‘Suit Up Experience' Boosts Confidence and Puts Special Needs Students in Spotlight

Some special needs students at Thomas Jefferson High School in Dallas who have never owned a suit have one now, thanks to the "Suit Up Experience."

The program started four years ago to outfit boys with suits in the same way similar programs give prom dresses to girls. Last year, the Suit Up Experience expanded to include students with special needs. This year, they put on a fashion show for the first time.

"It's kind of like the Met Gala," joked Suit Up Experience volunteer, Vernon Bland, as he made sure each student had the proper suit and accessories. "The Jefferson Gala!"

The Heroes Foundation and the Mark Cuban Heroes Basketball Center purchased the suits for 10 special needs students. Lombardo's Custom Apparel helped style the students and custom made some of the suits, to allow for easier dressing for students with physical limitations. Logan Myles, with The Heart Hatter, supplied quirky, colorful hats for the show that had hearts and "love" stitched on them.

"When the kids put the suit on, they immediately change," Bland said.

"We've never had a day like this," special eduation teacher Thomas Atkins said. "We've never had a program for our students in the special education department, so this was absolutely a first for them."

The fashion show featured Dallas Mavericks DJ Poison Ivy, the Mavs ManiAACs dancers and Mavs player Dorian Finney-Smith, but the students were the stars of the show.

The boys were escorted by female classmates dressed in prom dresses. Some stopped and smiled as they realized the crowd in the auditorium was cheering for them.

"I'm so proud of them," Atkins said. "I can't wait for next year."

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