By Sarah Koenig Enterprise reporter
When it comes to senior projects, not every student goes the extra mile.
“Most people hate senior project and want to get it done as fast as possible,” said Lynnwood High School senior Linsey Haywood.
The project, a graduation requirement in the Edmonds School District, asks students to dedicate 60 hours of work. Students pick the topic.
“You have to pick a project that interests you to be able to put your all into it,” Haywood said.
In her case, she wanted to do something about the fact that so many girls around her can’t afford formal dresses for school dances. Most of her friends can’t afford the $200 to $300 price tag, so they borrow from others.
“Most people who go to Lynnwood High School don’t have as much money as Meadowdale High School (for example),” Haywood said. “We’re the lower-class school.”
When teens are working minimum wage jobs, it’s a lot of work hours to afford a dress if parents can’t help out, she said.
Haywood had heard about other events where students pick up free formal dresses and decided she wanted to put on her own event.
She sent e-mails to family and friends, asking them to drop off or send donated dresses, shoes and handbags to her house. The e-mails were forwarded to more and more people. Soon Haywood was getting hundreds of dresses from locals and people from out of state.
The closets at the Haywood house were reaching their limit.
“Once we hit 100 dresses, the closets were getting a little too full,” Haywood said.
In the end, she collected 270 dresses, 54 handbags, 17 shawls and 83 pairs of shoes.
Haywood had to rent a storage unit in Mill Creek to hold all the clothes.
She also worked to organize an event for Friday, Jan. 25, at Lynnwood High School where girls could pick up the dresses.
When the big day came, Haywood was nervous.
“My biggest fear was that girls would be too embarrassed to come,” she said.
But within 45 minutes, when 14 girls showed up, she knew things would be alright.
“I thought, ‘If there’s this many, it’s already a success,’” Haywood said.
In the end, 63 girls came from Lynnwood and neighboring high schools, taking 51 dresses home with them. The teacher’s lounge at the school was draped with table cloths, creating makeshift dressing rooms.
The event ran from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Haywood, short on volunteers, ran around all day taking care of details.
Meanwhile, her mother manned the dressing room.
“My mom said it was interesting to hear (girls) talk because they all have a different story on why they’re here,” Haywood said.
At the end of the day, she felt a sense of relief.
“Like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders,” she said.
All told, Haywood put in 105 hours on the project, about 45 more than the 60 hour requirement.
“She went way above and beyond,” said Joyce Johnson, senior project coordinator at the school.
Haywood took two months off from her job as a gymnastics coach at a preschool in Mukilteo and enlisted her mom’s help to bring the event together.
“I couldn’t have done it without her,” she said.
Haywood isn’t done — she still has about 200 dresses on her hands. She’s trying to donate them to a similar event, and is working with the school to try to make the event a yearly thing. The hope is that a student will want to take on the event next year, she said.
She also has the paperwork yet to do for the project.
Despite all the work, she’s glad she put in the effort.
“It was worth it,” she said. “I enjoyed it.”