Operation PROM Founder Cites Saunders Trades and Technical High School Experience As Crucial
With educational guidance, Westchester's used dresses are given a second chance to shine.
Sometimes, finding out what you don’t want to do with your life can be just as important as determining what you do want to pursue. That was the case for 31-year-old Yonkers native Noel D’Allacco. During her senior year at Saunders Trades and Technical High School, then-Principal Bernard Pierorazio helped D’Allacco secure an internship with the Yonkers Forensics Laboratory—an experience that quickly cured her of the desire to work in forensic science.
But Pierorazio was also there to support D’Allacco when she did find her true calling and founded the not-for-profit Operation PROM in 2003 to help low-income students attend their proms by providing free dresses and tuxedo rentals. While employed as an event planner in college, D’Allacco worked on many weddings and realized the abundance of once-worn bridesmaid dresses hanging idly in Westchester closets could be put to good use. She approached Pierorazio with her idea of collecting dresses and donating them to Saunders students for their proms, and he was instantly onboard.
“We always try to instill in our students a love of community and giving back, so when Noel came to me with the Operation PROM concept it was a real ‘Wow’ moment. She blew me away; it was such a great idea,” Pierorazio recalls.
“He was so supportive when Operation PROM was just starting out. His advice and assistance was crucial in getting my idea off the ground,” D’Allacco says. And his help didn’t come as a surprise. “Mr. Pierorazio was always like that—he encouraged me in all the activities I was part of in high school, and his door was always open for students to come in to bounce around questions or ideas. First as principal and then as superintendent, he is a great example of how to make a positive impact on your community.”
Clearly, making a positive impact on the community is something D’Allacco has taken to heart. To date, her organization has helped thousands of needy students across the country attend their proms, and has since expanded to also provide scholarships and school supplies for low-income students. Her success story is a great source of pride for Pierorazio, who is not at all surprised by his former student’s achievements. “She was always a leader and a go-getter, full of ideas. I am so proud of her and all of her accomplishments. And I just love the fact that her success has been so altruistic,” he says.
While Pierorazio pins her achievements on her own hard work, he is grateful about being labeled D’Allacco’s inspiration. “I’m always amazed and humbled and excited at what our students accomplish. If I play a small part in that, I feel really good about it,” he says.