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Learning in style

Pair of paras guide District 75 students in fashion show
New York Teacher
The models show off the designs.
Jonathan Fickies

The models show off the designs.

Students sashayed down the runway at PS 811, stopping midway to turn slowly to show off their creations.

The Fashion Avengers Fashion Show on June 12 at the District 75 high school for special needs students in Bellerose, Queens, featured stunning outfits, all made by the students from recyclable materials and based on the ideas of the lead designer Gabrielle, a senior.

Paraprofessionals Kimberley Chatman and Peggy Dumas made it all happen and, on the big day, the whole staff pitched in, helping with makeup, adjusting wigs and ensuring each model was ready to step onto the runway on cue.

A pair models outfits made of magazines.
Jonathan Fickies

A pair models outfits made of magazines.

Chatman said the work started in February when she and Dumas set up the project as a fashion club that met twice a week. “We made it a fun club,” Chatman said, “but we were also providing them with vocational skills they will need.”

While the first part of the show featured conventional outfits with a cultural flavor, it was the second part featuring the recyclables that stole the show. The audience of students, family members and staff hooted and hollered with delight as the students hit the runway wearing evening gowns and daywear made from trash bags, newspapers, plastic bottles, Tostada bags filled with newspapers, magazines and shiny discs.

The male models initially were hard to recruit, but they came through, modeling sports outfits, suits and jackets made of recyclables.

The show had all the professional touches. Students described each outfit as their classmates appeared like clockwork from behind the black curtains and began the walk down the runway while a DJ provided background music.

Physical therapist Andrea Cosentino helps a model wearing a Greek outfit down th
Jonathan Fickies

Physical therapist Andrea Cosentino helps a model wearing a Greek outfit down the runway.

Everyday wear featuring plastic bottles is a big hit.
Jonathan Fickies

Everyday wear featuring plastic bottles is a big hit.

Speech teacher Nikoleta Papa gets a child ready for her fashion show debut.
Jonathan Fickies

Speech teacher Nikoleta Papa gets a child ready for her fashion show debut.

Paraprofessionals Peggy Dumas (left) and Kimberley Chatman made it all happen.
Jonathan Fickies

Paraprofessionals Peggy Dumas (left) and Kimberley Chatman made it all happen.

“Students not only accomplished something that made them proud,” said Chapter Leader Sarina Raffa, “but they were able to see how they can use what they have learned in class — measurements from math, writing notes for announcing the models and their outfits from English and ecology from science. They also learned how to overcome shyness by stepping out before an audience.”

Art teacher Sharon Papp said the show was a “confidence and team builder.”

The students are already planning for next year’s show — with more unconventional outfits.

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