Samantha Smith, a junior at Syosset High School, has been...

Samantha Smith, a junior at Syosset High School, has been collecting graduation gowns for students nationwide who are unable to afford their own gowns. Credit: Brian Smith

A Syosset High School student is collecting graduation gowns for those who can't afford to purchase their own.

Samantha Smith, a junior, recently launched an initiative called "Share a Moment" in which she encourages peers to donate new or gently used gowns. A permanent donation box is stationed in the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola, and several local businesses have hosted temporary donation boxes in recent months, she said.

Smith said she came up with the idea when she graduated from middle school and noticed how many classmates immediately disposed of their gowns. She was inspired to pursue the project when in-person graduation ceremonies were canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It really made me think about people who don't get to experience graduation ceremonies any year, not just during COVID, because they can't afford a gown," said Smith, 16, who recently received a citation for her efforts from Nassau County Legis. Joshua Lafazan (I-Woodbury).

Before they are distributed, the gowns will be cleaned by Andrew Howard Dry Cleaners & Tailors in Syosset, which has offered its services free of charge, Smith said. Other local business that have hosted donation boxes include the Philly Pretzel Factory and Minuteman Press in Syosset.

Smith also competes in the pole vault and hurdles for her school's track team and is the county's reigning champion for pole vaulting.

— MICHAEL R. EBERT

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