While Roosevelt High School senior Samirah Clarke was getting ready for her prom Thursday, she was surrounded by a throng of women helping her look her very best.
Starting at 11 a.m., members from nonprofit Women of Integrity Inc. brought Clarke, 17, to a salon, where they paid for her to have her hair and nails done. They brought a makeup artist into her home and outfitted her with sparkling high heels, jewelry and a purse that completed the custom gown they had made for her.
"It was absolutely beautiful," she said. "They really took care of me."
Each year, the Hempstead-based group selects a deserving teen to undergo an all-expenses-paid prom makeover, and Clarke was the latest lucky recipient. At Roosevelt High School, she competed on the track and field team in the shot put and was a member of "Resolutions," an after-school girls mentoring club.
"I definitely think they picked me, because they've seen how hard-working I am and ... they just really wanted me to have a beautiful day," she said.
In addition to the pampering Clarke received in the hours leading up to her prom, she said the Women of Integrity members also took her shopping every day for a week to find a dress.
"I'm a plus-sized girl and they don't really make really nice dresses for plus sizes," Clarke said.
So when they couldn't find the right gown in the stores, the group had a dress specially designed and ordered for her. It was a royal blue lace number with illusion sleeves.
Due to her family's financial situation, Clarke said attending prom would have been difficult without the help she received from Women of Integrity.
Shantay Carter, the nonprofit's founder, said her members were moved by Clarke's story, particularly the fact that her father died when she was only 6 years old. Clarke said her dad, Noel Clarke, succumbed to cirrhosis of the liver in 2004.
"She had a rough life growing up and despite all the odds, she is graduating and attending Spellman College in the fall," Carter said.
At Spellman, which is located in Atlanta, Clarke said she plans to major in political science and then attend law school, with ambitions to become a criminal justice attorney.
Thursday wasn't just Clarke's senior prom, though. It was also her father's birthday, she said.
"This is my day to celebrate, but I'm also celebrating him," she added. "I know he's with me and he's protecting me today."