, why it’s termed character driven and why we took part in this project. Sure, the “modeling” is super fun for high school seniors. BUT, the dl senior model program is so much more than just high school senior pictures. So much more. It offers high school senior girls the opportunity to be a part of something truly unique throughout their senior year! Follow me on Instagram to see more.
In these days of social media and the strong emphasis on outward appearances, I feel it is even more important to shift our focuses to celebrate what makes us special, unique and valued. The Media tries to dictate so much of what our girls believe about themselves. As a mother of a beautiful daughter, I believe strongly in uplifting our girls and striving to empower them to see their true worth. The dl Senior Model Program established its roots back in 2010 with these principles in mind. The overall message to my senior clients is that we will empower their beauty from within and inspire them to share their beauty from within with others. Everyone is outwardly beautiful in their own unique way. Everyone. But, it’s what’s on the inside that builds your strength of character and belief in who you are.
With that said, I look for girls to participate in the dl Senior Model Program who are natural leaders in their schools, role models, kind, compassionate and give back to their community. I believe in celebrating girls who lead by example in their character, heart and positive attitude.
Each year, the senior models choose a giving back project that they can do to help empower and inspire others, especially other female teens in the area. For example, a few years ago, we participated in the blue pinky project. It was an amazing hands on experience partnering with my friend, Jaki, and wife of the then Howard County Executive, Ken Ulman. The girls made a significant impact in their schools and shared specific stories of how the project helped kids experiencing bullying. It was wonderful.
This year was no different. In February, the girls did a 30 day initiative on social media called seniors spreading kindness. But, it was important to many of the girls to give back in a way that was hands on so they could witness the impact. So we began researching unique ideas.
One of the senior models, Chase, found an article about a company that collects dresses for prom for girls who can’t afford them. It gave us an idea to take that concept a step further!
I called the Howard County Public School Systems Office of Pupil Personnel to see if there was a way for us to collaborate. I learned that last year there were more than 600 homeless kids in the HCPSS. We also learned that there are many high school students unable to attend their prom bc they simply can’t afford a dress (let alone the expensive prom ticket, accessories, hair, makeup, etc). So, we decided we wanted to give 3 girls in need the gift of attending prom this season. But we did not want to just give them dresses. We wanted to mirror the “experience” the seniors receive in the dl Senior Model Program with me and give the 3 recipients a full styling experience. We knew it would be a memory they would carry with them throughout their lifetime.
In working with the Howard County Office of Pupil Personnel, we were connected with 3 wonderful girls. We began looking for donations for dresses, shoes, accessories. We were also asking local salons if they would be willing to donate the gift of hair & makeup to these three girls on the day of their prom. As expected, our community showed their generosity and the donations came pouring in!
The Pearl Spa in Maple Lawn offered makeup services to all th ree girls! Sarah from Thirty Hair, in Oakland Mills, offered hair styling services at the salon for all three girls. We were also thrilled to receive a call from House of Maya Prom in Virginia Beach offering the donation of their beautiful prom dresses! Despite the distance, they made it work exceptionally well! Jennifer LaLonde, COO of House of Maya, took videos of dresses in each of the girls sizes and we helped them narrow down a few options. She then sent several dresses for them each to try. It was an incredibly generous offer by both House of Maya owner, Maya, and Jennifer!
We spent a few weeks gathering items. We then met at the high school one afternoon to deliver the items and work with the girls to narrow down their dress choices, coordinating accessories and shoes. They were so incredibly sweet, appreciative and deserving! I was able to find a wonderful lady to donate alterations. She could not have been more gracious. So, the girls were all set and we were ready for the big day!
On the morning of their prom, the girls met at The Pearl Spa to begin their services with the fabulous, Bianca.
The Pearl Spa even offered the girls their signature, incredibly delicious warm brownies. Thank you to the Pearl for being so giving of your time to these girls!
Once their makeup was completed, the girls moved on to Thirty Hair for their hair styling services and photos to be featured on the Thirty Hair instagram page. The ladies at Thirty Hair were simply amazing! They were so warm, welcoming and they did an exceptional job on the girls hair. They made the experience so much fun and so memorable for the girls!
Since it had been a few hours from when they had their makeup done, the girls received a touchup from Tay before getting changed into their dresses. Senior Model, Chase, also arrived with Chic Fil A for all the girls for lunch! It was such a sweet gesture. I sat back and listened as the girls chatted with Chase about what they wanted to be in life… they talked about being doctors and nurses. It was so heartwarming to know that no matter what someone’s circumstances may be, they can see their own potential and recognize that they are deserving of greatness. Nothing could be more empowering or inspiring than witnessing their belief in themselves. Such wonderful girls…
They looked gorgeous all dressed up! The prom dresses from House of Maya Prom were perfection on them! They were incredibly high quality, on trend with style and fit them beautifully.
So, the only thing left to do was a quick photoshoot! Of course, it decided to rain just as we made our way outside for a few photos. But, we made it work!
The girls received these photos as my gift. I feel so fortunate to have met them! The senior models and I were so honored to have been able to provide the experience for them. Thank to everyone who donated items. I was overwhelmed with the generosity of our community. Thirty Hair, The Pearl Spa and House of Maya Prom all showed how much they value their communities and people in general. They each played a part in the smiles you see in these photos. The girls were worth it! I also want to thank the HCPSS Office of Personnel and the school teachers who went above and beyond to help facilitate this whole process for the girls. We have already decided to do this again next year, but hopefully bigger and better!