11 Sep 2017

Night out with the stars at affordable South Auckland ball

8:34 pm on 11 September 2017

The theme was 'a night out with the stars' at a South Auckland school which made its ball more affordable so it didn't cost families the earth.

Sam Tipene-Rapana with her date, left, Lionel Wellington.

Sam Tipene-Rapana with her date, left, Lionel Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Laura Tupou

The community got behind James Cook High School in Manurewa by donating dresses, suits, shoes and even jewellery for students to hire out for free.

Some teachers did nails and makeup, and Manukau Institute of Technology's hairdressing students provided free hair-ups.

About 200 Year 12 and 13 students gathered in their finest outfits at Alexandra Park on Friday night.

Flowing sparkly gowns, high heels, loosened curls, corsages, young men with all different shades of suit colours, and fresh hair-dos, of course. But preparations started much earlier in the day.

Sam Tipene-Rapana's mother, Rayleen Rapana, hadn't seen what her daughter was going to wear for the evening in advance. But thanks to the generosity of others, the outfit did not cost the world.

"She's taken advantage of getting her nails done for free, make-up and hair done for free. And I think all she's had to pay for is her ball ticket and her eyelashes."

Her daughter had worked and saved hard to afford those, she said.

"I thought I'd have to save up 10 years ago for this one night but she's done it on her own and left me stress-free.

"She's an amazing girl inside and out so this is the night she deserves, and she's been waiting many years for it," said the proud mother.

The theme was 'a night out with the stars'  at James Cook High School's ball.

The theme was 'a night out with the stars' at James Cook High School's ball. Photo: RNZ / Laura Tupou

Her daughter, Sam Tipene-Rapana, said the ball was emotional for her mother.

"I guess she was speechless...I'm pretty sure she started crying afterwards instead of when she actually saw me. Because I know my dad was crying."

Another student, Simon Taimalelagi, wasn't planning on going to the ball, but changed his mind a few weeks ago.

He thought it would only take him half an hour to get ready, but after a last-minute decision to cut his hair, that ballooned to two hours.

His mum and sister gave him a "high zero fade with a plait on top," he said.

"My mum brought me up so being around girls really helped me. Hopefully it helps with the ladies too."

A lot of students had help from family but some did it alone. Going to the ball was a huge deal for Ben Lingman. He moved over from Australia for his final year of high school and said this was the first ball he had attended.

Ben Lingman.

Ben Lingman. Photo: RNZ / Laura Tupou

"I didn't have the money...and I wasn't confident enough - like I am now - to go to the ball."

It had taken a lot to get here, Mr Lingman said.

"It took two weeks preparation getting all the stuff I have now like saving up for it...finances are the big problem."

He was excited and had butterflies in his stomach, he said.

Mr Lingman said he wanted to look his best for the night but admitted his outfit was a bit last minute.

"I went to Otahuhu to go pick up an $80 suit, a shirt....I got a flower [from the garden] to make it look good."

All the students were fed - which was something a lot of them were looking forward to - they danced hard and took plenty of photos.

Principal Grant McMillan said he was proud of the students and staff for organising everything - not to mention the contributions from people nationwide that helped ensure the ball was a night that students would never forget.