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Making a Difference

Melissa Weinman

Athena’s Warehouse makes girls beautiful inside and out By Melissa Weinman

What started out as an idea to recycle School to help tutor students. formal dresses has morphed into a popular “We want to really teach them they can self-empowerment organization for girls at earn something for themselves and have an Cross Keys High School in Brookhaven. experience that’s fun for them and connect Bee Nguyen founded Athena’s Warethe two things together,” Nguyen said. house in 2009, when she realized the Diane Gluck, faculty liason for Athebridesmaids dresses building up in her na’s Warehouse at Cross Keys, said the closet could find new life as prom dresscommunity service day is so popular, even es for girls who may not be able to afford some guys wanted to participate this year. them. “I have girls who don’t need a prom dress “I was at the age that I had bridesmaids but asked if they could just participate in dresses I was never going to wear again,” community service,” she said. said Nguyen, who is now 31. Gluck said the students at Cross Keys Looking for high schools to get inare very enthusiastic and giving. volved with, Athena’s Warehouse start“They don’t understand that they are ed its Prom Project at Cross Keys High the recipients, often, of community serSchool. But after getting to know some of vice. They want to be the givers. That’s the students at Cross Keys, Nguyen wanthow cool our students are,” Gluck said. ed to do more. After the community service, the shopNguyen said she feels a connection to ping begins. Gluck said it’s fun to watch the girls at the school. Many come from the girls light up when they find a dress immigrant families like her own. Cross they like. “It’s like magic when they find Keys is the most culturally diverse high the perfect dress,” Gluck said. school in the state, with students from This year, about 30 girls will be attend65 different countries, according to the ing Cross Keys’ April 27 prom in dressschool’s website. es they earned from Athena’s Warehouse, “My parents were refugees and came Nguyen said. over in 1979 after leaving Vietnam,” Gluck said she thinks the Prom ProjNguyen said. “I understand very well the ect also teaches girls to budget. “For a lot immigrant struggle, and that makes a lot of our girls, it’s not that they can’t afford of the girls very relatable.” [a dress], they know this is a smart place Nguyen wanted to expose the girls to to save money, and they’re very practical,” positive female role Gluck said. “They can models and started a spend money on their series of after-school Do you know an organization or college applications or workshops and events other areas.” individual making a difference called “Be Awesome, Gluck said the in our community? Email Be Aware.” The workAthena’s Warehouse shops focus on issues seminars have also for young women, been beneficial for the like body image, pregnancy prevention, senior girls who participate. healthy eating and domestic violence. “It really allows students to have anoth“I believe a person can change the er connection to an adult to ask questions path and direction of a young person if and have some guidance,” Gluck said. “It’s you come into their life at the right time,” so beneficial for girls to see young, profesNguyen said. sional and dynamic women.” For the Prom Project, Athena’s WareNguyen said each year the program has house collects lightly-used, current formal grown and students are excited about pardresses. Girls earn their prom dresses by ticipating. signing up to volunteer for a community “They come in and they’re excited and service project. they’re open-minded,” Nguyen said. “We This year, Nguyen said Athena’s Waretend to get a core group of girls who show house went to East Point Elementary up for everything and they love it.”

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Athena’s Warehouse board members Kim and Bee Nguyen, Cross Keys teacher Diane Gluck and student Brenda Khor, left to right, take part in a civic forum to promote the organization.

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April 19 – May 2, 2013 | 19

04-19-2013 Dunwoody Reporter