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When University of Delaware freshman Victoria Draper was competing in beauty pageants as a teenager, she was encouraged to give back to her community through service.

That, with her growing love of the gowns used in pageants, sparked her creation of The Rose Petal, an organization through which Draper provides prom gowns, shoes and accessories for young women experiencing financial difficulties.

Draper, who is majoring in elementary teacher education with a concentration in mathematics, came to UD this year to pursue her higher education.

“I have always had a love for children, and working at a preschool throughout high school ensured my passion for this career. I chose UD because of the opportunities — I am excited to study abroad through the education program,” Draper said.

Draper started The Rose Petal three years ago as a junior in high school, but despite the difficulties of juggling the coursework and activities during her first year at college, she knew she could not just walk away it.

In fact, she hopes to expand the program throughout her college career and even after graduation. “I started this on my own, and connect with it on such a personal level,” she said. “I’d like to continue helping girls in my area, maybe covering other prom expenses, including hair, makeup, nails, tickets and limos.”

Girls in need of a dress contact Draper through her Facebook page. “If a girl reaches out to us, then we like to verify with their school guidance counselor if they are truly in need of a gown for prom. There is no cost — all gowns are free,” Draper said.

Draper’s efforts and success have her nationally recognized. After coverage by NBC10 Philadelphia, Draper appeared on the Steve Harvey Show, where she was awarded $5,000 and the title of a “Harvey Hero.” She plans to use the money for more storage space for her gowns, as well as more shoes and accessories.

“Since my segment aired on the show, I was able to help girls from various cities, from Baton Rouge, to Chicago, Indianapolis and Newark to name a few.”

To date, she has collected over 100 gowns. During prom season, she coordinates an open house in her hometown in Washington Township, New Jersey, where girls can go and “shop” for the perfect dress.

Draper is always looking for donations, and will accept them throughout the year.

Since coming to UD this fall, it is not something that she has advertised, but she would love help or donations from fellow Blue Hens.

For more information, photos of gowns, or to make a donation, visit Draper’s The Rose Petal Facebook page.

Article by Elizabeth Penczak

Photo by Genie LaVine/NBC


This story appeared on UDaily on 5/13/14.